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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

Massinissa the Wise

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Wow, this rapidly went south for Hu Zan... first losing his wife, then revolting over nothing and even losing it! I hope he'll find a better home. And a wife, for that matter.

Also, the real Tan Zhihan (JaceX's character) appeared! He's totally not overpowered or so.
 
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192-193: Xiao Ru Settles Old Scores New

Zamarak500

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192-193: XIAO RU SETTLES OLD SCORES
20201126164439_1.jpg


His “side business” during the war with Qing Province had proven lucrative, yes, but it had not rid Xiao Ru of his main problem. He wanted control of Fei County ever since he convinced Ying Shao to invade it two years ago, but he had yet to make any headway toward this goal. He had hoped that Zhuge Gui, the current administrator of Fei County, would be killed in the war, which would leave him to take over once his rival was dead and the war had ended. Instead, Kong Rong had allowed the magistrate to surrender peacefully, even welcoming him as a precious guest for the duration of the war. Now the war was over and Zhuge Gui still held control of Fei County!
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Even worst, Zhuge Gui’s young son Zhuge Liang had proven a torn in his side since the war had ended. It seemed that the boy was curious about the supply that never arrived and began to investigate the whole affair himself. He accused Xiao Ru of having gotten rid of the supply to hinder his father. Xiao Ru tried to stutter his way through an explanation, but everyone found him unconvincing and a bit suspicious. Zhuge Liang pressed the accusations so much that Ying Shao actually considered opening an official investigation on the matter. The well-known scholar was impressed by Zhuge Liang’s pursuit of the truth and was also curious about what had happened to the supply. Xiao Ru had told him that the supply had been delivered, but he did notice that the man suddenly had a lot more wealth at his disposal. Surprisingly, it was Zhuge Gui who came to Xiao Ru’s defence. He was a bit naïve and honestly couldn’t think of a reason for Xiao Ru to screw him up like that. Surely the supply had been captured by the enemies and Xiao Ru, wanting to save face, lied about it and confirmed Zhuge Gui’s theory. Yes, it looked bad, but it wasn’t treason. Zhuge Gui’s intervention convinced Ying Shao to drop the whole affair.
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But while Zhuge Gui did this as a friendly gesture of support, Xiao Ru saw it as his rival rubbing his victory in his face. Xiao Ru couldn’t save himself, so Zhuge Gui “kindly” came to his rescue. So while the whole incident was passed over, Xiao Ru came out of it bitterer than ever. His desire to gain Fei County and his one-sided rivalry with Zhuge Gui continued to plague his mind. He began to talk with his wife Xia of what he should do about his rival. She pleaded him to not do anything stupid that could jeopardise their place in Ying Shao’s court. They had their first child, a daughter named Xiao Xiaowen, the previous year. It wasn’t time to go on some revenge scheme. For the time being, Xiao Ru agreed, although only to calm his wife.
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But then he received an invitation from Zhuge Gui to join him in Fei County for a feast. Zhuge Gui hoped that by inviting him, they could finally put aside the animosity that existed between them and continue forward as loyal servants of Ying Shao, working together to help their lords. His son tried their best to dissuade their father, but Zhuge Gui insisted. It was simply going to be a nice little chat between adults. So against his sons’ advice, Zhuge Gui went on to organize a lavish banquet for him and his guest. Xiao Ru arrived and could only see this as Zhuge Gui showing off his wealth. Prideful as always, he promised himself to organize and even bigger feast in the foreseeable future.

