“Father!” Kuai Ran shouted in disbelief. He then gave a desolate laugh as he continued. “Father. I have never begged you for anything before! When you told me to study, I studied. When you told me to train, I trained. I did everything diligently to earn your praise. However, I have not received anything from you! You have never even smiled at me once!”
“I have always consoled myself that you were an extremely influential person with a lot of important matters to do. I consoled myself that you were concerned about Jingzhou and the Han Dynasty! Today, I learned that I was wrong. Father. You do not care about me. You do not care about uncle. You do not care about the Kuai Family. All you care about is yourself! You are afraid that I, Kuai Ran, would make you lose face! You are afraid that the Kuai Family would be ridiculed if I were to marry Yan Ran! Father. You have changed. The Kuai Family used to be about us, mother, aunt, and the rest. Now, it is simply a cage. I beg of you to come out of that cage!” Kuai Ran’s words caused Kuai Yue to feel heartbroken.
Not receiving a reply, Kuai Ran continued. “Father, I am sorry I disappointed you. Father, I am sorry I made you lose face. Father, I am sorry I cannot be filial.” Kuai Liang laughed as he knelt in front of his father. “Father. This may be the last time I am calling you this.”
“Kuai Ran! Do you understand what you are doing?” Kuai Yue shouted.
“I want to marry Yan Ran. I do not care whether she is a prostitute or Princess Yan Lian. She is Yan Ran! She will always be my Yan Ran! Father. You always say I am foolish. You always believe that I cannot support the Kuai Family. In that case, you will no longer need to worry. From today onwards, I will change my name. I will no longer have anything to do with the Kuai Family!”
“Woah!” There was an uproar over Kuai Ran’s statement. Most that broke off from their families did so to establish themselves. However, the Kuai Family only had one heir. If he were to break away from the Kuai Family, the Kuai Family would go extinct.
“Brother Kuai! Don’t do this!” Liu Mang tried to stop Kuai Ran. He wanted a political marriage with the Kuai Family. He did not intend to sever their relationship as father and son. Although he did not spend a lot of time with Kuai Ran, he already treated Kuai Ran as a close friend. Even if the political marriage were to fail, he wanted Kuai Ran to have a happy ending.1
“Brother Liu. If I leave the Kuai Family, I will have nowhere to go. Is Brother Liu willing to give me the opportunity to earn a living?” Kuai Ran smiled bitterly at Liu Mang. He had no other choice left as there would be a lot slandering him and Yan Ran after breaking off from the Kuai Family.
“As long as I, Liu Mang am able to provide food, I will not let Brother Kuai go hungry!” Liu Mang replied. He could tell by the look in Kuai Ran’s eyes that Kuai Ran was determined to do this. No amount of persuasion would change his mind. “Yan Ran, no, sister. I can only bless your marriage as a brother. May your husband keep you happy!”
“N!” Yan Ran nodded feeling moved.
“Yan Ran, let us go!” Kuai Ran took Yan Ran’s hand and started to walk away. He initially looked very determined but now he looked relaxed. Although a heir seemed to have things good, it was actually tiring to become one. There were too many things he could not do and too many things to worry about.
“Kuai Ran! If you leave you can no longer come back!” Kuai Yue shouted fiercely. This was his biological son. Yet his son was forcing him to do this.
“Haha! Father! We leave everything to you!” Pang Tong laughed excitedly. As long as Kuai Yue placed importance in the Kuai Family’s reputation, Liu Mang’s plot would fail. So what if Pang Tong offended the Kuai Family? The Kuai Family was about to join Yangzhou anyway! Pang Tong did not want Liu Mang to obtain the Kuai Family even if he had to sacrifice his own chances as well.
The Huang brothers also watched this excitedly. They did not care about anything in particular. To them, this drama was simply entertaining.
“Brother! Are you satisfied now?” Kuai Liang sneered at his brother. “Ran’er is right. The Kuai Family name has shackled and changed you! Since long ago, you were no longer the brother that I know!” Kuai Liang said and was also about to leave. Then he remembered that this was his home.
Kuai Yue sighed and laughed bitterly to himself. Was he wrong? As the head of the family, he did the right thing. As an influential family in Jingzhou, marriage is used to make the family more influential. However, he was too manipulative as a father and brother.
“Your Highness!” Kuai Yue said. He seemed to have aged ten years within a short moment.
“Does the Kuai Family need something?” Liu Mang asked coldly.
