An elegant scholar sat on an ordinary boat at Xiangyang. The only other people on the boat was a servant and the boatman.
“Noble sir, it is almost noon. Should we set off?” The boatman asked the scholar. The scholar had reserved a boat for rent in the morning and he had also arrived early. However, he simply sat on the boat waiting for someone. The boatman simply drifted aimlessly over the waters. Although he had been paid, he could not delay like this forever. If he were to continue doing this, there would be no business.
While the boatman’s words were respectful, the scholar could hear dissatisfaction in the man’s voice. Although the scholar was from a noble family, he did not have the haughtiness of a noble. If he had been a commoner, the boatman would have already retaliated. In the end, the scholar laughed and said, “Wait a while more.”
“But!” The boatman was a simple commoner. He wasn’t refined and did not have a sense of propriety. All he knew was that he was losing business.
“Defu. Pay this man again.” The scholar did not make life hard for the boatman and paid the boatman again. This way, the boatman would no longer keep urging him. Naturally, the boatman started smiling after he was paid again. “Take your time noble sir. There is no rush.” The journey from Xiangyang to Xinye would take a day for a round trip. Sometimes, the journey was slow and he would only be able to make half a trip. Since he was already paid twice, there was no harm in waiting longer.
Another hour passed and noon arrived. The sky would turn dark at that rate.
“Master. Lord Shanmin would probably not come. We should set sail.” The servant commented.
The scholar was not able to wait forever as he still had important things to do. He also kept the letter he had been holding in his hands. “N. Let’s set sail.”
Just as the scholar felt disappointed, a shout was suddenly heard “Wait! Boatman!” Another scholar had shouted as he ran to the riverbank.
“Master. Lord Shanmin is here!” The servant quickly notified his master. Hearing this, the elegant scholar also turned his gaze towards the newly arrived person. With a laugh, he shouted. “I knew that Brother Shanmin would come to see me off! Boatman! Stop the boat!”
The boatman quickly put back the wooden board connecting the boat and the platform.
The two youthful scholars greeted each other. “Brother Shanmin!” “Brother Qishan!”
The two scholars were Pang Shanmin and Tang Yun. The two of them were childhood friends.
“I thought that Brother Shanmin had already forgotten about me!” Tang Yun joked.
“I wouldn’t dare! Brother Qishan is my closest friend! If I do not send you off you would surely eat me up!” Pang Shanmin joked back.
“I wouldn’t go so far as to eat you but I would surely confiscate that good wine you keep in your study!” Pang Shanmin loved to drink but he was someone who mustn’t drink too much. Although he conducted himself as an honest and sincere person, he becomes very wild and unrestrained when drunk. He had even pointed a finger at his father’s nose as he hurled abusive words. It was to the extent Pang Degong had almost chased his son out of the house in anger. Tang Yun felt that this incident was extremely funny. As Pang Shanmin’s wife no longer dared to let him drink, Pang Shanmin could only drink in his study.
“Enough. If you keep laughing about that some more, you better be prepared to drink alone!” Pang Shanmin replied in a bad mood. “As you are being sent on a diplomatic mission, I had to come and see you off secretly.” If Tang Yun was simply going on a trip, Pang Shanmin would have arrived earlier. However, Liu Biao and Kuai Yue had picked Tang Yun to go on this diplomatic mission and this had to be kept hidden to prevent the ambitious people from finding out.
“Haha. If there can only be one person I can trust in this world, it would be you! I don’t believe that you would divulge my location to somebody else2.” Tang Yun laughed. The two of them were childhood friends intimate enough to share everything with each other except their own wives. Similarly, Tang Yun also calls Pang Degong as Uncle instead of Lord Pang.
“Still, be careful on your trip.1” Pang Shanmin could not help but feel worried for his friend.
“Since when has Brother Shanmin become like uncle?” Pang Degong may be a good teacher but he liked to preach.
“Are you sure about going as an ambassador?” Pang Shanmin could not help but feel worried as Tang Yun would be going to Yangzhou to see Liu Mang. He had never met Liu Mang before but according to Pang Tong, the man was a vile hypocrite. Liu Mang raised a flag of benevolence but his people were all starving and had little to wear. Liu Mang was also the son in law of the Slave of Three Surnames. As a result, Pang Shanmin believed that Liu Mang was an extremely evil person.
“Would you believe me if I say I am not sure?”
“If you aren’t sure then don’t go!” Pang Shanmin advised his friend. “Let Liu Mang’s Army come! His rushing into action indiscriminately is not going to bring him any benefits! We might as well speed up the transportation of provisions and allow the Liu Bei’s Army to protect Jingzhou!”
Tang Yun knew that his friend was simply worried. However, he also knew that if Liu Mang was not a good person, Liu Bei was an equally bad person. To begin with, this situation would not have happened if Pang Tong had not killed Liu Mang’s envoy.
Tang Yun was not entirely confident in his journey. He gave it a fifty percent chance of it succeeding. If Liu Mang was an obstinate person, Tang Yun’s presence would not change anything. On the other hand, if Liu Mang was not someone who likes war, it was possible to get Liu Mang to withdraw his troops. Regardless of the outcome, it is unlikely for Tang Yun to be in danger.
“With effort, one can achieve anything. Brother Shanmin. This is the only choice left for Jingzhou if we want to prevent war!” Tang Yun and Pang Shanmin was able to become close because the both of them did not wish for war but peace and prosperity.
“In that case, I hope Brother Qishan would take care!” Pang Shanmin knew that Tang Yun would not take his advice. He was also unable to keep Tang Yun any longer. After that, the two bid farewell to each other. Pang Shanmin got off the boat and returned towards Jingzhou. Right before leaving he gave one last look at the boat that was entering the Yangtze River.
After leaving, a person appeared in the woods, mumbling to himself the characteristics of the boat.
The boat advanced quickly even though it went against the current. In half a day, they had already travelled more than half the distance. After eating inside the boat, Tang Yun came out and asked the boatman, “Boatman. How much further until we reach Xinye?”
“How much further? We have already travelled half the distance. We should be able to reach there in about five hours.”
“Five hours?” Tang Yun muttered after he heard the answer. This was still enough time to read. “Please call me once we have arrived.”
“Understood, noble sir!” The boatman nodded in response.
On the way to Xinye, they had to pass through Luokou. The river there was shallow and was difficult for big ships to pass through. However, it was not a problem for a dozen small boats. Many small boats use this route as it was faster. There were also no government officials to make things inconvenient. Once they pass through Luokou, they would truly be within Xinye territory.
Tang Yun read the Gongyang Zhuan3 that he had personally copied enthusiastically. Books were very expensive in that period and many Hans were not even able to see a book in their lives. Tang Yun may be a noble but he was not from a very prominent family. The Gongyang Zhuan was something he had borrowed from the Pang Family. This was why Tang Yun treasured the book very much.
The book was about the “Spring and Autumn Annals” by Confucious describing and explaining the things in it.
While Tang Yun relished in his book, there was a rumble and the boat shook. Noticing that something was going on outside, Tang Yun dropped his thoughts about the book and rushed out. It was fortunate that Tang Yun also made himself look proper before rushing out.
“What is going on? Have we reached Xinye?”
The boat Tang Yun was on was surrounded by three other boats.