“Sun Ce dispatched fifty thousand men to Linhuai?” Liu Mang had read a letter delivered to him from Shouchun. It was a letter from Yang Hong who reported everything that was going on in Yangzhou. Liu Mang was not currently at Xiangyang but the nearby Fancheng. Liu Mang was not the only person who could not feel relieved after he got ambushed. Even Liu Biao panicked. He did not want Liu Mang to die at Jingzhou so he had dispatched a thousand to escort Liu Mang. They were now resting at Fancheng for a day.
It just happened to be that day when the spies from Yangzhou brought him the letter.
“Where did all these soldiers come from?” Liu Mang scowled. Jiangdong only had a hundred thousand elites. However, Liu Mang and Gan Ning had already finished off thirty thousand of them while the remaining seventy thousand should be dealing with Liu Biao’s navy at Jiangxia. He was certain of this based on the current situation at Jiangxia. The Jiangdong Navy may be stronger but it wouldn’t cause that much of a difference. At minimum, there would be forty thousand troops stationed at Jiangxia. This meant Sun Ce really sent all of his troops to Linhuai.
“Does Sun Ce want to abandon Jianye? No. Jianye is no longer the same as last time.” Liu Mang shook his head. “Sun Ce being able to send out this many soldiers must be the power of the nobles.” Liu Mang never expected Sun Ce to be able to send out these many soldiers before the battle at Wancheng. Even during the decisive battle against Cao Cao at Chibi, Jiangdong only managed to gather forty thousand men while Liu Bei had ten thousand.
Liu Mang had been so shocked about the sheer numbers of soldiers Sun Ce kept sending out. He only found out after he won the battle that most of the soldiers were not Sun Ce’s own men but the noble’s. He believed that these nobles were simply too afraid to provide soldiers during the battle at Chibi in case Cao Cao went after them once Sun Quan and Liu Bei were defeated.
Those nobles were truly influential. Liu Mang was happy that there were not many nobles in Yangzhou. Otherwise, he would not be successful with his reforms. The nobles at Wancheng had been troublesome enough.
“These fifty thousand soldiers have ten thousand or more elites!” Jia Xu gave an estimate. This is because the Shanyue tribe, one of the biggest threat to Jiangdong was no more. They no longer need to station troops in case Shanyue rebels. Where did they go? They went to Liu Mang. Liu Mang laughed bitterly. He tried to be compassionate only for others to take advantage of him by removing their own problems.
Liu Mang wondered how to deal with the enemy reinforcements. The last time, he had the walls of Wancheng to help defend against superior numbers. Unfortunately, he was the attacking side this time.
“Send Zhang Liao the Urban Army!” Liu Mang commanded and Jia Xu wrote down a letter to send to Yangzhou.
Zhang Liao currently had the Black Flag Army and the Xiliang Cavalry. Although they were both elites, the Xiliang Cavalry was still newly formed. The Black Flag Army was also outnumbered ten to one. On top of that, they still had to deal with the defenders in Tuzhong. “If it is not possible, get Zhang Liao to withdraw back to Shouchun.” Liu Mang added. With Sun Ce’s help, Linhuai could no longer be captured. Even then, Sun Ce would not be able to make a move on Yangzhou since the Formation Breaker and Wolf Cavalry were here. Liu Mang thought of all this without realizing that Lu Bu had already set out for Nanyang.
“Milord. There is no need for that.” Jia Xu smiled wryly when he read the back of the letter.
“There is no need for that?”
“Xu Shu had already handed control of the Urban Army to Zhang Liao but Zhang Liao had refused. Zhang Liao said he would definitely chase the enemies out of Linhuai with the Xiliang Cavalry and the Black Flag Army with his strategy.
“What nonsense is he talking about?” Liu Mang slammed the table. “Does Zhang Liao think himself as Sun Tzu, Wu QI or Yue Fei?”
“Who is Yue Fei?” Jia Xu knew that the first two was a brilliant strategist and a brilliant general. But he has never heard of Yue Fei.
Liu Mang never bothered giving Jia Xu a reply. He knew Zhang Liao was a man with many talents. He could fight and scheme but even then, his strengths had its limits. Attacking an enemy city while being outnumbered ten to one and then refusing the reinforcements offered is just asking for trouble.
