Liu Bei was hard pressed by Jia Xu’s actions of burning the provisions. Although Liu Bei, with his status of an allied force managed to take in the soldiers from Nanyang, he was not pleased about the situation due to the lack of provisions. He would need to transport provisions from Runan but even he himself lacked provisions. The accumulated consumption of provisions by the Xiliang Cavalry and from the war had caused Yuzhou to be stricken with poverty.
“Who is this Jia Xu and how have I ever offended this person?” Liu Bei frowned. He was at the governor’s province at Nanyang with most of his civil and military officers. The ones not present were the ones defending Runan. Even Sun Qian was present.
“Report! The fire at Nanyang have already been extinguished!” A military general cupped his fist at Liu Bei. The man’s appearance was extremely dirty. Normally, meeting the Lord with such an appearance was rude but Liu Bei did not mind. This is because the man was responsible for putting out the fire at Nanyang, which continued to burn for several days. Even half the sky had turned red.
“Get up.” Liu Bei felt sad as he looked at this military general. It was not because the man risked his life to put out the fire but because of the lost provisions. Had the soldier been clean, Liu Bei would have felt happy because it would mean that the fire was not that large. There would also be no need for a military general to go and extinguish the fire personally.
“Tell me how great the damage is. I can handle it!” Liu Bei ordered as he massaged his temples.
“That is…” The military general did not dare to give a reply as he was afraid that Liu Bei would implicate him for his failure in dealing with the fire. It would truly be like ringing disaster to himself.
“How much did we lose? Fifty percent? Sixty?” Liu Bei’s tone became more oppressive as he spoke. This is because the lack of a reply meant that the real figure was more. “Speak!” Liu Bei could no longer endure and struck at the military general, causing the man to spit out blood.
The bright red color of his blood stood out as it flowed down his blackish appearance. The military general did not dare to wipe away his blood and instead knelt and trembled in fear in front of Liu Bei. “All of it!”
Liu Bei felt the world around him spin. Although they had never counter the amount of provisions in Nanyang personally, based on the past records, there should be over two hundred thousand servings. Now he was told that nothing was left. Previously, he felt his heart ache when Liu Mang burned twenty thousand provisions. This incident made him feel like vomiting blood.
Liu Bei took a deep breath and closed his eyes to try and calm himself down from this information. He was an unscrupulous careerist. He had the desire to kill this man in his overflowing anger. Men had the tendency to blame others and shift responsibility. As he could not find Jia Xu, the blame fell onto this poor man. However, Liu Bei also knew that while killing this man could clear his anger, he would also lose his reputation as a benevolent man. If it was Cao Cao, he would kill this man for his failures and to pacify the anger of the rest of his army.
“Men. Take him away and let him rest. Get the best doctor in the city to treat him!” Liu Bei endured his anger and allowed the military general to rest and recover.
“Jia Xu, Jia Xu. Who are you? How have I, Liu Bei Liu Xuande ever offended you? Why must you treat me like this?” Liu Bei’s roared from his heart. The savings at Nanyang were all gone. It was no longer possible to replenish supplies there.
Nobody answered Liu Bei’s question. Jia Xu was an unfamiliar name to them. This is not surprising as Jia Xu usually stayed low profile during the time he served Dong Zhuo. The positions offered to him by Dong Zhuo, Li Jue and Guo Si, had all been declined by Jia Xu. Jia Xu was afraid of serving a Lord that garners hatred and would also most likely get defeated.
Most of the people that knew about Jia Xu such as Dong Zhuo and Zhang Xiu were dead while Hu Che Er did not dare to say anything. If Hu Che Er were to tell him who Jia Xu was and what happened, there was a very high chance that Liu Bei would execute him just like what he did to Liu Pi.
The remaining two people that actually knew about Jia Xu were Lu Bu and Liu Mang. Lu Bu learned about Jia Xu from the letter he received while Liu Mang learned about Jia Xu from the history books two thousand years later. Naturally, they would not be able to give Liu Bei an answer.
On the other hand, Cao Cao’s only knowledge about Jia Xu is that Jia Xu was the one that persuaded Zhang Xiu to surrender to him.