Kuai Yue slowly approached Liu Mang and then suddenly knelt down. This threw Liu Mang into confusion. “What are you doing??”
“Your Highness. This Kuai Yue has an inferior son that admires Your Highness’ sister to the extent that he loses his appetite. This Kuai Yue wants to propose for his son to marry Princess Yan Lian as wife.”
“What?” Liu Mang was at a complete loss. Such an old man proposing a marriage for his son.
“Is Master Yidu certain about this?” Liu Mang asked.
“This old man only has one son.” Kuai Yue replied.
“Master Yidu! What about her origins?”
“This old man only has one son!” Kuai Yue repeated.
“Master Yidu! Are you sure you want Kuai Ran to take her as wife?” Liu Mang tried to confirm. Marrying a concubine and marrying a wife were two different things. When marrying a concubine, it was like accepting an inexpensive gift. On the other hand, marrying a wife means the wife becomes a lady with legal rights. One had the status of host and master. The other had the status of an object. That showed the difference between the two.
If the Kuai Family take her as wife, it would immediately be considered a political marriage.
“This old man only has one son!” Kuai Yue nodded his head. As the head of the Kuai Family, he wanted the Kuai Family to become influential for Jingzhou. He wanted the Kuai Family to last for centuries. However, he was also a father with only one son.
“Father!” Kuai Ran who had not left yet became surprised when he heard his father’s words.
“Brother?” Kuai Liang was also surprised. Was this really his brother?
“Kuai Yidu! You must not do this!” For Liu Mang, this was a pleasant surprise. For Pang Tong, this was a disaster. If it was marrying a concubine, Pang Tong would still be able to struggle. If it was marrying a wife, it would become official that the Kuai Family has joined up with Yangzhou.
“This old one congratulates the Kuai Family for being able to take a princess as a wife!” Pang Degong immediately stepped forward to congratulate Kuai Yue when he saw the scenario. The other nobles that relied on the Kuai Family quickly followed. They were not about to see the parent and child go separate ways. They quickly congratulated Kuai Yue to reduce his embarrassment, all the while praising Kuai Ran and Yan Ran.
“Kuai Yidu!” Cai Mao groaned coldly. The Cai Family and Kuai Family had worked together for a very long time. However, the Cai Family would be left behind if the Kuai Family were to join up with Liu Mang.
“Degui. I only have one son!” Kuai Yue repeated again.
“Sigh.” Cai Mao sighed in understanding. He had been friends with Kuai Yue for a long time so he could understand the difficulty Kuai Yue was facing. All of their arguments in front of Liu Biao had simply been performances.
“Take care of yourself!” Cai Mao may not be comfortable about the Kuai Family’s political marriage but he was still resolute with his view. Liu Mang’s action regarding the recruitment and killing the nobles in Wancheng already earned his hostility.
Cai Mao left, taking his brother his with him.
Pang Degong went up to Kuai Liang and Kuai Yue to cup his fist at them before leaving. The wedding reception could be considered to be over. As Kuai Yue proposed his son to marry the bride as a wife, there were other things that needed to be done such as finding a matchmaker for a speech. In other words, it was no longer a good day to promote Pang Shanmin.
“Shit!” Pang Tong cursed and was about to leave. Unfortunately, he was suddenly stopped.
“Pang Tong Pang Shiyuan! Did I say you can leave?” Liu Mang coldly looked at Pang Tong.
“Does Your Highness want to commit a violent crime in Liu Biao’s territory?” Pang Tong mocked back. This was Jingzhou. Liu Mang cannot touch him.
“A violent crime!” Liu Mang narrowed his eyes. Had Pang Tong not remind him of this, he would have definitely forgot. Pang Tong was like Liu Mang’s right hand and was extremely dangerous. Liu Mang’s killing intent grew as he thought of this.
“Milord!” Suddenly, two robust and ugly looking men entered. They looked like demons who had escaped from hell. These two were Zhou Cang and Guan Hai. They had been stuck in traffic and decided to continue their journey on foot. As they no longer had the carriage’s speed, they naturally arrived late.
“Woah! Where did this ugly person come from?” Zhou Cang shouted loudly. He was the kind of idiot that immediately voices his thoughts.
“I’m ugly?” Pang Tong shouted back in anger. It was true that Pang Tong was a little ugly. He was little bit short and a little dark skinned. He would accept being called ugly if others were to call him that. However, Zhou Cang looks significantly uglier. How could he accept being called ugly by him?
