“What? His Highness is trapped by Liu Pan on the mountain?” Kuai Liang cried out in alarm the moment he heard the news.
“Yes. Liu Pan gave His Highness the King of Shu an hour. If an hour has passed, he would burn the mountain.” The spy replied.
“An hour. From the inner city to the outside of the city would require an hour.” Kuai Liang’s eyes grew wide.
“Uncle! Look! There is fire over there!” Kuai Ran saw the fire in the West.
“That Liu Pan really burned the mountain!” The others present were all dumbstruck.
“Move aside. I am going to the West Gate!” Kuai Ran said with determination. It was unlikely that anyone would survive in such a large fire. He wanted to go and save Liu Mang. However, he was stopped by his father.
“Even if you go now, you would be too late.” Kuai Yue shook his head. Even if they were to go now, the victims would already be dead. On top of that, they would only harm themselves by going without Liu Biao’s orders.
“We can only pray that the Heavens help the worthy. We also need to make plans.” Kuai Yue said to the others. Liu Pan’s appearance was unexpected and his strength was kept well hidden. This showed that Liu Biao had always been on guard towards the Cai Family and the Kuai Family. If Liu Biao intended to fight against them, they must not be caught unprepared.
“Brother!” Kuai Ran knelt towards the flaming mountain. Liu Mang saved his life but he was unable to do anything for Liu Mang. It was unlikely that Liu Mang would survive the flames.
Kuai Yue sighed bitterly as he shook his head. Now they need to consider their options when Yangzhou and Jingzhou go to war against each other. Would Liu Biao sacrifice the Kuai Family and the Cai Family as scapegoats?
“If Liu Biao intends to make scapegoats out of us, we will just go to Prime Minister Cao at Xudou.” Cai Mao suggested.
Kuai Yue looked at Cai Mao. From the way he addressed Cao Cao, it would seem that Cai Mao had already gotten in touch with Xudou a long time ago. If Cai Mao could say this now, it definitely means that someone had already scouted Cai Mao.
“We cannot go to Xudou. At the very least, we cannot go right now.” Kuai Yue disagreed with Cai Mao. To begin with, they have not lost yet. Liu Biao making Liu Pan a heir is still just their conjecture. They could still fight back as long as they have Liu Zong. Even if Liu Biao wanted to wipe out the Kuai Family and the Cai Family, the two families could not betray Jingzhou or they would earn a bad reputation.
Besides that, they have already made connection with Yangzhou that was also enemies with Xudou. Yangzhou wanted to kill Liu Bei and take Yuzhou while Cao Cao was secretly helping Yuzhou. If they were to go to Xudou, they would immediately become enemies with Yangzhou. They would also need to pass through Xinye which belonged to Yangzhou. They could be intercepted and killed easily.
“Then what should we do?” Cai Mao asked. If they could not go to Xudou, then he was out of ideas. He looked at Kuai Yue in hopes that Kuai Yue could give a suggestion.
“We go back and rest.” Kuai Yue said indifferently.
“Go back and rest?” Cai Mao was dumbstruck. What kind of plan is this? Are they going to just wait for their deaths?
“We wait for the Lord to summon us.” Kuai Yue said as he prepared to leave together with his brother and his son.
“We are just going to wait?” Cai Mao asked.
“Do you have any other ideas?” Kuai Yue asked back indifferently. “We haven’t lost so do not think going on a life or death struggle.” As long as Liu Biao was still alive, they haven’t lost. The Kuai Family still have cards to play.
“I understand.” Cai Mao nodded. Right now, they needed to make Liu Zong the Lord of Jingzhou.
Two days later, the fire on the mountain finally died out. Liu Biao’s men arrived at the Kuai Family and the Cai Family’s residence to tell them that they were being summoned.
“Come. Give this general here his reward.” Kuai Yue was very generous even though Liu Biao’s guard was merely doing his job.
“Is this alright?” The guard asked shyly. The amount of money he received was several years his salary.
“General, you have gone through a lot of trouble. These are merely trifles.” Kuai Yue said with a smile.
“By the way, does the general know why we are being summoned?” Kuai Yue asked. As money was already given, the guard was willing to speak.
“The Lord called to discuss important military matters. These are not things someone of my rank would know of.” The guard shook his head. As he was just one of Liu Biao’s guards, it was unlikely that he would learn of anything important.
Kuai Yue naturally felt disappointed.
“However, General Liu Pan seemed gloomy when he returned. It would seem that the King of Shu has escaped.” The guard added.
“Thank you general.” Kuai Yue felt this information was enough. “Come. Bring this general some more money.”
“Is this really alright?” The guard felt embarrassed but he did not reject the money.
After dismissing Liu Biao’s guard, Kuai Yue told his brother and his son the news.
“What? His Highness the King of Shu is not dead?” Kuai Liang shouted loudly.
“Brother is not dead! Haha! I knew my brother would be alive!” Kuai Ran was also excited to hear the news. He looked extremely miserable the previous two days.
“I do not know the exact details but according to the guard, Liu Pan returned with a gloomy expression. The King of Shu’s corpse is also not seen. So it is likely that the King of Shu escaped.” Kuai Yue said. “Now, the Lord has summoned me. I will go and investigate the situation.” Kuai Yue added as he prepared to leave.
