“Not enough provisions?” Inside the main hall of Shouchun, a provision officer had given his report to his two Lords. One was his Lord the other was his Little Lord. One was the nominal owner of Yangzhou while the other was the actual one.
“The provisions are running out again?” Lu Bu felt a headache. When he obtained Lujiang, there were hundreds and thousands of provisions. This was obtained by raiding the nobles. His treasured son-in-law even executed them. The nobles raided were those that could even eat their fill while the common people starved. It was enough for the Lu Bu’s Army to eat for several years. However, they quickly ran out to the point they need to stinge on food the moment Liu Mang gave out the recruitment order. One of the reasons is because of Sun Ce who gave him millions of people to feed.
They initially had enough to feed hundreds of thousands of people but it was definitely not enough to feed millions. Lu Bu was angry that Liu Mang did not consult him first but felt better when he thought that this would give Liu Mang experience. Besides, Sun Ce had also given Yangzhou a lot of opportunities by scheming against them.
There would be new hope once they get past their provision problem. Shouchun was a fertile land. With this many people, they would be able to expand their army. Lu Bu would once again be able to return amongst the top few warlords.
In ancient times, war is waged using funds, provisions and population.
“The hundred thousand provisions sent to us by Cao Cao is also about to finish!” Liu Mang and Xu Shu had found out that Cao Cao had sent provisions just in time for them to appease the people. It could be said that Cao Cao had helped them in their hour of need.
“Milord. These hundred thousand provisions may be a lot but it is not enough for millions of people. Right now, the next harvest would be in about four months while our provisions could only last for one month!” Xu Shu cupped his fist as he said to Liu Mang.
Lu Bu voiced no complaints about Xu Shu calling Liu Mang ‘Milord’ as Xu Shu was Liu Mang’s subordinate. Lu Bu even considers Liu Mang his successor.
“One month. Four months!” These words gave everyone a headache. With more than two months difference, they were unable to tough it out.
This serious problem poured cold water on Liu Mang’s joy of defeating Liu Bei and Zhang Xiu. Sun Ce’s stratagem was still in effect. Handling this poorly would result in a riot. After all, the people only cared about whether they could eat their fill. They would not care about who was in charge.
“Hanyang. I will have Gongtai send you provisions from Lujiang first.” Lu Bu saw Liu Mang frown and also knew of the urgency at Yangzhou. Lujiang had just received a large amount of provision from the main camp of the Jingzhou navy. This was one of the reasons Lu Bu was able to dispatch so many troops despite being watch by Sun Ce.
“It is not enough!” Liu Mang shook his head and declined. Lujiang had almost been emptied by Liu Mang. There would not be much even when counting the ones they obtained from Jingzhou. These hundred thousand provisions was not enough. What would another hundred thousand provisions do? Besides that, the people at Lujiang would also need to eat.
“Milord. There are three ways to obtain provisions.” Liu Ye opened his mouth. Liu Ye became Liu Mang’s Military Advisor when he went out to fight at Yuzhou. Naturally, he had to return his position when he returned to Shouchun. After all, Xu Shu was Liu Mang real Military Advisor while Liu Ye’s main position was to handle Liu Mang’s industrial zone. Unfortunately, the industrial zone had been destroyed and they would need quite some time before it could be set back up. That was why Liu Ye was here.
“Ziyang. Tell me all of it!” Liu Mang replied to Liu Ye. Lu Bu nodded as he looked at Liu Mang’s two advisors. Liu Mang was no longer alone. He now had Xu Shu and Liu Ye to advise him.
Lu Bu had never heard of these two men before but their achievements had told him that they were capable. Xu Shu managed to defend Shouchun with only tens of thousands of soldiers. If it was not because of Pang Tong’s schemes, the gate may not have even be opened. Yangzhou was well run under Xu Shu’s guidance. The people also worked in peace.
Liu Ye have also contributed a lot by following Liu Mang on his expedition. They ambushed and defeated seven thousand Xiliang Cavalry. They even managed to obtain three thousand cavalry soldiers and five thousand horses. How could Lu Bu not feel delighted from this-?