Jia Xu was simply a cowardly person that abandons his Lord. There was no need for people to specifically remember him.
Pang Tong could tell that Jia Xu was not an ordinary person as Jia Xu was able to take away the Han soldiers and Zhang Lei. Yet, he was still unable to figure out who was this Jia Xu and where he came from.
“Milord. The important thing now is not to wonder who Jia Xu is but to count the amount of provisions we have.” Sun Qian spoke out while Pang Tong was thinking about Jia Xu. No matter what he thought of Jia Xu, he would simply be ignoring what Liu Bei needed.
When Sun Qian escaped mortal peril, he thought to himself about why he got alienated by Liu Bei. One reason for that is because he was not at Liu Bei’s side. Another reason is because he was not a match for Pang Tong. Playing by the enemy’s strength was only inviting disaster.
Sun Qian could show his worth in administration as that was his strong points. He was able to govern a region because of his contributions in that area. He could tell that what Liu Bei truly wanted deep down was not Jia Xu but the provisions.
Although Nanyang had little citizens, it had a lot a soldiers. There was a total of thirty thousand infantries and eight thousand Xiliang Cavalry that also needed provisions. Besides that, Liu Bei needed to show his generosity since he had just accepted them in. Liu Bei needed to let these soldiers know that their lives would be just as good, if not, better than when they were serving under Zhang Xiu. How was Liu Bei supposed to impress them if they did not even have enough food to eat?
“Gongyou. Have you been well?” Liu Bei was good at dealing with human emotions with his hypocrisy. He may not be as decisive as Cao Cao but he was still able to get people to swear allegiance towards him.
“Thank you for your concern Milord. It is thanks to your good fortune that I manage to survive1.” Sun Qian replied as he looked at Pang Tong with killing intent, causing Pang Tong to frown. Pang Tong never expected Sun Qian to survive but he did not mind. If he could plot against Sun Qian once, he could do it again. There would be more problems for Pang Tong if Sun Qian was allowed to live.
Contrary to what one might expect, Liu Bei was put in a difficult position from this. Liu Bei could tell that Pang Tong had plotted against Sun Qian but he did not want to offend Pang Tong as he also knew that Pang Tong could bring him more benefits compared to Sun Qian.
“Men. Have our provisions been counted?” Ten officials entered the moment Sun Qian shouted. These officials all looked exhausted and dirty. Sun Qian had truly came prepared.
Of course Sun Qian had come prepared. Initially, he was at a loss as Pang Tong was more precise than him. If he continued to oppose Pang Tong, he would eventually lose his life. It was better to simply stay as a simply administration official for the rest of his life. However, a conversation with Jian Yong encouraged Sun Qian to fight back. This is because if he didn’t, he would no longer be able to face Xiao He, Zhang Liang and Han Xin.
Xiao He, Zhang Liang and Han Xin were legendary figures. The three were the founders of the Han Dynasty and were people necessary to Liu Bang. Zhang Liang was adept at strategems and have constantly helped Liu Bang to survive many crisis.
Han XIn was good at military policy. He was the one that directly helped Liu Bang to conquer lands. Without him, Liu Bang would not have obtained the land. Pang Tong was like Han XIn and Zhang Liang combined together. He was able to strategize and use military policy. He was a genius that Sun Qian could not compete against at all.
Last but not least was Xiao He. He was the one that helps Liu Bang with management as he was the one that has followed Liu Bang the longest. He was Liu Bang’s trusted aide. He was not as good aas Han Xin and Zhang Liang but he was the most meritorious contributor. Sun Qian was similar to this person.
However, only Xiao He managed to get a good ending. Zhang Liang knows his own place and retired but Han Xin was plotted against and died. The ones that caused Han Xin’s death was Xiao He and Empress Lu.
Sun Qian became resolute. Since he could not compare to Pang Tong in strategy, he would not compete against Pang Tong in strategy. He would just help Liu Bei with the management and internal issues. The one who would have the last laugh has not yet been decided.
Sun Qian questioned the ten men. Finally, his commander-in-chief spoke, “Report. Initially there is two hundred and seventy thousand provisions and five thousand gold. Now there is only fourteen thousand provisions and two thousand gold. Sun Qian needed to deal with the quantity of food and money if he wanted to go into management. He already dispatched his men the moment he found out about the fire.
