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“Is Liu Bei unwilling to release the captives?” Lu Bu asked a youngster.

“Yes, Milord. The Little Lord’s subordinate said so.”

“In that case, we can send troops?”

“Milord. This time we are sending troops to consume Liu Bei’s strength. We are not…” The youngster’s warning was quickly interrupted.

“I know!” Lu Bu said impatiently. “You are also saying the same things as that Liu Mang Liu Hanyang! I have fought for more than half my life. I don’t need a youngster like him to remind me of these annoying things! I haven’t even had the time to settle accounts with him yet!”

The youngster, Chen Deng, smiled bitterly as he shook his head. This was a family matter so he could not say too much.

“This kid knows how to attack the mind.” Lu Bu smiled. He seemingly thought of something as he watched the marching soldiers. Liu Mang’s envoy was meant to annoy Liu Bei and at the same time, show good intentions by requesting to redeem the Zhang Family’s children, Governor Song Zhong, and the captive soldiers in Fancheng. It was a mental attack towards Liu Bei.

The Zhang Family was useless to Liu Bei. Yet, Liu Mang could gain favor from the Zhang Family and the nobles in Jingzhou just by requesting to redeem them. They would be grateful to Liu Mang even if he failed.

Song Zhong was also useless but he was famous. Liu Mang’s opening price for Song Zhong was five thousand gold. This was as much as when Sun Quan was captured. Of course, this was also for show. Song Zhong was a famous scholar. Paying five thousand gold for Song Zhong would attract scholars to his territory.

As for the remaining soldiers, Liu Mang did it simply because he did not want Fancheng’s defenders to be used by Liu Bei. It was not because Liu Mang was filthy rich.

If Liu Bei were to agree, Liu Mang would be able to take out the gold. However, Liu Bei would find it even harder to escape. On the other hand, even if Liu Bei were to refuse, Liu Mang would have still gained public favor and the Fancheng defenders could no longer be used.

“Milord! This is bad!” Liu Bei who was still angry after chasing away Liu Mang’s envoy suddenly received a report from Liao Hua who rushed in.

“Milord! News have spread that an envoy from Jingzhou came to redeem the Fancheng defenders but was rejected by Milord. There is news now that if Fancheng had fallen, the defenders would not be blamed!”

“What?” Liu Bei stood up. The negotiation with the envoy did not happen that long ago. How did news spread so quickly?

“Milord! We have fallen into a trap! They have attacked the mind!” 

After the previous battle, Fancheng’s defenders still had about twenty thousand survivors held captive. Liu Bei only allowed the Xiliang Cavalry to loot the city but did not allow murder and arson. The Qiang ethnics obeyed.

With not that much harm done, the Fancheng defenders did not have any resentment for Liu Bei and did not cause any trouble. Liu Bei had intended to receive these defenders and use them to defend Fancheng. After all, the soldiers were also afraid they would be condemned for losing the city the first time. If Liu Bei managed to take them in, his army would expand to fifty thousand troops.

With this numbers and lots of provisions, Liu Bei would easily be able to hold out for a year.

Unfortunately for him, there was a sudden problem. Now, the Fancheng defender’s minds are in disorder. They were initially receptive of Liu Bei because they feared punishment and for them, who they worked for did not really matter.

Now, Liu Biao promised to acquit them and even tried to redeem them. The captives felt grateful and believed Liu Biao to be a wise ruler. The soldiers did not like to fight as they would die. On top of that, Jingzhou had provisions and was in better condition compared to other territories. Their lives were steady under Liu Biao while their future would be uncertain under Liu Bei. They were just common soldiers but even they could tell that Liu Bei was an unscrupulous careerist.

As a result, all the soldiers that had initially been willing to surrender was now unwilling to.

“We can no longer use Fancheng’s defenders!” Liu Bei said with regret. If he were to use them, it would be likely that one of them opened the gates for the enemy.

“Men! Imprison all those captives and take off their armor! Kill them if you must!” Liu Bei said without sympathy. He would have already killed them if he knew this was going to happen.

“Understood!” Liao Hua accepted the order and left. Not only did Liu Bei lose his potential troops. He even had to allocate some soldiers to monitor the prisoners.

“Xianhe! Where are their armies now?” Liu Bei asked Jian Yong.

“They have crossed the Yangtze River and are now twenty five kilometers away from Fancheng.”

“So they are here.” This distance can be covered in one and a half days.