As far as generals go, Yangzhou was already stable. Liu Mang now not only have the Black Flag Army and the Urban Army. He now also have the White Horses led by Zhao Yun. The White Horses had given Lu Bu and impression as the White Horses led by Gongsun Zan was not that far away from the Wolf Cavalry in strength. Even then, Lu Bu did not drool at Liu Mang’s talented personnel. For advisors, Chen Gong was enough for him. As for the generals, he had Zang Ba, Zhang Liao and Gao Shun. He himself was also a fearsome general as he was the God of War. He looked at Liu Mang like an elder watching a junior.
“Milord. The first method would be to rob others!” Liu Ye said to Liu Mang.
“Rob?” Liu Mang thought about it and then asked, “Is there even anywhere you can rob nearby?” Liu Mang only had two neighbours which was Cao Cao and Liu Bei. Although Cao Cao had provisions, his provisions were all placed at Jinzhou. Liu Mang would only be able to attack Yanzhou and Xuzhou. Besides that, Cao Cao had given him provisions in his time of need. At the very least, he needed to remember this favour. The other option was to attack Liu Bei. It may be a good plan but it may also cause Liu Bei to enter a life or death struggle. Besides that, Liu Bei may not have much left and dispatching the troops would also need a lot of provisions. As a result, Liu Mang rejected this first option.
“Then, the second method would be to borrow provisions from our neighbours.”
“Borrow provisions?” Liu Mang shook his head as he laughed bitterly. This was not possible. When Cao Cao sent provisions over, he also sent a messenger saying that he wanted Liu Mang’s ballista. The ballista was something Liu Mang could sell to anyone except Cao Cao. The ballista would allow Cao Cao to unify the North quicker. Once that happens, Cao Cao would turn his eyes on the Central Plains. The Lu Bu’s Army would then suffer from this. As a result, borrowing provisions from Cao Cao would not be possible and the plan was rejected.
“Milord. The only remaining option is to buy provisions.” Liu Ye helplessly shook his head. The only option left was to buy provisions.
“Is it possible to buy provisions?” Liu Mang was not confident. During times of war, provisions were a necessity and is rarely traded.
“Milord. Other than the methods Ziyang have suggested, do you have any other ideas?” Xu Shu interjected.
Listening to Xu Shu’s words, Liu Mang realized that they had no other option but to buy provisions.
“Who should we buy it from?” Liu Mang asked as he looked at Liu Ye. As Liu Ye gave this proposal, he must definitely know who to buy it from.
“There are many people to buy it from. We could buy it from Cao Cao, Yuan Shao, Liu Biao and even Sun Ce.” Liu Ye wanted to go everywhere so that there was a higher chance of buying provisions. “However, Milord will need to prepare a good price!” Liu Ye was right. Provisions were expensive during war. Besides that, everybody already knew that Liu Mang had been caught in a trap and needed provisions to survive. The provisions would definitely be expensive.
Liu Mang sighed. To be taken advantage of at this time was something that could not be helped. He still be able to accept it as long as it was not too excessive. He was willing to even pay three to four times the market price as long as he would be able to survive through this period of time.
“Milord. Not only are we running out of food. We are also running out of money!” Xu Shu was the one managing their supplies. He was also in charge of the money. They needed money to buy food but now, they were also running out of money.
Liu Mang was puzzled. “Didn’t we have several hundred thousand gold?” Liu Mang remembered having that much when he came to Yangzhou. It was an amount enough to last for a hundred years. However, they ran out in a few months.
“Milord. I do not dare to lie to you. We are really running out of money!” Xu Shu then explained to Liu Mang. The industrial zone, the ships, the houses and even the Hall of Fame. All of these need money to make. Right now, there are many things that need to be done at Shouchun. They needed to rebuild the industrial zone and they also needed to continue their ship building. How could there be much money left?
“If you need money you can take from Lujiang!” Lu Bu suggested to Liu Mang. Lujiang may not have much provisions but they still had a lot of money. This had added up to an impressive amount over the years.
“No!” Liu Mang immediately rejected the offer. To Liu Mang, Yangzhou was his in name but actually belongs to Lu Bu. As Lu Bu’s son-in-law, he needed to find a way to become independent. However, Lu Bu’s expression turned sour. Even his generals, Zhang Liao and Zang Ba felt hurt.
