“Liu Mang Liu Hanyang!” Lu Bu was about to go crazy. His daughter had caused him no end of worries when she pulled her stunt during the Shouchun Campaign. She dared to rush to the battlefield. Fortunately she had no sense of direction or the consequences would be worse.
Yet, she was not as worrying as his son-in-law who had prepared to go to Jingzhou. Did Liu Mang not know that going to Jingzhou was turning himself into a hostage? Once he is there, his safety could no longer be guaranteed. “How was I so blind to choose such a son-in-law?” Lu Bu said in a moment of anger. The more he treasured his son, the stronger the hate.
“Milord, there is no need to be so worried. As long as our army still exists, Liu Biao would not dare to touch a single hair on Hanyang!” Although Chen Gong placated Lu Bu, his worry was actually greater. Yet, he could not do anything as the lack of provisions in Yangzhou would not only be the end of Yangzhou but Lujiang would also eventually follow. Although Liu Mang had placed himself in danger, it was also the only route left for survival. The only ones left that could sell provisions were Cao Cao and Liu Biao. Even if Cao Cao were to sell provisions, they would need a long time to transport the provisions due to the long distance between Hebei and Yangzhou. As for Jingzhou, they would only need two days.
Lu Bu sighed. He definitely understood Liu Mang’s thoughts. Although all of this happened because of the recruitment order, Lu Bu was also responsible. As a Lord, not only was he unable to solve this problem but his own son-in-law even needed to take such risks. This made Lu Bu feel extremely frustrated. Although Lu Bu was worried about Liu Mang, he knew that his army needed to be more powerful to ensure Liu Mang’s safety.
“Where are Hanyang’s White Horses?” Lu Bu asked after reaching the halls.
“Based on the time, they should already be at Guangzhou!” Chen Gong replied. Liu Mang’s White Horses had three thousand men and six thousand horses. That was why they could travel so quickly. They had also already set off by the time Chen Gong received the message.
“Gongtai. Help me count the remaining Wolf Cavalry and see who wants to go to Guangzhou!”
“Milord?” Chen Gong looked at Lu Bu suspiciously.
Lu BU then laughed as he faced Chen Gong. “I cannot accompany him to Jingzhou but how can the Wolf Cavalry be missing when cleaning up Liu Bei?” Liu Bei and Lu Bu had been enemies from the start. They had fought at Hulao Xuzhou and then Yangzhou. Liu Bei’s alliance with Cao Cao had almost killed Lu Bu. Lu Bu then finally struck back by killing Liu Bei’s White Eared Soldiers and Chen Dao. Liu Bei had also killed an envoy of the Lu Bu’s Army. War was about to begin again.
“Ge Jun, Zhang Hu! What do you think of this?” Zhang Liao’s Army received this news after leaving for Linhuai. Zhang Liao and the others had stopped advancing for a while as they, the soldiers on the frontlines would need provisions. However, the White Horses which were supposed to transport their provisions had now gone to Nanyang, slowing down the transportation of provisions.
Zhang Liao, Ge Jun and Zhang Hu had received this news from a messenger from Shouchun, who informed them of the circumstances.
“General!” Zhang Hu and Ge Jun shared a glance and saw amazement in the other’s eyes. This is because Liu Mang had personally gone on a diplomatic mission to buy provision. They also heard about the envoy being killed by Liu Bei and Liu Mang taking the three thousand White Horses with him to Jingzhou.
These were important matters. Besides the obvious danger to Liu Mang, the White Horses were just being established.
They of the Xiliang Cavalry clearly knew the strength of the other Xiliang Cavalry left behind at Nanyang. Although Hu Che Er was strong, he was more skilled at leading the cavalry. Three thousand light cavalry fighting against eight thousand heavy cavalry was definitely suicidal.
“General, let us go back and regroup!” Zhang Hu suggested. Ge Jun had the same opinion. The two of them had worked together long enough for them to know each other’s thoughts. “Without troops, Milord’s expedition would not go well. Although the three thousand White Horses may be elites, they would not be a match for Hu Che Er. Even if they were to add in the Urban Army, they would only be evenly matched. At Nanyang, aside from the eight thousand Xiliang Cavalry, they also have thirty thousand men. Milord would only be able to take Nanyang if we and the Black Flag Army were to join up with him.” Zhang Hu wanted to say that Liu Mang did not have many troops and they should all join up with him to allow Liu Mang to capture Nanyang.
