Returning to Yangzhou
"What? You will let me go?" Sun Qian froze. He had already given up and only hoped for his corpse to remain whole. Instead, he found out that he would not only live but also be released. He would naturally be surprised. However, Sun Qian also knew about conspiracies. He knew that there was no such thing as a free lunch in this world. "Are you thinking of sending me back as a spy?" Sun Qian looked at Liu Ye and Liu Mang vigilantly. Although he was happy that he did not need to die, he would not betray Liu Bei. "If that is your plan, I suggest you give up and just kill me!"
"Haha." Liu Mang looked at Sun Qian. Although the man was not very competent, he was a person that was truly loyal to Liu Bei. He was actually much better than some of the other competent people.
"Mister Sun Qian! You worry too much. We will not make you a spy. This is an insult to me and a humiliation for you! This one does not have any conditions for you. He just thought of letting you go free." Liu Mang replied generously. He originally captured Sun Qian for the twenty thousand provision. Now that there are no more provision, Sun Qian had no more use.
"In that case, I thank Your Highness." Sun Qian felt sceptical as he cupped his fist towards Liu Mang.
"However!" Liu Mang suddenly said, causing Sun Qian to feel disdain. 'So there really was a condition after all!' "Is the magnificent King not living up to his words? In that case, I, Sun Qian, understands you now. Just kill me." Sun Qian replied unyieldingly.
"Mister Sun Qian. I said that I would let you go without harming you. However, this is not the time to let you go!" Liu Mang shook his head and smiled at Sun Qian. "If I were to let you go now, would you be able to return to the Left General?"
"This is…" Sun Qian carefully thought and found that Liu Mang was correct. No one would believe him if he, a captured prisoner managed to return easily without any injuries or problems.
"So, Sun Qian would need to pardon me for this." Liu Mang gave a strange smile that made Sun Qian feel uneasy. Liu Mang then shouted. "How audacious! You have the impertinence to tease this one by burning down this one's provisions? Did you really think this one does not dare to kill you?"
Sun Qian was not an idiot. When he heard Liu Mang say that, he immediately followed up. "False King! You must be dreaming if you want my Lord's provisions! I will not surrender them to you even if I die!" Everyone in the Three Kingdoms era were actors.
"If you want to die, this one would help you accomplish it! Come! Tie this man up and throw him into the fire. I want him to burn together with the provision!" Liu Mang shouted angrily. "Yes!" Several of the Urban Army soldiers went towards Sun Qian. One of them whispered. "Sir. The rope would not be tight. You would be able to untie yourself if you struggle. We will also throw you into a jar1 filled with water. There should be enough water there for you to survive the flames. There is also ten days worth of provision in the water." He then tied up Sun Qian and pushed him towards the fire.
"Fales King Liu Mang! You despicable scum! Hypocrite! Scum of the Han!" Sun Qian shouted while he was thrown into the water jar. His voice gradually became smaller as though he had been executed.
The two Urban Army soldiers returned as the fire grew. Liu Ye then asked. "Milord. Are you really sending him back? Although Sun Qian did not surrender, we could have persuaded him." Liu Ye cupped his fist at Liu Mang. In any case, Sun Qian was a talented person. There are three regions in Yangzhou but only Xu Shu, Liu Ye, Huang Zhong and Yang Hong was able to govern. Liu Mang needed Xu Shu to manage Yangzhou and not an individual region. If he did so, it would be putting a talented person in an insignificant position. Besides that, Liu Mang needed Liu Ye's help to bring to life the contents of the book he brought back. They would be leading in the world once the industrial zone took shape. Right now, they already had ballista, catapults and cement. In the future, they may even obtain gunpowder which will allow them to conquer the lands. Yang Hong was required for information gathering and was also Lu Bu's Army's diplomat. He had gained a lot from Sun Ce's and Liu Biao's Army. It was thanks to that gold that Liu Mang could hold out until now. Without provisions from Jingzhou and Jiangdong, Liu Mang would have already overworked the others.
