The silence of the common people made the atmosphere turn stiff. There were two roads in front of them. The first road gave a bright future with the possibility of starving to death before that future is reached. The second road would meant giving up their land and continue to be imposed with heavy taxes but they would not starve to death. Most of the common people would choose the second road.
“Provisions…” Xu Shu gradually spoke to himself. Truthfully speaking, he did not want the common people to die with him and gradually lowered his head.
“What’s wrong? Nothing left to say? Why don’t you tell me that I am wrong? Let me tell you this! Lord Xuande’s army is outside the city! I suggest you let me go and surrender. Otherwise, you will die when the city falls!” Liu Bei’s spy that had been caught by the two guards was still acting very arrogantly.
“Haha. Who told you that our army lacks provisions?” Xu Shu suddenly raised his head confidently. His confidence easily infected the others, making the others feel more joyful.
“Shouchun still has provisions?” Even Liu Bei’s spy hesitated. By right, Shouchun should no longer have enough provisions as there were millions of people. However, he became less confident when he saw Xu Shu’s confidence.
“Of course!” Xu Shu gave his affirmation. “We even have enough to last until next year!”
“Haha. That sounds great. If that is the case, why did you reduce the amount of provisions given to the people? This is obviously because there is not enough provisions and that you want to sacrifice the people or have them die together with you!” The spy had almost been fooled. If there truly had been provisions, Lu Bu would not have moved so slowly. On top of that, reducing the amount of food would only cause panic.
“That’s right!” If there had been enough provisions, there was no reason to reduce it. Three provisions was still just enough for them to eat their fill but with only two portions, they were forced to go hungry. Although they would not starve to death, it was still better to be full instead of hungry.
“We have lots of provisions, enough to last until the coming spring. However, we need to plan ahead and be ready for emergencies. What if there is a drought from tomorrow onwards? What if Shouchun became flooded? On top of that, some of the seeds that have been planted had already been destroyed by the Liu Bei’s Army. This way, you all tried to starve us to death!” Xu Shu’s words was like a sharp blade and was deadlier than his own martial arts. Not only did he claim his own army to be planning ahead but even blamed Liu Bei for the decrease in provisions.
The people’s anger towards Liu Bei was reignited once again.
“Preparing for emergencies once is enough. Why did you reduce the provisions twice?” If it was just for emergencies, everyone should be given three portions to eat their fill. If they could not eat enough, the only explanation would be a lack of provisions.
“The first time was truly for emergencies. As for the second one… I, Xu Shu would need to apologize to you all.” After that, Xu Shu suddenly knelt down together with Xie Wen.
“Apologize? Haha. Did the provisions get burned or robbed? Even if you have an excuse, you cannot change the fact that you do not have enough provisions!” The reasons don’t matter. Without food, the people will starve.
“It was neither burned or robbed. Instead, it was embezzled by this provision officer Xie Wen!” Xu Shu suddenly opened his mouth and cursed in anger. “During a calamity, this corrupted man only thought of himself and changed military orders. He took bribes and reduced the provisions given! Fortunately, I had accidentally stumbled on his wrongdoings. This is a serious crime which is why I have brought him here for his fate to be decided by the rest of you!” Xu Shu continued to scold Xie Wen, blaming him for the decrease in provisions given. Xu Shu was helpless. Zhao Yun had ordered for the provisions to be reduced so that everyone could hold out longer but his actions were thwarted by Pang Tong’s schemes. Xu Shu had no choice but to change back the amount of provisions given to the people. However, this action would be suspicious and so, Xu Shu needed a sacrifice. Zhao Yun was a warrior. It would be useless even if Xu Shu had him executed. Besides that, Zhao Yun was also needed to defend Shouchun. In other words, Xu Shu had to sacrifice someone the common people could recognize. This person was Xie Wen. Xu Shu was crying as he spoke. His tears were not for Xie Wen’s supposed corruption but because he had no choice but to sacrifice Xie Wen to appease the people. His tears were for Xie Wen and his own incompetence.
“Kill him! Kill him!” The people chanted angrily. They now believed that their food had reduced because of corruption instead of a lack of provisions. The believed that the people that made them go hungry were people that had to die.
“No! That can’t be!” Another voice filled with disbelief came just as soon as Xu Shu finished speaking. This was the voice of a weak woman. The two men had helped her to the front of the crowd but they were stopped by the guards. “This is not possible! Wen is not such a person! Xie Wen! Tell them!”