“Turn back and regroup?” Zhang Liao looked at the two with disdain. The Xiliang Cavalry have truly declined which was not surprising considering their short sighted leaders. Zhang Hu and Ge Jun were just common generals. Although they could execute their orders, they cannot think of strategies. However, these has its benefits. At the very least, the two would be obedient. Although Zhang Liao had disdain for them, he kept those feelings in his heart. He merely asked them to collect opinions.
“We cannot regroup and must quickly take Linhuai!” Zhang Liao declared to the two generals without hesitation.
“What?” Ge Jun and Zhang Hu were shocked. “But at that rate Milord will be defeated!”
“Then so be it!” Zhang Liao replied.
“Huh?” Ge Jun and Zhang Hu would have suspected that Zhang Liao wanted to rebel had they not know that Zhang Liao had been in the Lu Bu’s Army since long ago. How could a general simply accept a defeat like that?
Zhang Liao truly thought that way. He did not know what Liu Mang was trying to accomplish but he knew that Liu Mang had his reasons. If there was something that could not be done, Xu Shu and Liu Ye would point it out the mistakes in Shouchun. If these generals could tell how risky this is, the scholars would be able to do it too.
“Were there any instructions that told us to go back?” Zhang Liao asked.
“And instruction to withdraw?” The other two shook their heads. The letter had only told them of the situation but did not give any instructions.
“The two of you can already be considered veterans when it comes to military matters. Do you know what is the punishment for those that mobilize the troops without permission?” Zhang Liao looked at them coldly. He already hated the Xiliang Cavalry but he would not impede them. That being said, he would be very willing to kill them if they were to disobey orders.
Those words and the cold gaze with killing intent made Zhang Hu and Ge Jun shiver. Had the two of them really took the army back, they would become a head shorter.
Zhang Hu and Ge Jun gave a bitter smile. They know that their commanding officer hated the Xiliang Cavalry for the death of Zhang Fan. However, they were not the ones that killed Zhang Fan. The both of them simply ended up as scapegoats. They did not dare to ignore Zhang Liao’s words as they had already thrown in their chips at Yangzhou. They could only listen to orders. Fortunately, Zhang Liao was reputable as a person who was able to fight in wars which made them rejoice. By following Zhang Liao, they would be able to gain outstanding military service.
“General. What about our provisions?” As the White Horses were supposed to bring their provisions over, the current Xiliang Cavalry did not have much with them. Without provisions, they would not be able to fight.
“Are we not able to fight without provisions?” Zhang Liao then pointed at the map. “We don’t have provisions but there are provisions here and here!” Zhang Liao had pointed at places along the Linhuai. There were two regions and twelve counties. As those places depended on Jiangdong, they would not be too ruined. There would be enough to provide for tens of thousands of people. However, the condition was that they needed to capture that place swiftly.
“How many days of provisions do we have left?” Zhang Liao asked Zhang Hu who had been in charge of managing their remaining supplies.
“General, if we are frugal with consumption, we would be able to hold out for three days!” Zhang Hu’s meaning of frugal meant that the men would not be able to eat their fill and would go hungry.
“Good! Bring our provisions and cook it! Keep one day’s worth of provisions and cook the rest! Let the men eat their fill!”
“General? If we do that, what about the day after tomorrow?” These were the provisions they took with them when they had set off from Shouchun. By right, they should be economizing its usage and not use them all.
“The day after tomorrow? We would be eating at the Linhuai!” Zhang Liao has decided to take Linhuai in a day. There, they would be able to eat their fill and also send back provisions to Shouchun. If he cannot take it in a day, he was determined to die there.
“General. Why are we not attacking Tuzhong first?” Zhang Hu and Ge Jun knew that they could not change Zhang Liao’s decision but they were puzzled as to why Zhang Liao chose to attack Linhuai instead of Tuzhong first. After all, Linhuai was much further away.
“All of you go and prepare!” Zhang Liao did not choose to attack Tuzhong as the movements at Shouchun was sure to cause Tuzhong to react. They would know Liu Mang’s movements and become heavily guarded. They would need to fight a more difficult battle which they did not have enough provisions for. If they were to encounter a deadlock, their provisions would become exhausted. While those at Tuzhong would have already barricaded themselves in, they would need to send a message to Linhuai for them to do the same. As long as the Xiliang Cavalry moved faster, they would be able to more easily capture Linhuai.