The figures made Liu Bei extremely gloomy. The gold had already been used by Zhang Xiu to buy provisions, which was the most important thing to the unproductive Lords. Even Yuan Shao and his large army of three hundred thousand troops only had five hundred thousand provisions. Yet, the small Nanyang has about half that quantity. All of this should have been his but they were lost in the fire. The remaining fourteen thousand provisions was not even one tenth of what was left in Nanyang.
This amount was only enough for the soldiers to eat. Even that was already good enough and it was not possible to reward these soldiers. If Liu Bei wants to rebuild Nanyang, he would need to transport food from Yuzhou. Liu Bei had caused disaster to Yuzhou when he forcefully entered the place. He had also used up most of his provisions at Yangzhou. Where else could he find provisions for Nanyang? Without provisions, the troops would become disheartened. After a while, there would not be any army left. At that time, it would be impossible for compete for the land. Even if he still had his army, they would be useless without any provisions.
Sun Qian’s timely calculations gave Liu Bei some confidence. It also caused Liu Bei to have a much better opinion of Sun Qian as he was the only one that stood in front while the others were simply too afraid of Liu Bei’s rage. It showed Liu Bei that Sun Qian was a very faithful henchman that could prioritize his Lord’s benefits.
“Milord. I have policy that I hope Milord can accept!” Pang Tong ignored what had just happened. He had not been capable of calculating the losses in time, allowing Sun Qian to be more favourably viewed by Liu Bei. However, he did not mind as in the end, a henchman is still a dog2. Pang Tong believes himself to be the only person that could help his Lord conquer the land.
“You have a stratagem already? Please teach it to me!” Liu Bei had been gloomy as he did not know how to placate the troops, convert the new troops and rebuild Nanyang. All of these needed money.
“Milord. Right now, you have several tens of thousands of soldiers and Nanyang. However, the granary at Nanyang was burned down by Jia Xu. Right now, you can pick one of two choices.” Pang Tong had also given up thinking about countermeasures for Jia Xu and started thinking about the paths the Liu Bei’s Army could take.
“The first choice is for Milord to retreat back to Yuzhou with the Xiliang Cavalry and recuperate until the next harvesting season!” Retreating back to Yuzhou was one method as although Liu Bei had obtained the Xiliang Cavalry, his army would still be less powerful compared to the time he attacked Yangzhou with Qingzhou Army, Yuzhou Yellow Turbans and the White Eared Soldiers.
Besides that, the next harvesting season would be in about half a year while training the new recruits would take about a year. A lot of things would have changed during that time. It may not even be possible for fight for the Central Plains anymore as Liu Bei may also need to deal with Cao Cao.
“The military strategist is truly good at strategems. An entire year of effort only to lose countless soldiers. I wonder if Shuzhi3 would come to find you in your dreams if he knew of your stratagem.” Sun Qian immediately ridiculed Pang Tong the moment he heard the first stratagem. An army of thirty five thousand went out for war but only three thousand injured men returned. Although he obtained thirty eight thousand of the Xiliang Cavalry. Although there were more troops compared to before, what they needed for war were provisions. After so many years at Yuzhou, the savings Liu Pi had given them were already used up. It was not only the loss of provisions but also the loss of Chen Dao and the White Eared Soldiers. The Xiliang Cavalry could not make up for these losses.
Liu Bei felt Sun Qian’s sarcasm as this was also something he himself wanted to say. Liu Bei also did not want to withdraw from Nanyang as it could at least be a consolation prize even if he did not manage to take Yangzhou. Nanyang was also a fertile land that used to have several cities. Wancheng (Nanyang district) itself has a huge population of talented people such as Zhuge Liang and Xu Shu. However, all of these people moved to Jingzhou when Zhang Xiu obtained Nanyang.
Although the population have dropped, the land still remained fertile. That was why Liu Bei refused to give up Nanyang so easily. Nanyang alone was worth half of Yuzhou.