“Wenhe! Send a letter to the Urban Army and tell them to march to Linhuai immediately and provide Zhang Liao with help! Tell Zhang Liao to either withdraw immediately or accept the reinforcements! This is a military order that must not be disobeyed!” Liu Mang was angry. Zhang Liao had been discontented for being left behind at Yangzhou. Liu Mang had thought that this was a small problem but now believed that he was wrong. Zhang Liao had become arrogant and conceited. Did he want to be defeated at Yangzhou and then get sent back to Lujiang? If he gets defeated, he better be prepared to remain at Linhuai forever.
“Understood!” Jia Xu replied. He took the letter and began to write a reply.
“Wenhe. Who is the commander sent from Jiangdong?” Liu Mang probed for additional information.
Jia Xu replied as he continued to write on the letter. “For some reason, Sun Ce did not dispatch his veteran generals or even his strategists Zhou Yu. Instead, it is his brother Sun Quan Sun Zhongmou.”
“Oh. It’s Sun Quan… Wait! Sun Quan?”
Liu Mang’s sudden shout surprised Jia Xu. “What’s wrong? Milord. Is this person formidable?”
“Haha! He is formidable. This person has double pupils. He became a county magistrate at fourteen and the governing soon became orderly. Even in military affairs, he is as capable as his brother Sun Ce!”
“Ah!” Jia Xu was stunned by Liu Mang’s words. Having double pupils was the sign of a hegemon. Such people could easily obtain popular support. Unlike others who need to mislead the people to gain their support, Sun Quan doesn’t need to. On top of that, Liu Mang had stated that Sun Quan was as capable as Sun Ce. This meant that Linhuai could no longer be captured.
Jia Xu expected Liu Mang to give an order for Zhang Liao to withdraw. Instead, Liu Mang laughed and told Jia Xu that the Urban Army can just stay in Shouchun and there was no need to send Zhang Liao reinforcements. Jia Xu was confused. Why would Liu Mang allow Zhang Liao to continue fighting and even dropped his intentions to send reinforcements?
“Wenhe. This is because I have confidence. Zhang Liao is like the Sun Family’s natural enemy!” Despite Liu Mang’s reply, Jia Xu still could not understand.
In the original timeline1, Sun Quan attacked Hefei with a hundred thousand men while Zhang Liao, Li Dian and Yue Jin was defending Hefei with seven thousand men. Cao Cao had prepared a letter for when they were attacked. The letter told them to open the gates. Zhang Liao and Li Dian would attack while their usual vanguard, Yue Jin would defend. At that time, Zhang Liao and Li Dian were having a feud.
Seven thousand against a hundred thousand. The morale was low. Zhang Liao believed that Cao Cao wanted them to take the offensive because Sun Quan would definitely attack with this difference in numbers. By taking the offensive, they could raise morale and harass the enemy. This way, they could defend the city better. Li Dian approved of this.
Zhang Liao gathered eight hundred brave men and held a banquet on the eve of the battle. At dawn, they struck the enemy army. Although the Wu Army had superior numbers, they were mostly infantries while Zhang Liao’s unit were cavalries. The Wu Army could not stop their advance. Zhang Liao fought his way to the enemy camp and announced his presence loudly. He then proceeded to kill several of Wu’s generals.
Later, Zhang Liao challenged Sun Quan to a duel. However, Sun Quan was not as reckless as his brother. He realized that Zhang Liao only had eight hundred men with him so he ordered his army to surround them. Zhang Liao then fought for half a day before breaking out and saving his men just as they were about to believe that Zhang Liao had given up on them. Sun Quan’s soldiers were so stunned they did not dare to stand in Zhang Liao’s way.
Later, Sun Quan’s Army were fully gathered and attacked Hefei for several days. That was when a plague broke out forcing them to retreat. Zhang Liao seized this opportunistic moment to launch a counterattack. Sun Quan’s generals held the enemy back as Sun Quan retreated, the bridge was destroyed. However, he managed to jump over the bridge and eventually escape. It was the most humiliating battle for Sun Quan. A hundred thousand soldiers fought against seven thousand. Not only did he lose but he almost lost his life as well.
Liu Mang was confident that if Zhang Liao could do all that in the original timeline, there was no reason he could not accomplish the same now.