The capital city of Hebei was the once the place where Yuan Shao controlled everything. Now, it was all Cao Cao’s property. The Grand General’s residence also had its name changed to Peaceful residence as a mockery. Inside the residence, Cao Cao was blissfully surrounded by three women.
“Senior Minister. Let this servant feed you.” A beautiful woman smiled as she handed a fruit towards Cao Cao. Cao Cao ate the fruit and licked her fingers.
“Senior Minister! This servant will also feed you!” The other woman jealously tried to feed Cao Cao as well but her attempt was rejected by Cao Cao.
“Senior Minister, what’s wrong? You take food from sister but not this servant! The Senior Minister is biased!” The woman sulked. It was the age where people had to see face. These women were no different.
“The beauty is rightfully angry. It is my mistake. But is feeding me with the hands enough?” Cao Cao teased.
“Then what does the Senior Minister want?” The woman asked, acting spoiled.
“I want to wrap you up before being fed!” Cao Cao’s hand swept down the woman’s face with a lecherous smile.
“Senior Minister! You are so bad!” The woman replied without blushing as she was trained to serve men since young. The other two women also wanted to join in the fun.
Cao Cao was a winner in life. No one would have expected someone with his background to become successful. Cao Cao himself did not want to admit it but he was once Yuan Shao’s attendant. Yuan Shao was the boss, followed by Xu You and then Cao Cao.
The three of them used to be known as the three evils of Luoyang for doing all kinds of misdeeds. Yuan Shao eats the ‘meat’, Xu You drinks the ‘wine’ and Cao Cao is made the scapegoat. At that time, Cao Cao realized that he had to be outstanding. He had to become the boss.
While Cao Cao was having fun, a female servant suddenly intruded. Cao Cao naturally did not like to be watched when playing like this so all the guards were stationed outside. Only the female servants could enter. When the servant saw the scene in front of her, she blushed. Cao Cao was better at playing around compared to the previous master.
“Senior Minister… M-Military Advisor Guo Jia is requesting an audience.” The servant blushed as she reported.
“Feng Xiao?” Cao Cao muttered and slowly stood up. Although he also loved to enjoy himself, he knew how to prioritize his affairs. That is how he managed to rise above the others.
“Senior Minister. How about accompanying us for a while longer?” The women were dissatisfied. With jobs like theirs, their lives would not end well. In the end, they would become gifts for others. Their only way out is to take sire their master’s child and become a mother.
This servant suddenly appeared just as they were about to have sex so they were naturally unhappy.
“My beauties, there is no need to worry. I will be back once I have finished this matter.” Cao Cao said as he licked one of them, causing her to shiver involuntarily.
Cao Cao did not like to repeat himself for a third time. If he had to do that, someone would die. As he had been in that residence for several months, the people there all knew his character. The last time one woman had made Cao Cao repeat himself for the third time. It did not matter how skillful she was at seduction she still ended up dead.
The women had no choice but to give up.
After Cao Cao tidied himself up and went to the hall, he found Guo Jia already waiting for him.
“Milord…” Guo Jia stepped forward wanting to give his report but Cao Cao immediately stopped him.
Cao Cao supported Guo Jia and replied. “Fengxiao. Why did you come out in such cold weather? You should have just told your book servant to call for me. I will come and find you!” Cao Cao reproached.
“Cough! Milord. I… Cough!” Guo Jia coughed as he tried to speak. He had been sick for quite some time but his illness worsened at Hebei due to the drop in temperature. He spent most of his time coughing. Cao Cao wanted to send Guo Jia back to Xudou but Guo Jia rejected this option.
“You!” Cao Cao felt heartbroken looking at Guo Jia. “Come and sit! Men! Quickly bring that fur coat here!”
“Understood!” One of Cao Cao’s subordinate quickly left to take one of Cao Cao’s fur coats. This fur coat was given to him by one of Jizhou’s nobles. When he returned, Cao Cao personally draped it over Guo Jia’s shoulders, much to his gratitude.
“Milord. The provisions have been sent to Yuzhou.” Guo Jia said. He felt better after wearing the coat though he was not sure if it was just his imagination.
“It is already been delivered? Haha. Fengxiao, truthfully speaking, I am still quite reluctant to give it to Liu Bei!” Cao Cao sighed. Lu Bu was an enemy but Liu Bei was someone he personally hated. This is because Liu Bei played with his feelings. He had treated Liu Bei well by giving him troops, provisions and a title. When Guo Jia wanted him dead, Cao Cao stopped Guo Jia. Yet, Liu Bei replied by slapping him in the face. “However, it would be worth it if Liu Bei can hold out for a year!”
Cao Cao did not have any good intentions. He simply did not want the Central Plains to be united.
“This Liu Bei is not inferior to Milord in any way.” Guo Jia sighed with lament. If Liu Bei had a noble background he could have become Cao Cao’s greatest enemy. Liu Bei did not have many troops but he had the popular sentiment of the people. They were all willing to die in Yuzhou for him.