“Haha.” Liu Mang laughed at Zhou Cang’s ridiculous actions
“Damn! This guy looks uglier than you!” Zhou Cang said to Guan Hai, making Pang Tong even angier. Had he been stronger than his opponent, he would have already walked up to Zhou Cang and killed him.
“Your Highness. If there is nothing else, I would like to leave as well.” Pang Tong cupped his fist at Liu Mang. He knew when the odds were against him. Continuing to stay here would only cause him to suffer losses.
“Pang Shiyuan! Did you think I am afraid to kill you?” Liu Mang did not allow Pang Tong to leave so Guan Hai and Zhou Cang blocked Pang Tong’s way.
Liu Mang had the intention to kill Pang Tong right here. After all, Pang Tong had killed his envoy. He could take a page from Pang Tong’s book and kill Pang Tong here before reporting. At that time, it would already be too late for Liu Bei.
Liu Bei’s biggest weakness was that he lacked good strategists. That was why Liu Bei was still drifting around at the age of forty. Getting rid of Pang Tong would deal a heavier blow to Liu Bei compared to the death of the White Eared Soldiers. Liu Bei would no longer be a threat.
“Not good!” Pang Tong muttered when he felt Liu Mang’s rising killing intent.
“Who dares to harm our Military Advisor!” Pang Tong’s subordinate quickly surrounded him and looked at their surroundings vigilantly.
Liu Mang looked at these devoted soldiers and laughed. Had he been alone, they could have obstructed him long enough for Pang Tong to escape. However, with Zhou Cang and Guan Hai present as well, these people’s efforts amounted to nothing. After all, Guan Hai was able to obtain a draw when fighting against Zhang Fei. How could these people be a threat? Zhou Cang may not be as strong as Guan Hai but he was definitely not much weaker himself.
“Liu Mang! Are you not afraid of being punished by Liu Biao?” Pang Tong shouted loudly in hopes that Liu Mang would retreat.
“Haha!” Liu Mang laughed in disdain. His laugh was one of the few reasons Pang Tong really hated Liu Mang. Pang Tong hated being looked down on.
“Pang Tong Pang Shiyuan! You are truly a fried chicken! Only people like you can say such retarded things!” Liu Mang sneered. Pang Tong was acting like a child intending to complain to his mother after failing to obtain something. When Pang Tong killed his envoy, Liu Biao could only endure as he had already offended Liu Mang. He could not offend Liu Bei as well.
“Hm?” Pang Tong did not immediately give a reply and instead looked at his surroundings for an escape route. He could tell that Liu Mang seriously wanted him dead and the chances of escape was low.
“Haha! Didn’t you kill my envoy and tried to frame me? Are you out of ideas?” Liu Mang mocked as he slowly approached Pang Tong. Pang Tong continued to stare at the approaching Liu Mang.
“Don’t you want to capture the King first? Come! I am right here! If you can capture me, you may be able to escape alive!” Liu Mang said oppressively.
“Liu Mang Liu Hanyang! Don’t bully people too much!” Pang Tong replied tenaciously. Had Zhang Fei been around, Pang Tong would have done so. Unfortunately, Zhang Fei had not yet recovered and he did not have enough guards so capturing Liu Mang was impossible.
“So what if I want to bully you? In fact, I want to kill you!” Liu Mang said as he raised his hand. Zhou Cang and Guan Hai readied themselves. The moment Liu Mang gives the order, the two of them would charge towards Pang Tong’s group and kill them.
Pang Tong started to sweat. He had already fallen into Liu Mang’s hands.
“I should first thank you for the four thousand gold! It would help me pay for the provisions!” Liu Mang said.
“Your Highness! Please stay your hand!” Someone shouted just as Liu Mang was about to give the order to kill Pang Tong.
“Hm?” Liu Mang furrowed his brows and stopped when he saw the person that spoke. Guan Hai and Zhou Cang continued to wait for Liu Mang’s orders.
“Lord Pang. Why are you here?” Liu Mang asked Pang Degong despite knowing the answer.
“This old one wants to plead for this unfilial child!” Pang Degong managed to barge into the situation while smiling.
“Uncle?” Pang Tong looked at his uncle slowly approach with his walking stick.
“This old one hopes Your Highness would spare his life!”
“Lord Pang. I am sure you know that your nephew almost killed me!” Liu Mang would not let Pang Tong go just because of one sentence by Pang Degong.
“That is why this old one came forward to plead Your Highness to spare his life.” Pang Degong still replied with a smile on his face.