On the other hand, Huang Zhong did not want to be a governor while the others such as Zhao Yun and Xu Sheng were needed to command the army and could not be transferred to a statutory position.
With Sun Qian, Liu Mang would be able to relax a little. Any future territories could be given for Sun Qian to manage. However, Liu Mang let Sun Qian return to Liu Bei with provision.
"Ziyang. A brainwashed person is the most difficult to sway." Liu Mang knows how terrifying a brainwashed person could be. It went to the extent where victims would not even care for their own lives. Many men, women and children had already been affected. The current Sun Qian would follow Liu Bei even if it meant his death, like a dog. He would not leave Liu Bei no matter how he was treated. As a result, Liu Mang would need to be on guard against Sun Qian even if Sun Qian surrendered in case it was faked. In that case, he might as well let Sun Qian leave.
Killing Sun Qian may allow Liu Mang to relax more. However, rather than relaxing, he wanted his enemy to feel even more uncomfortable. Pang Tong had used Liu Mang to try and kill Sun Qian. When Sun Qian returns, he would not ignore this incident. Sun Qian and Pang Tong do not get along. One of them would eventually have to go. Sun Qian would definitely get in Pang Tong's way and turn Pang Tong's strategies upside down. Sun Qian also have his contacts in Liu Bei's Army. Pang Tong was intelligent but did not have as much support. If he had, he would not need to make use of Liu Mang to get rid of Sun Qian.
This was why leaving Sun Qian together with Pang Tong and Liu Bei was more benefial than keeping Sun Qian.
After settling the problem with Sun Qian, Liu Mang returned to being distressed about the situation of provisions. "Ziyang. How much provisions do we have left?"
"Our armies provision is now less than five thousand!" Liu Ye replied. As a military advisor, it was also his job to take count of the provisions in the army. Their position was one of the most important ones in the army.
"Not even five thousand left? Didn't Ziyang receive more than ten thousand at Yinshang?? How come there are only five thousand left?" Although Liu Mang did not receive provisions here, he had obtained a substantial amount at Yingshang and Anfeng.
"Milord. Didn't you order to send ten thousand provision to Shouchun at Yingshang?" Liu Ye put his hand on the account book as he replied.
"Ah. I forgot!" Liu Man held his own head. He was inexperienced. When Lu Bu was in charge, all he had to do was accept the provisions. However, now he had to dispatch men for provisions and there was not enough of it.
"Ziyang. How long do we need if we want to reach Runan?" Liu Mang asked Liu Ye. Liu Ye had done this before and was familiar with the terrain. This was why most of his suggestions were adopted.
"If we do a forced march, we would need fifteen days. If we marched normally, we would need about a month." Liu Ye explained.
"Fifteen days?" Liu Mang frowned. A forced march would be impossible as their fighting capability would reduce when they reach Runan. They would not be able to move if they were ambushed. Even the elites would need to take about twenty days. Besides that, Runan is occupied by Guan Yu and Jian Yong. Both were not easy people to deal with. Liu Mang had attacked Shouchun because Guan Yu wanted to conserve strength and he had not yet seen the catapults. However, Runan was Liu Bei's main city. Guan Yu would definitely risk his life. Even if they could win, it would take more than a month.
Liu Mang did not have enough provision to last a month. Besides that, Yangzhou is also in peril. If he could not capture Runan in that month and lose Yangzhou, they would be routed.
Originally, there were provisions in Ruyin but those had already been burned by Pang Tong. This had cut off Liu Mang's hopes of attacking Runan. Pang Tong had killed two birds with one stone making use of others to kill Sun Qian and to stop an attack. Fortunately, the one that was dealing with this was Liu Mang. If it was Lu Bu, Sun Qian would have already been executed.
"Let us return!" Liu Mang rubbed his head. He has been getting a headache for Yangzhou in the past few days. His conscription order was done with good intentions but ended up causing ruin. Now, Lu Bu was attacked by three sides.