“Who is she?” Xu Shu frowned at the woman. The expressionless and silent Xie Wen then quickly said in a panic, “Wan Er! Why are you here? Go back!”
“Wan Er?” Xu Shu looked at Xie Wen and realized that this woman was the person Xie Wen had entrusted to him.
“Let her in!” Xu Shu sighed and ordered. He was helpless and needed to kill Xie Wen. This was why he did not treat Xie Wen as a prisoner. The least he could do was to allow the two to meet before Xie Wen is executed.
“Wan Er! Wan Er!” Xie Wen’s hands were tied as his wife went up to embrace him.
“Wen. Tell them that you are not such a person!” Nobody knows Xie Wen more than his wife Wan Er. Xie Wen was a true man. If there were not enough provisions, Xie Wen would fill it up with his own salary. On top of that, Xie Wen’s own home did not have any additional provisions. In conclusion, Xie Wen was innocent. “Respectful Lord. It is not possible for my family member to be corrupt. Please investigate properly!” Wan Er knelt as she spoke to Xu Shu. She then banged her head on the ground, causing Xu Shu to feel heavy hearted.
“Lord. I can testify that Miss Xie’s words are true. Xie Wen could not have been the corrupt official!” The two men beside here also spoke. Xie Wen may have lost an arm but he was like a fictional hero with loyalty and principle to the two men. How could such a person be corrupt?
“Wen! Speak! Tell him!” Wan Er shouted at Xie Wen. As she continued to kowtow to Xu Shu.
“Haha. So it is a scapegoat!” Liu Bei’s spy could easily tell that Xie Wen was a scapegoat for the purpose of appeasing the people. “Just tell him whatever you want! You are just being framed. There are no longer enough provisions here! Do not worry! With so many of us here, they would not dare to do anything!”
Xu Shu did not speak and simply looked at Xie Wen. If Xie Wen claims to be framed, everything would be over. Xu Shu had brought some of the White Horses with him but there were still too many people.
“I…!” Xie Wen seemed to be at a loss. He looked at his wife and bit his lip. Meeting her was his greatest happiness. He had once told her that he would accompany her till she grew old. They even thought of the name of their child together. If the child was male, it would be Xie Qian. Otherwise, it would be Xie Yu. If he dies, they would be separated. He would also not be able to meet his child.
“Xie Wen. Go ahead and tell them!” Xu Shu also spoke indifferently. He felt as though he owed Xie Wen a debt for risking his life and losing an arm, fighting for Lu Bu and Liu Mang over the years. The debt the Lu Bu’s Army owed him would be difficult to pay. Although Xu Shu had hardened his resolve, he was still unable to endure this. No matter what Xie Wen’s decision was, Xu Shu would not blame him. Instead, Xu Shu would only blame his own skills.
Xie Wen suddenly raised his head. This made Liu Bei’s spy smile while also making Liu Mang’s intelligence personnel sigh. They were about to lose the faith of the people and lose Shouchun.
“Let us go!” The captain for Liu Mang’s intelligence personnel said with a sigh.
“Captain? Where are we going?” His teammates could not understand him.
“We are going to Lujiang, Guangzhou to find Milord. We can no longer hold Shouchun.” The captain replied while shaking his head as he looked at Shouchun. The Lu Bu’s Army had invested everything into Shouchun. Hundreds and thousands of gold and provision had been spent here. Shouchun had night markets and industrial zones. It even has buildings made out of cement. All of that was going to be destroyed or taken away.
The intelligence personnel seemed to understand that they had to follow their captain. At that moment, Xie Wen shouted. “I was the one that embezzled it! I am the one that took your provisions! I am the one that made you go hungry! So what? You are all people from the lower strata! For what reason do you deserve three portions of food, receive thirty percent tax and even fertile land? I want you all to starve! Hahahaha!” Xie Wen laughed wildly and furiously. However, Xu Shu could see the tears in his eyes.
“No. You are not such a person!” Wan Er wanted to continue speaking but now, she was stopped by the guards. Xu Shu had made a promise to Xie Wen to take care of his wife. As Wan Er was pregnant, moving too much would be bad. So, he had the two guards isolate her.
“Wan Er. I am sorry!” Xie Wen looked at his wife profoundly. “I may not be able to accompany you till old age. I may not be able to see our child. I am sorry. If there is an afterlife, I would be willing to spend my whole life repaying you.” Xie Wen said to Wan Er but he no longer bothered as to whether she could hear him.
“Impossible! How could this be?” Another person could not believe it. This was Liu Bei’s spy.