Pang Tong also did not want this to happen. If they withdrew from Nanyang, Liu Bei would definitely have no chance to compete for the Central Plains. “In that case, the second option is to get people to send the provisions over from Yuzhou.” Provisions would be needed for both feeding the soldiers and also as a reward for those that switched allegiances.
“Haha. And here I was, wondering what kind of master plan you have. If it is just about taking provisions from Yuzhou, everybody here knows how to implement it! The Yuzhou right now is exhausted. Did you think it was like the Yuzhou in the past?” Sun Qian took this opportunity to attack Pang Tong again. When they first went out on expedition, Yuzhou was full of provisions. They may not have as much as Nanyang but they had at least two hundred thousand provisions. After fighting for Yangzhou, the Liu Bei’s Army truly became about to collapse. There was only about fifty thousand provisions left at Runan. One must also not forget that there are also troops at Runan. Taking away their provisions may start a rebellion. Their neighbour Cao Ren would certainly not let such a good opportunity go.
“Who said I wanted to take provisions from Runan?” When it comes to military matters, even ten Sun Qian’s would not be able to be a match for Pang Tong. That was why Pang Tong treated Sun Qian with disdain. If Sun Qian was able to keep his mouth shut or not attempt to threaten Pang Tong’s position, it was possible for Pang Tong to end up friends with him. Unfortunately, Sun Qian does not know his place so Pang Tong would not be good natured to him. Sun Qian was allowed to be Liu Bei’s number one civil official but he should learn how to step aside once Pang Tong was around. If Sun Qian remains overconfident, he should also be prepared to die.
Pang Tong looked at Sun Qian with disdain and ridicule as if saying that he, Pang Tong, could think of things Sun Qian could never think of.
“You!” Sun Qian’s anger rose but fortunately, he was someone who could be considered to have died once. If he were to quarrel with Pang Tong in front of Liu Bei, the one that would lose would be him. In the end, he decided to endure so that he would not lose the favourable impression he had just earned.
“Milord. My stratagem is to ask for provisions from the people!” Pang Tong suggested.
“The people?” Liu Bei was stunned. There were several hundred thousand in Xuzhou, most of which had been tricked by Liu Bei to follow him. If Liu Bei were to take provisions from them, his reputation would be finished. His reputation had been obtained with the blood of countless soldiers and decades of effort. No matter what, he was not able to trade it away for provisions.
“Milord. I am not saying we should rob them!” Pang Tong understood Liu Bei’s hesitation.
“What do you mean?” Liu Bei questioned.
“We will simply borrow it!” Pang Tong replied with a smile. “Milord’s benevolence is well known and the people at Yuzhou are extremely thankful of you!” With the citizens of Xuzhou brainwashing the others, the citizens of Yuzhou also started to believe in Liu Bei’s benevolence. If Cao Cao wanted to do the same thing, the people would disapprove as Cao Cao had killed plenty of citizens before. On the other hand, Liu Bei who is the model example of a respectable person could easily obtain provisions. After all, the citizens at Xuzhou were already willing to throw away their lives to protect Liu Bei physically. In comparison, giving away their provisions is nothing. “However, Milord will need to personally go and ask for it.”
“Of course! With my Yuzhou in desolation, how am I supposed to pacify the lands of the Han? The Sage King deceived the people and the Emperor is controlled by the traitorous Cao! The bitterness and hardships of saving the great Han dynasty! Taking provisions from my people is not my true wish! I will reimburse them double the provisions taken!” Of course, this was not possible. Liu Bei had already planned to only return a small portion of the provisions taken and not return the rest. After that, he planned to find a scapegoat and blame him for corruption. Liu Bei and Pang Tong both laughed as the thought about it.
Sun Qian would certainly not allow Pang Tong to remain proud. “Milord. You may be benevolent and the people would be willing to give you provisions but how much provisions could they have?” Sun Qian’s words immediately gave Liu Bei something to think about.
“Hm?” Pang Tong looked at Sun Qian with a frown. He had a bad feeling about this as he did not think about this small matter.
“Hmph!” Sun Qian sneered with disdain when he saw Pang Tong’s frown. Although Pang Tong was knowledgeable he was still only a young man who have not reach the age of twenty. He is also the second son of the large Pang Family who lived in extravagance since young. How was he to notice the hardships of the common people?