“Brother. I will accompany you!” Kuai Liang said as he was also a high official of Jingzhou. The two of them then journeyed together. When they arrived, they saw a lot of carriages in front of them that were also going towards the Governor’s residence. Kuai Yue and Kuai Liang were at the back of the line.
As expected, the King of Shu has escaped. Liu Pan and his heavy cavalry had waited for Liu Mang but Liu Mang did not appear. Many animals had already ran away while those that didn’t were burned to death.
Liu Pan waited until the fire died out which was two days later.
“Haha. So he is burned to death.” Liu Pan was not particularly happy but was instead filled with regret. “This King of Shu is truly a respectable hero. Do you know what kind of person he is?” Liu Pan asked his men.
“This subordinate doesn’t.” One of his 1000-men commanders replied. He was simply a soldier that only know how to follow orders.
“This man is terrific. I am sure you know Jiangdong’s Little Conqueror Sun Ce?”
“Yes.” Everyone, including the common citizens in Jingzhou knew who Sun Ce was due to the long war. They also knew that Sun Ce’s father was killed at Jingzhou.
“This Little Conqueror lost to this person.” Liu Pan said to his men.
“Whoa!” The 1000-men commander was dumbstruck. Sun Ce’s reputation was so great that no one in Jingzhou would dare say they could win against Sun Ce. Yet, the King of Shu was able to do it. “General, is this true? I am sure that the King of Shu’s numbers must have been double that of Sun Ce!”
“Haha, it is the opposite!” Liu Pan laughed as he shook his head. “Sun Ce had a hundred thousand men while Liu Mang only had ten thousand men!” Liu Pan recounted the tale of Liu Mang’s victory at Yangzhou.
“Then this person must have been a great general!” The 1000-men commander’s eyes grew wide when he heard of Liu Mang’s accomplishment.
“Now you know how formidable that man is. Such a pity!” Liu Pan’s eyes were desolate. It was from the respect of a hero towards another hero. “Go. Return to the city and find the King of Shu a coffin.” Liu Pan ordered.
“Yes.” His subordinate replied and quickly left for Xiangyang City.
“I always thought of competing against the King of Shu on the battlefield. Now it would seem that I will never have this opportunity. What a pity.” Liu Pan was a competitive young man. He wanted to compete against others from the same generation. His original goal was to fight against Sun Ce but that goal changed to Liu Mang when he found out that Sun Ce lost to Liu Mang.
“Why is it a pity? Didn’t you win?” The 1000-men commander flattered. “Since the King of Shu defeated Sun Ce but died by your hands, doesn’t it mean that the General is superior to both of them?”
Liu Pang laughed. “Haha. The one that lives is the winner! Well said!” Liu Pan had indeed won. If he really killed Liu Mang then technically, he also defeated Sun Ce. However, the condition was that he needed to have killed Liu Mang.
“Report! We could not find the King of Shu and the others in the forest!” The subordinate dispatched to find Liu Mang’s corpse reported.
“What?” Liu Pan furrowed his brows.
“Did you guys search carefully?” The flatterer criticized.
“General! We have searched the entire mountain! We cannot find any trails!” The subordinate explained.
“Let’s go! We will all go to the mountain together!” Liu Pan said to the others.
“General! We can’t! The fire has not completely died out. It is dangerous to enter the mountain right now!” The 1000-men commander advised. Although the fire has mostly died out, there were still small fires around the place.
“Let’s go!” Liu Pan ignored the advice and immediately took the lead. As soldiers, danger should be second nature.
The 1000-men commander saw Liu Pan enter the mountain and shouted. “Men, protect the general!” A thousand soldiers then followed after Liu Pan.
As the mountain was not too big, a thousand men could easily and thoroughly search the entire area. Yet, none of them were able to find a human corpse.
“Search for it! I don’t believe he could just fly away!” Liu Pan was angry. He wanted to use Liu Mang as his proof of identification. He also could not believe Liu Mang could have escaped as he had surrounded the place before setting it on fire.
“General! We found it!” One subordinate shouted.
“Did you find the corpse?” Liu Pan’s eyes glinted. That soldier was searching a cave. Could it be the King of Shu hid in the cave while the mountain was on fire? It is no wonder they could not find the corpse on the mountain.
“No. There is no corpse yet but someone was already sent to investigate.”
After waiting for some time, a few soldiers covered in dirt came out and gave their report. Inside the cave was a small spring. They did not know where the spring led to but it was possible that there was a way out.
“A spring!” Liu Pan muttered and left the cave to look at the nearby mountain range. That direction was the Yangtze River. It must be a small river connected to the Yangtze River that wasn’t marked on the map.
“Damn it!” Liu Pan finally understood why Liu Mang did not come out.
“General. Should we chase after them?” Liu Pan’s subordinate asked. Should they chase after Liu Mang since they found his escape route?
“Chase? How?” Liu Pan cursed in anger. Two days have already passed and they could not chase after Liu Mang through the mountain range with their horse.
“General! I brought the coffin over!” The subordinate that went to get the coffin earlier returned at a terrible time. He wanted credit for the work done and if Liu Pan was happy, he would be rewarded.
“Get lost! All of you get lost!” Liu Pan shouted hysterically. How could he not feel angry? Victory was within his grasp. He even burned the mountain so the whole of Xiangyang knew of this event. If Liu Mang was dead, Liu Pan could be bragged about as a young and promising person. Yet, Liu Mang escaped so this ended up being a humiliation.
“We return to the city!” Liu Pang gloomily returned to Xiangyang.