"Milord. Are you thinking of returning to Shouchun?" Liu Ye frowned as he asked.
"Why? Is there a problem?" Liu Mang asked back. Right now, they do not have provisions and Shouchun is also facing an emergency. Would it have been better to go to Lujiang and surrender Yangzhou?
"We cannot return to Shouchun!" Liu Ye immediately rejected Liu Mang's idea.
"We cannot return to Shouchun? What do you mean?" Liu Mang was not a self-opinionated person. If Liu Ye said that they cannot return to Shouchun, there must be a reason. Liu Mang wanted to hear Liu Ye's opinion before making a decision.
"Milord. If you return to Shouchun, you can solve the dangers at Shouchun but what would you do after that? Milord. Why did we attack Yuzhou?" Naturally, it was for provisions. This was for the many mouths in Shouchun. Although Liu Mang's subordinates had many fertile lands, they were all neglected.
"Milord. If you return to Shouchun, then Yangzhou would not hold out for long. Even you might be taken a prisoner." Liu Ye was not trying to scare Liu Mang but simply stating facts. Liu Mang returning to Shouchun could solve the immediate crisis but they would then be trapped and perish due to lack of provisions. Besides that, it may result in a field battle when they return to Shouchun. The Urban Army and Black Flag Army would not be able to fight against the Xiliang Cavalry.
Besides that, without food, the people would go on a riot. The millions of people would definitely overwhelm the army of ten thousand.
"If not Shouchun, where should we go?" Liu Mang was puzzled. They cannot go to back to Shouchun and they cannot attack Runan. There would be no difference between waiting and dying there. Reinforcements would also not arrive.
"Milord. Let us go back to Yangzhou!" Liu Ye's words made Liu Mang confused. 'Wasn't that what I was trying to do?'
"We will not go straight to Yangzhou but take a detour to Yiyang and Pingchun." Liu Ye took out a map and used to to explain it to Liu mang. All provisions would inevitably pass through that area.
"Ziyang. Are you saying…" Liu Mang slowly began to understand.
"Milord. Liu Bei is able to fight straight into Yangzhou. His rapid siege won him popularity amongst the people. Only Shouchun and Lujiang are left while everywhere else had been captured. However, Liu Bei had also gave himself a huge weakpoint. Where is his provisions coming from? The first set of provisions could follow the main army but what about the second and third ones?" Right now, there are no provisions in Yangzhou. This means that Liu Bei would not be able to restock even if he captured the cities. Besides that, he also had to supply Zhang Xiu, making the consumption of provisions larger. As the battlefield is big, Liu Bei would need a distant supply route. This means Liu Mang would have a chance.
"We go to Yangping and Pingchun to take his provision!" Liu Ye spoke his thoughts. "Once we capture either of those places, we would be able to harass their supply lines. If they do not have any army, we can just take his provision and let him starve at Yangzhou. Even if he sends an army to stop us, they would not be able to stop us unless they send over twenty thousand men. Besides that, we could obtain provisions here to send back to Shouchun. At that time…" Liu Ye did not continue speaking but Liu Mang understood. At that time, the battle would depend on whether Liu Bei could capture Shouchun before his provisions run out. If Liu Bei were to win, Lu Bu's Army could possibly disappear from the stage.
'However, there is no other choice.' Liu Mang stood up and then said, "Ziyang. Let us do it this way!" Liu Ye also nodded as Liu mang pulled Liu Ye's up.
"This battle will determine the master of the Central Plains. If we are defeated, Lu Bu's Army will cease to exist!"
___________________________________________水缸 Direct translation would be water jar. It may be as big as water tanks that could hide a person in. It could also be small enough to serve as a fishbowl/aquarium. I hesitated to call it a tank as something it would mostly translate into in modern times. Basically, they are one of RPG's favourite breakable objects filled with water.