During those years, it was good harvest if the people could obtain four hundred catties4 of provisions per acre of land. As Yuzhou had once belonged to the poverty stricken Liu Pi, the taxes had remained the same which was sixty percent. That was why the people did not have much and everything was rationed. If they have a bad harvest, the prosperous ones could only have about a hundred catties while the less prosperous ones could only give five catties at best.
Pang Tong’s stratagem was good but it was not something that could be done repeatedly. The people did not have much to give. They could be considered lucky if they even managed to obtain ten thousand shi6. Yet, that amount was only enough to alleviate the immediate crisis. They would also need to reward the Xiliang Cavalry which was a huge expense they could not possible obtain from the people.
“Gongyou’s words are reasonable!” Liu Bei frowned. It was true that the people were not prosperous. The people were impoverished because they did not have enough food. If they had enough to eat, they wouldn’t have become Yellow Turbans in the first place. However, Pang Tong saw them as though they were nobles, giving a wrong estimate. The people could only help a little but would not be able to save them.
“Milord. I have a plan.” Sun Qian who already decided on managing finances definitely needed to find ways to increase Liu Bei’s income.
“Oh, Gongyou. You have not even rested up yet ever since coming to Nanyang but you already have a plan for me?” Liu Bei was happy that Sun Qian had a plan for him to use. Liu Bei still had feelings for Sun Qian. He had obtained Sun Qian from the great scholar Zheng Xuan. At that time, he was still managing Xiaopei in Xuzhou. Zheng Xuan had recommended to him because Sun Qian was good at management and Xiaopei would grow with his help. Sun Qian did not let Liu Bei feel disappointed. With Sun Qian helping out at Xiaopei, Liu Bei was able to pacify Xuzhou.
It was not that Zheng Xuan refused to give Liu Bei a better strategist. However, Liu Bei only had one territory at that time. He was not able to recommend anybody else. After obtaining Xuzhou, Sun Qian became inadequate. However, he would still be able to keep the peace. Even if he would not have any achievements, there would also be no problems.
Unfortunately, Lu Bu attacked and chased Liu Bei away. How was Sun Qian supposed to deal with a top strategist like Chen Gong and the God of War?
After that defeat, many scholars left Liu Bei for Lu Bu. Only Sun Qian remained loyal. Only Sun Qian stuck with him through trials and tribulations. That was why Liu Bei still had feelings for Sun Qian. Now, Sun Qian was also able to poke holes in Pang Tong’s reasoning. This gave Liu Bei a new found respect for Sun Qian.
“Milord. Taking from the people could only delay us from this crisis. If we truly want to solve this problem, we must borrow from someone else!”
If they were not to take from the common people, they could only take from the nobles. That being said, were there still any nobles left at Yuzhou? Even if there were, they would be his generals or family members. Liu Pi had already wiped them out long ago when taking provisions in the past.
“Why must we take from Yuzhou and Nanyang? The world is big and prosperous. With Yuan Shao on the verge of defeat, Cao Mengde would lend us provisions as well!” Sun Qian said and then looked at Pang Tong. Pang Tong furrowed his brows and had a bad feeling.
“If I am not wrong, the Military Minister’s Pang Family is at the Shiling district of Jingzhou.”
Sun Qian claims to have ‘taken’/’been influenced by’ Liu Bei’s good fortune which is why he is still alive.
狗腿子 Which means henchman/faithful follower, things like that. The word ‘gou’ means dog. Troublesome people. You are either disloyal traitorous scum or faithful follower (dog). There is no winning in life.
Chen Dao for those who forgot (like me)
Half a kilogram. Provisions is counted differently here for some reason.
Tried to avoid using shi/stones/koku for so long but the lack of a unit bothers me too much. 石. On Wikipedia, the most reliable yet unreliable source for all knowledge, 石 could be measured by volume or mass. One石of rice weigh about 150kg[volume] or 31 kg[mass]. It is likely the mass measurement is used for this story because Han Dynasty but [volume] is more widely used in general as I can’t seem to find [mass] in English. Also, each [volume] is ‘enough rice to feed one person for one year’. Too lazy to do the math. Just going to say shi from now on if i really need to.