“Hmph! He is just a vile person! It is best that neither side wins!” Cao Cao snorted.
“Milord. There is another report. This one is from Xuzhou!” Guo Jia said as he handed over the reports to Cao Cao.
Cao Cao read the details and immediately cried out in alarm. “Xuzhou is requesting reinforcements?” In the report, it is said that Yuan forces have appeared at Xuzhou’s Jiang River.
“How could this be?” Cao Cao cried out when he read that the enemy had a large force, several tens of thousands of troops. Xuzhou’s governor no longer dared to go out and had his army close the gates.
“Who is the one attacking?” Cao Cao could not understand. Only three people could carry the Yuan flag. That was Yuan Tan, Yuan Xi and Yuan Shang. As for Yuan Shao, there had been no news about him for a long time. Cao Cao did not even know if Yuan Shao was still alive or not.
Yuan Shang was the first to be kicked out as his territory at Youzhou and Jizhou was within Hebei. He would not have the troops to send to Yuzhou. Even if he did, he would have to pass through Qingzhou. However, his brother would definitely not allow him passage.
It was possible for the culprit to be Yuan Tan. Qingzhou was close to Yuzhou. However, Cao Cao did not believe that the culprit is Yuan Tan as he had bestowed Yuan Tan the title of Grand General. As a result, the foolish Yuan Tan showed him face and even dispatched an envoy hoping to form an alliance to wipe out Yuan Shang.
Cao Cao then wondered if it was Yuan Xi. Amongst the three brothers, Yuan Xi was the one who could see things most clearly. He kept in touch with both his brothers in hopes that the three of them could chase Cao Cao away from Hebei. It was unfortunate that his two brothers were too busy blinded by the title of Grand General to pay him any attention.
However, Yuan Xi was in Bingzhou and was recently seen.
“Milord. The flag says it is the Grand General Yuan!” Guo Jia laughed bitterly.
“Grand General Yuan? Yuan Shao?” Cao Cao could not believe it. How could Yuan Shao suddenly take control of the situation by bringing tens of thousands of soldiers to Xuzhou when he may not even be alive?
“This is not Hebei’s army! It’s Liu Mang!” Cao Cao immediately understood. He had placed plenty of troops at the borders of Xuzhou and Qingzhou so the Hebei troops could not cross the Yangtze River.
These troops appeared at Jiangyin, Huainan. Only Liu Mang and Sun Ce could dispatch these troops. However, it would not be beneficial at all for Sun Ce to attack.
“Where did his troops come from?” Cao Cao asked. Liu Mang had sent an army of one hundred thousand to Yuzhou. He should not have any more troops to dispatch.
“Milord! Other than the time Lu Bu was chased out of Yuzhou, their army have never been defeated before! Their numbers have only increased since then!” Guo Jia said. Although Liu Mang’s battles had all been close matches, he managed to win them. Yangzhou also gained more troops thanks to Sun Ce’s ploy of giving Yangzhou more citizens.
“What of our troops at Xuzhou?” Cao Cao asked. He too had a lot of soldiers stationed at Xuzhou. As Liu Mang was supposed to be fighting Yuzhou, he is definitely unable to bring elites to Xuzhou. Since both sides weren’t using elites, it became a match of numbers.
Cao Cao was confident that with the city walls and ample provisions, they should not have lose their territory so quickly.
“Milord. You have forgotten that there is someone under Liu Mang’s employ! This person from Guangling is enough to match a hundred thousand men!” Guo Jia reminded.
“Chen Deng Chen Yuanlong!” Cao Cao said the man’s name. Guo Jia nodded.
The Chen Family had deep roots in Guangling. Even though Chen Deng had left for a long time and his property removed by Cao Cao, the people would still answer his call.
When Chen Deng appeared at Guangling, the panicked citizens quickly calmed down. The defenders of Xuzhou lost the will to fight as they could not treat Chen Deng as an enemy. There were even defenders at Guangling who helped open the gate.
These defenders did not bother changing out of their clothes. They went to other places in Xuzhou pretending to be allies and helped Yangzhou opened up their gates as well. In a short moment, half of Xuzhou fell into Liu Mang’s hands. Liu Mang sent twenty thousand troops to Xuzhou and the number increased to forty thousand. Amongst them were Chen Deng’s five thousand elite Guangling Army.
“Is Liu Mang courting death? Is he not afraid that I would join forces with Liu Bei to attack him?” Cao Cao asked hatefully.
“Milord. Yangzhou is also afraid that you would retaliate which is why he only took the places around Jiang River. On top of that, he is using the name Grand General Yuan. We cannot do anything to him unless we give up on Hebei.” Guo Jia explained.
Cao Cao provided Liu Bei with provisions. Even though it was done secretly, it was an open secret. Yangzhou would definitely not take this quietly. So they posed as Grand General Yuan. This made their attack on Xuzhou fair game and is “unrelated” to Yangzhou.