“This guy thinks we are only lower class people! What about him? He made us starve and gave us a huge misunderstanding to Military Advisor Xu! Everyone, hit him!” The people shouted in rage. However, they could not approach Xie Wen to beat him up because of the White Horse soldiers. Instead, they simply picked up small rocks and threw it at him.
When Xu Shu heard those words, he felt guilty instead of happy. He also felt a sense of powerlessness. Xu Shu knew such actions had been necessary because the world is cruel. These kinds of scenarios would not happen in a peaceful era. All of this made Xu Shu even more resolute in helping Liu Mang unify the land.
“How outrageous! You receive an officer’s salary but instead of working for the army, you mess with the lives and deaths of the millions of the common people. This is a heinous crime! We will have you executed under the watch of the heavens for the sake of the people! Men. Bring Xie Wen over to be beheaded!” Xu Shu ordered. The executioner then came over to execute Xie Wen. In his last moments, Xie Wen closed his eyes and thought to himself. ‘My brothers. I am coming.’
“No!” Wan Er screamed in anguish, followed by a bloody splash and a head dropping to the floor. Xie Wen’s headless body also fell to the ground. Wan Er fainted as Xie Wen’s body touched the ground.
“Help Miss Xie down.” Xu Shu felt guilty and could only treat Wan Er well.
“Everybody! The evil has been removed. Does anyone have anything else to say?” Xu Shu cupped his fist at the crowd. The people had no complains. After all, Xie Wen had already been executed. The blood that splashed out from the body had also frightened a considerable amount of people. Now, it was so quiet that one could hear a pin drop.
“In that case, I will now continue. With Xie Wen’s death, the provisions given would return to three portions. The ones that have already received rations can now go and receive an extra one portion. The ones that have not yet eaten would receive three portions.
“Military Advisor… This is…” One of the guards could not understand. They really had no provisions which is also why Zhao Yun reduced the provisions given. Killing Xie Wen was to appease the people. However, he could not understand why provisions would be given after that.
Xu Shu did not explain himself. He had no choice but to do so. The common people had always been pushed around regardless of whether it was the rise or fall of a dynasty. The common people were unfortunate, ignorant, and wicked. They are easily influenced and could barely tell right from wrong. This is because they do not study. So, the only way to appease them was to give them benefits. Only with those, would the people be moved.
Xie Wen’s death had frightened them but it also brought them peace. However, this peace would not last long. They would soon forget it and continue to be ignorant the next day. They would continue to think that they would starve to death if they continued to receive only two portions of provisions. Xu Shu needed to give them the reality that they would not starve.
“What a good strategy!” Liu Bei’s spy could see that Xu Shu used a scapegoat to pass the blame and hatred. However, the common people could not see it.
“This is not a strategy. We really have provisions!” Xu Shu replied to the spy.
“Report!” A messenger suddenly came over with his horse. “Report to the Military Advisor. Our army has transported the provisions from the water camp. What do we do with it?”
“What do we do? Put it in the storehouse! Oh right! Bring it over here and show it to the people. Show these people from Yuzhou that we really have provisions!”
“Yes!” The messenger accepted the order and brought several carriages over. Each carriage seemed to be carrying several tens of thousands worth of provisions.
“How could this be?” Liu Bei’s spy became speechless. The amount was enough for Shouchun to last for half a month.
This was correct. All of the provisions in Shouchun had been taken out for the people to see. This is also to tell Liu Bei’s spy that they still had a lot of provisions and all methods of sowing dissension amongst the people was pointless.
“Impossible!” Liu Bei’s spy had followed Liu Bei for a long time. When Guan Yu was chased out of Shouchun, Pang Tong had already dispatched him. It could be said that he has found out about all the information in Shouchun. He soon realized that the amount of provisions left in Shouchun was also half a month and that this was not a coincidence.
“Half a month!” The spy was not a fool. Without good eyesight and a brain, it would be impossible to be Liu Bei’s spy. “Haha! Xu Shu! You have overdone it this time!” His reaction made the others pay attention to him again.
“What are you saying?” Xu Shu’s heart tightened as he wondered what the spy had seen.
“What I want to say is that you only have half a month left of provisions in Shouchun!”
“Half a month of provisions left? Are you mad? Can’t you see half a month of provisions here?” The guards retorted. Just the carriages here alone was enough for half a month. How could they be lacking in provisions?
“Oh. This is all of your provisions in Shouchun!” Liu Bei’s spy pointed to the carriages.