Zhuge Gui personally welcomed Xiao Ru in Fei City. The Zhuge children refused to attend, but it didn’t stop Zhuge Gui from receiving his guest with all honors possible. As they ate, he came forward with his big proposal. Their disputes had been a problem for everyone, and so it was better for it to end today. So why not become sworn brothers? “Let us stand together as brother so we do not have to stand apart.” he said. “It would end any possible dispute between the two of us.” But Xiao Ru refused this overture. If he accepted, he would indeed have to renounce any grudge he had against Zhuge Gui, as it would mean acting against his own brother. And the punishment for such action would be far harsher, and rightfully so. Xiao Ru thus left the meeting no closer to his rival or his goal. But as he left he found Zhuge Gui’s coachman alone and saw an opportunity. He offered to handsomely pay the coachman to ensure that Zhuge Gui had an “unfortunate accident”. Lacking any scruples, the man accepted the offer. A week later in April 192, Zhuge Gui’s carriage crashed down a cliff as it left Fei City.
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Xiao Ru was ecstatic when he learned of what had happened. He had arranged the death of his rival and he was going to get away with it! He secretly had coins sent to the coachman has promised and told him to disappear away. He had won! Now Ying Shao would obviously appoint him as the new magistrate of Fei County. He even declared to his wife “See? You were worried for nothing. If I had listened to you, Heaven would have ignored us and left us to rot.” His wife was far less enthusiastic about this whole deal, and rightfully so. Xiao Ru would soon learn to his surprise that Ying Shao had not in fact appointed him as Zhuge Gui’s replacement. Instead, in an act of kindness toward the family of his late follower, he appointed the oldest of Zhuge Gui’s sons, Zhuge Jin, as his replacement. The young man thanked his lord and made way to Fei County, to Xiao Ru’s annoyance.
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Zhuge Jin had just returned home when his younger brother Zhuge Liang began to pester him about their father’s death. The boy claimed that his father had in fact been killed. While he ignored him at first, Zhuge Jin was convinced by his younger brother’s insistence and began to agree that their father’s death might not have been the accident they believed it to be. After all, the coachman who drove the cart was never found after Zhuge Gui’s death. Zhuge Liang already had a suspect in mind: Xiao Ru, that scum who had always wished to take Fei County from their father. Zhuge Jin agreed that Xiao Ru was the most likely suspect, remembering how Xiao Ru never delivered that supply during the siege.

The two brothers went to Ying Shao and publically accused Xiao Ru of being behind their father’s death. Having a lot of respect for Zhuge Gui and his children, and knowing full well the ambition that Xiao Ru harbored, the Administrator of Taishan Commandery agreed to listen to their theory. Xiao Ru, who was present at court that day, was in a state of shock as Zhuge Jin spoke. The first son of Zhuge Gui had the whole court in the palm of his end, taking in his every words. He was such a natural talker that by the time he was finished, everyone believed that Xiao Ru had to be behind Zhuge Gui’s death. What could Xiao Ru do except stutter? He tried his best to formulate some excuse to counter the great rhetoric of Zhuge Jin, but to no avail. Still, Ying Shao allowed him the benefit of the doubt, if only because he had been a useful servant over the past two years.
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When news arrived a few days later that Zhuge Liang had somehow managed to track down the coachman, Xiao Ru decided that it was time to go. He fled in the middle of the night with his wife and daughter, throwing his wealth around so to bribe anyone who might block his flight. By next morning, Ying Shao found out that Xiao Ru had escaped and sent orders to have him captured and arrested. The Zhuge brothers could only curse as their father’s killer escaped. Meanwhile, Xiao Ru cursed Heaven for favoring the Zhuge Clan over him. He made his way south with his family and whatever wealth he had left. He couldn’t stop until he was out of Yan Province. While Liu Dai might appreciate his services, it was doubtful that the Inspector wouldn’t hang him for the murder he had committed. So he fled the province altogether and instead went to You Province.
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There he went on to offer his services to the governor himself, refusing to once again serve a small administrator. That had led him nowhere. If Xiao Ru wanted to advance in life, he had to serve the powerful. And as it turned out, the current governor of You Province was quite influential and famous. Liu Chong was, like many in the realm, a member of the imperial Liu Clan, descending from the second son of Emperor Ming (58-75) the second emperor of the Eastern Han. However, many knew him by his title, the Prince of Chen. The Prince of Chen was an incredible administrator, possibly the greatest of his age. His amazing stewardship of his province and his efficient management of his army made the jealousy of his neighbours, Yuan Shu especially.