“Liu Mang Liu Hanyang!” Cao Cao gnashed his teeth in anger. It was usually Cao Cao that schemed against others but he never expected to be struck back. Cao Cao tried to think of a way to deal with Yangzhou but he could not move until the situation at Hebei was resolved. Even the act of attacking Liu Mang would only benefit Liu Bei.
Cao Cao also did not want to provide more provisions to Liu Bei as retaliation. This is because he knew that Liu Bei was a greedy and ungrateful wretch. Giving him more provisions may result in creating another powerful enemy.
As for striking back with Xuzhou’s troops, that was impossible. Not getting more cities captured would be the best they can manage. As a result, Cao Cao could only quietly suffer this setback.
“Milord, there is no need to worry. Liu Mang would also know not to push us too far which is why he only took the territory around Jiang River. Let us give those to him. The current Xuzhou isn’t like the past anyway. Once we capture Hebei… Cough… We can turn our attention to Yangzhou!” Guo Jia placated Cao Cao.
“Sigh. We can only do it this way!” Cao Cao sighed as he thought about unifying Hebei and his sister-in-law, Lady Liu. He was dissatisfied he could not obtain Lady Liu after capturing Ye but that would not be a problem after capturing Hebei. These thoughts lit a passionate feeling within him.
When he saw Guo Jia’s pale face, he advised Guo Jia to rest. “Fengxiao. You must recuperate properly. I still need you to help me with the Central Plains.”
Guo Jia coughed as he replied. “Of course. I myself want to see that God of War again.”
“Haha! Feel the resentment!” Yuan Shang laughed inside Youzhou after reading a letter. This was the place the White Horses’ general burned himself to death. Now, it was Yuan Shang’s territory.
This entire time, Yuan Shang was feeling stifled while he was being pressured by Cao Cao’s army. But now, he felt indescribable joy after reading the letter.
“Father! Did you know that your treasured son has sold himself out to Cao Cao? He has sold himself out to the enemy just to become Grand General!” Yuan Shang said to the bedridden Yuan Shao.
The high spirited and powerful Yuan Shao was no more. He was on his deathbed and could only move his eyes and fingers. He wasn’t even able to speak.
There were two reasons Yuan Shao ended up in this miserable state. The first was due to the shock of losing to Cao Cao at Guandu. At that time, he vomited blood and collapse. The second reason is because Yuan Shang wanted to seize power and took the opportunity to slowly poison him.
Yuan Shao is left half alive because it would give Yuan Shang the justification to take over his father’s position especially when it comes to dealing with his older brother and appeasing the generals.
Yuan Shao’s eyes grew wide when he heard Cao Cao’s name. Hearing that his eldest son relied on Cao Cao made him even more agitated.
“Father! Did you know your eldest son is unfilial? Did you know that your filial youngest son has occupied half of Xuzhou?” Yuan Shang smiled triumphantly in front of his father.
“Look at this!” Yuan Shang showed his father the reports in a way that allowed his father to read. The report said that Yangzhou had lent twenty thousand troops to Yuan Shang. They captured half of Xuzhou under Yuan Shao’s banner. Because of this, the captured territory once again returned to the Yuan Family.
Before losing to Cao Cao, Yuan Shao had only thought of Yangzhou as a weak figure led by a defeated general and the remnant of his army. If Yuan Shao could defeat Cao Cao, Lu Bu, who had lost to Cao Cao, should not be a problem. Yuan Shao never expected to lose to Cao Cao instead.
Reading the letter improved his mood slightly since his enemy had lost territory. He then read the part that said the soldiers were borrowed. This meant that they only flew a different flag. While the commander belonged to Hebei, the deputy commander and the other soldiers all belonged to Yangzhou.
“With half of Xuzhou, I can attack that Traitor Cao’s Xudou!” Yuan Shang proclaimed.
However, Yuan Shao only felt sorrow. Yuan Shang was simply being used. As the troops belonged to others, he would not be able to gain control. It was no longer the era where the Yuan Family can easily gain command of others. They no longer had the prestige to do so. There was even a condition that said they needed to provide two hundred thousand provisions to Yangzhou if they wanted Yangzhou to attack Cao Cao.
Before this it would just be a joke since they would not be able to transport the provisions over anyway. However, with the Jiang River, they could now transport provisions by sea. Yuan Shao was able to see this fact after becoming an observer in the sidelines.
With the Jiang River, Gan Ning and the navy can go towards Liaodong.
Liu Mang had long wanted to use the sea route. This had been delayed due to lack of warships and personnel. Now, Gan Ning has his navy and took five thousand elites with him in case Jiangdong attacked. More soldiers were being recruited in Wan City, up to a total of thirteen thousand soldiers. Although, they were not as powerful as Gan Ning’s elites, they were sufficient for Yangzhou’s defenses.
Gan Ning had left after he was given a special position by Liu Mang. He was sent to the shores of Liaodong with a map from modern times. This was to obtain a trade route for Liu Mang to buy more horses and sell salt and iron. This would be a mutually beneficial transaction.