“Hm?” Xu Shu’s eyes turned sharp and a bit of his killing intent rose. He never expected Liu Bei’s spy to notice this.
“Do you want to kill me?” The spy shouted. “Everyone. The magnificent Military Advisor of Yangzhou want to silence me!” Liu Bei’s spy gathered attention with his actions.
“Military advisor. Should we?” The captain of the bodyguards asked. He just needed to swing his blade and the spy would be silenced permanently.
“There is no need.” Xu Shu shook his head. Xu Shu also wanted the man dead but it was not yet time. Killing him now would raise suspicion amongst the people. The spy also seemed to be hinting at something, which may lead Xu Shu to more trouble.
“Please speak sir. I, Xu Shu, want to see what kind of comments you have.” Xu Shu spoke with respect but his words were full of mockery.
“Military Advisor Xu Shu is truly skilled.” The spy cupped his fist at Xu Shu. If it was not because of his Lord, he would have wanted to become friends with Xu Shu. This desire now seemed to be impossible.
“Military Advisor. Where did your messenger receive these provisions from?” Liu Bei’s spy asked indifferently.
“Have your ears been working? Didn’t you hear that it was transported from the water camp in Shouchun?” The captain of the guards rudely replied to Liu Bei’s spy.
“My ears have no problems. The one with problems are you all!” The spy replied with a cold sneer.
“Not good!” Xu Shu understood that the spy had already seen everything and regretted not killing the man. He could not help but reach for his weapon and attack quickly. Letting the common people be suspicious was a better alternative than to have everything exposed. However, he did not expect the spy to be even faster than him. When Xu Shu acted, the spy shouted “If you do not come out now, when will you come out?” There were many spies amongst the common people. Although they wore plain and common clothes, they had also carried weapons.
“Protect the Military Advisor!” The White Horses immediately moved to battle formation as they shouted loudly.
“Military Advisor Xu Shu. Do you want to kill me now?” Liu Bei’s spy smiled coldly. “Everyone. These provisions here are not from the water camp as claimed by Military Advisor Xu Shu. Instead, they came from within Shouchun! If they came from the water camp, the carriages would at least be wet! However, these carriages are dry! In other words, they are not from the water camp!” Liu Bei’s spy truly had good eyes to be able to spot such details. He was able to tell that the carriage did not come from the water camp.
“That’s right. The roads at the water camp were muddy and barely usable. Although it was repaired the mud is still there. If the carriages came from there, there would be mud on the carriages. However, these carriages are clean!” The common people now believed that they no longer had any provisions once again.
If Shouchun really had no provisions, they would open the gates and invite the Liu Bei’s Army in.
“Everyone. What are you waiting for? Are these amount of provisions enough for you? Do you all want to starve to death after finishing it? Open up the gates. Lord Xuande has ample provisions for everyone!” The spies stirred up the crowds, causing the people to change their expressions at the White Horses.
“Lord Xuande has also said that whoever that manages to capture Xu Shu would be awarded with one hundred gold and even become the prefect of Shouchun!” There would definitely be a brave soul that worked for this. With money, one would be able to do anything. Liu Bei’s spies were truly excellent at making use of the will of the people. With that, almost everyone had different thoughts. Becoming a prefect was a big deal and all they had to do was capture Xu Shu. Although Xu Shu had the White Horses with him, they only numbered to about ten people. On the other hand, there were thousands of people around them.
Just as Xu Shu was about to enter a life and death scenario, another messenger rushed over. “Report! Someone sent over a hundred thousand provisions from the water camp at Shouchun! Military Advisor. What do we do with it?”
“A hundred thousand provisions?” Liu Bei’s spies sneered again. “Military Advisor Xu Shu! Are you still trying to play the same thing?”
“A hundred thousand provisions?” Xu Shu was also stunned. Where would he have the time to prepare all this? On top of that, the previous messenger was from the White Horses. This messenger was really from the navy. “Have them bring it over here!” The messenger accepted the order and left.
“Maybe there are still provisions in Shouchun!” The people spoke again. Earlier, they gave Xu Shu a bad expression because Xu Shu lied to them. It was better to capture Xu Shu than to die. Now that there truly seemed to be provisions, they decided not to take risks.
“Haha. Provisions? I want to see where else you can run to. Shouchun is already mine!” With the White Horses protecting Xu Shu, the common people did not act. The spy also had no other choice.
Several hundred carriages soon arrived, making Xu Shu’s earlier performance seemed half hearted.