He was truly a great man to serve, Xiao Ru thought. When he arrived to his court, he quickly asked for an audience with the governor. As he was the son of a gardener who had only served as a small town official, his audience was pushed back on many occasions, long enough for news of his crime in Yan province to reach Liu Chong. Liu Dai even asked his distant cousin to give him back the criminal so he could be judged. The Prince of Chen, curious of this possible murderer asking for a job, had Xiao Ru brought before him. The stuttering man was unimpressive, and so Liu Chong asked why he shouldn’t just hand him over to Liu Dai. Xiao Ru did his best to explain that these accusations were fabricated by his enemies of the Zhuge Clan. He also asked to prove that he could be a great asset to You Province. He would be useful if allowed to. While hesitant to employ a potential murderer, Liu Chong had no desire to bow to Liu Dai’s demands and send back the man. The two warlords were experiencing growing tensions and he was not going to be the one to bow down. So he offered Xiao Ru a chance to prove himself.
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Xiao Ru was set free and given an official position in law enforcement, although he was limited to the provincial capital. By doing so, Liu Chong was publicly vouching for Xiao Ru and proclaiming him innocent of the crime he was accused of. After all, no sane ruler would put a criminal in charge of enforcing the law. He even petitioned the Emperor to grant a pardon for Xiao Ru, which the Emperor (or more exactly, the Emperor’s regents) gave without much fuss. Xiao Ru would prove worthy of the trust put into him, and his bravado about his talent was proven correct. He was an efficient law official, enforcing justice with a cold cruelty that left no place for corruption or mistakes. Efficiency among Xiao Ru’s subordinates went up out of fear of their new superior. His efforts were impressive enough that Liu Chong told one of his close subordinates “To say I almost deprived the Han Dynasty of such talent. He understands laws and policies far better than other officials.” In July, Liu Chong would even send a recommendation to the Imperial Capital, a clear sign that he valued Xiao Ru.

But Xiao Ru’s harsh handling of the law made him many enemies, including the magistrate of Ku County, Luo Jun. Luo Jun was decent enough at his job, but somehow got it in his head that he was so good that law didn’t apply to him. It helped that he had a good relationship with many of the Prince of Chen’s advisors who always tried to protect him. So when he came to the provincial capital for a casual report to Liu Chong, he surprised to be arrested over some minor offence. Xiao Ru actually had the magistrate throw into a cell over the issue, and while Liu Chong eventually had the man released, the governor agreed that Xiao Ru was right. Luo Jun complained again and again, which made Xiao Ru nervous. There was no way he was going to let another good talker ruin his life. Thankfully, one of his subordinate found a correspondence between Luo Jun and Liu Dai, talking about the possibility of invading You Province.
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This time, it was not Xiao Ru who fled in the night. When Liu Chong demanded explanation, they discovered that Luo Jun was nowhere to be found. Once he had returned to his county, the magistrate decided that he might as well revolt now that the gig was up. Luo Jun raised his troops against the unjust and tyrannical laws of Liu Chong. In his propaganda, he went as far as to compare the Prince of Chen to Qin Shi Huang, the cruel first emperor of China whose tyrannical legalistic laws were hated by all. But unlike Qin Shi Huang, Liu Chong was loved and respected. Luo Jun found no one willing to support him in his little revolt. He had seemed to have forgotten one fact: Liu Chong was an even better commander than he was an administrator. The Prince of Chen happily took the field of battle and defeated Luo Jun and his troops decisively by the end of the year.

Panicked, Luo Jun fled and to Ku County. He wrote an urgent missive to Liu Dai, asking the Inspector of Yan Province to come to his aid so they could defeat Liu Chong together. He soon realized that even if the letter reached Liu Dai, the Prince of Chen would still captured Ku County before any help could be sent. So in January 193 Luo Jun fled the province. He would flee to Yang Province, offering his services to Chen Wen, where he would live until his death in 202. Liu Chong found Ku County without its magistrate and the rebels all too happy to surrender. Still, even with the county back under country, there was a need to rout out all criminals and true traitors that remained. Liu Chong decided that Xiao Ru was the best man for the job, appointing him as the new magistrate of Ku County. With that done, the Prince of Chen turned his attention to bigger issues he had to deal with.
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Massinissa the Wise

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He would flee to Yang Province, offering his services to Chen Wen, where he would live until his death in 202.
I think this line has more importance than a first glance shows. Will Yang Weili have frictions with the newcomer? Probably.

Of course, congrats to Ru! He rid the world of that Zhuge prick, succesfully fled and became a magistrate! Pretty good career :D
 
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Zamarak500

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Dunaden

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Xiao Ru certainly landed on his feet. But I wouldn't get too comfortable, the two very gifted sons of Zhuge Gui won't forget their father's murderer.
 
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patpekala

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Yeah, its been a while.

So far, Kong Rong and Hu Zan had some differences. And well, my boy Hu Zan should definitely not have done open rebellion after... a year. Happy he got a kid, lost a wide, mad he f**ked himself over. All in less than two years. Well, he tried. Not sure what's going to happen next.

And Xiao Ru, well, he's got helps lucky even when he plan falls down - so good for him at least!
 
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