“Do not misunderstand, Father-in-law.” Liu Mang quickly waved his hand. Even though Liu Mang wanted to become independent, he did not have the ability to do so. If it was not because of the Lu Bu’s Army, Shouchun would have already been taken. “Father-in-law. You must also give me money from that place.”
“Hm?” Liu Mang’s words made Lu Bu confused. What did Liu Mang want to do besides buying provisions?
“I am going to use it to expand the army!” Liu Mang said to Lu Bu. Yangzhou had been supressed this time partly because of the lack of provisions but Liu Mang also noticed that there was a severe lack in military strength. If Liu Mang had tens of thousands of elit troops, he would not need to attack the enemy to defend his city. There was also no need to cut off Liu Bei’s supply routes to force Liu Bei to retreat. If Liu Bei came with his main army, there was a chance that they would lose. However, if Liu Mang had several hundred thousand soldiers, he would have been able to fight a decisive battle against Liu Bei. Xu Shu would not have been trapped in Shouchun struggling for his life. All of this made Liu Mang want to expand the army.
“Expand the army? Have you thought about this properly?” Lu Bu did not hesitate to ask Liu Mang. Expanding the army was not a trifling matter. This is because expanding the army meant needing more commanders and management of hierarchy. Otherwise, new troops could not be recruited. These troops must also be train to be elites otherwise they would only waste provisions.
“I already have the men and I have even already prepared their positions!” Liu Mang replied. After sending out the recruitment order at Hefei, he had the recruits challenge the officers and soldiers in the Black Flag and the Urban Army. Those that could beat the ones leading ten men would take that position while the loser would take up a deputy positions. As a result, there were a lot of such deputies in the Urban Army. They already have a lot of training from their positions and if they were to form their own squads, their foundation would remain strong. All they needed to do was to advance to true elites.
Liu Mang had already prepared three groups. The first was the White Horses that would be led by Zhao Yun. The current White Horses did not live up to its name. It was supposed to have five thousand cavalries but it only had two hundred. It was not the army it needed to be which is why Liu Mang wanted it to grow.
At first, they did not have horses as it was too expensive. Liu Mang’s plan to get Gan Ning to import the horses from Liaodong was not something that could be accomplished in a few years. However, the situation had changed. The Xiliang Cavalry had ‘donated’ five thousand horses and three thousand riders. These men simply needed to be instructed a little and they would already be ready to set up an army.
However, Liu Mang did not want to take all of them. He only wanted one thousand five hundred of these people to gather up to two thousand to three thousand soldiers for Zhao Yun. He was going to make a light cavalry with about two horses per soldier.
The remaining soldiers of the Xiliang Cavalry would be given to Lu Bu to replenish Lu Bu’s Wolf Cavalry. Lu Bu had also obtained a lot of horses when he ambushed Zhang Xiu as a lot of the soldiers abandoned their horses in confusion. The two factors together was enough for the Wolf Cavalry.
The second group Liu Mang wanted to form was Wei Yan’s Yiyang Troops. He had received good news from Wei Yan who was at Yiyang. Wei Yan had managed to bring ten Yiyang veterans to Yiyang and easily obtained the place from Jingzhou. This is because Wei Yan was too popular and was also strong. The Jingzhou defenders were pushed away by the people.
Wei Yan did not let Liu Mang down and even took over Zaoyang. Now, Wei Yan was recruiting at these two places. The Yiyang Troops formed were also elites.
The last one was Hao Shao. Liu Mang would not ignore such a talented person and made him a general. He had Hao Shao form an army of five thousand and is garrisoned at Guangzhou. Liu Mang felt relieved with Hao Shao around.
The three groups would not even have fifteen thousand men but they would consume a lot of resources such as weapons and armor. These soldiers would also need money and food. This is why Liu Mang needed money from Lujiang. However, if he were to do this, he would not have money for provisions. It was a difficult problem to solve.
Fortunately, the housekeeper Yang Hong suddenly said, “Marquis Wen, Family Head! I have no provisions but there are gold and silver to be found in Shouchun. It is enough to remove the predicament Yangzhou is trapped in.”