“Give me a reason!” Liu Mang admired Pang Degong because the man was virtuous. Liu Mang also did some investigating and found out that the Lumen Academy was able to make Pang Degong stand on equal footing with Liu Biao. Yet, Pang Degong remained charitable and had no ambitions. He behaved with integrity. There were less righteous people during such chaotic times which is why this trait became even more valuable.
However, his admiration does not mean that he would give Pang Degong face and spare the viper Pang Tong. If you do not kill him, he would kill you.
“Is Your Highness willing to make the Lumen Academy your enemy?” Pang Degong said with a smile.
Liu Mang frowned. Truthfully speaking, the Pang Family was not actually influential. They only became influential because of the respect others gave him for founding the Lumen Academy. The students of the Lumen Academy were everywhere, even in Jiangdong.
It was the biggest learning institute in the Han Dynasty especially after merging with their competitor, the He Ying Academy.
“Lord Pang. You are threatening me.” Liu Mang narrowed his eyes. If the Lumen Academy becomes enemies with Liu Mang, it won’t just be all the students but also plenty of officials. While these people don’t take orders from the Lumen Academy, they would all still give face to Pang Degong. In other words, they would not become enemies with Liu Mang openly but would strike from the back.
“I don’t dare!” Pang Degong quickly replied. He was an impartial person who would not offend Liu Mang nor would he favor Liu Mang. “If Your Highness is willing to spare this unfilial child, all of the Lumen Academy in Jingzhou would make things easy for Your Highness.” Pang Degong said sincerely.
“Oh?” Liu Mang narrowed his eyes. He came to buy provisions for Yangzhou but there were three obstacles in his way. The Kuai Family, the Cai Family and the Lumen Academy. If Pang Degong’s words were true, Liu Mang would have already solved his problem.
The Kuai Family’s assistance has already been obtained via political marriage while Liu Mang had not yet begun to gain the Cai Family’s support. However, the Lumen Academy was actually a bigger problem. Even if Liu Biao was willing to provide provisions, the Lumen Academy had enough people to forcefully delay the transportation of the provisions forever.
That was why Pang Degong’s words were significant as he had promised Liu Mang that the Lumen Academy will not interfere in the event that Liu Biao was willing to provide provisions.
“If Lord Pang speaking truthfully?” Liu Mang asked. He had been thinking of how to obtain Pang Degong’s assistance ever since he made Pang Degong’s son vomit blood. It was unrealistic to ask the father for help after harming the son.
“This one is old but still knows how to write the words honor and justice!” Pang Degong replied with a smile.
“Uncle! You mustn’t do this!” Pang Tong wanted to object.2
“Lord Pang. Your nephew seems unwilling.” Liu Mang was also troubled. Pang Degong’s offer was good but killing Pang Tong would mean that the Liu Bei’s Army would be finished.
“Will Your Highness reject my proposal? It involves the lives of millions in Yangzhou!” Pang Degong replied with regret. The people would definitely be placed in a terrible situation without those provisions. Pang Degong was reminding Liu Mang of his priorities. Killing Pang Tong would destroy the Liu Bei’s Army but Yangzhou would also be lost.
“In that case, I will leave Pang Tong to you. I hope Lord Pang would be able to properly educate him!” Liu Mang cupped his fist and replied.
“Hmph!” Pang Tong harrumphed. His life was spared but he was still brimming with hatred.
“In that case, this old one will take his leave.” Pang Degong nodded and started to leave.
“Wait!” Liu Mang suddenly shouted.
“What’s wrong Your Highness? Are you not going to live up to your words? I am standing right here! Come and kill me!” Pang Tong mocked, feeling certain that he would remain safe since his uncle was protecting him.
“I won’t go against my word.”
“Then why do you stop us?”
“I gave Lord Pang face to spare you! I never said anything about sparing the others!” Liu Mang replied indifferently as he looked at Pang Tong’s subordinates.
“Liu Hanyang! You dare?” Pang Tong glared.
“Hmph! Zhou Cang, Guan Hai! I will leave these people to you! I am sure I don’t need to tell you what to do!”
“Of course, that is to kill!” Guan Hai shouted as he charged in.
“Military Advisor! Save us! Save us!”
Pang Tong glared and gritted his teeth as the blood of his subordinates continued to spill. Meanwhile, Pang Degong continued to smile as though nothing happened.
Excuse me? You tried to “kill” him twenty four hours ago.
I agree. He should just stab you.