“What’s wrong? Is that what happens when the truth is spoken? Come to think of it, the corrupted Dong Zhuo is also your grandfather. Truly birds of a feather!” Pang Shanmin became rude and scolded Liu Mang. He even brought out the matter with Dong Zhuo.
“Pang Shanmin! Apologize to His Majesty and withdraw!” Liu Biao had also become angry. Pang Shanmin was not giving him any face at all. This was a welcoming banquet. Any enmity should have been put aside. Even Cai Mao was simply enjoying the banquet without saying a word. How did the usually calm Pang Shanmin become like this?
“Hmph! Liu Jingzhou! I, Pang Shanmin, have a sense of integrity and honor! I will not be humiliated by those who flatter eunuchs!”
“Pang Shanmin! Stop speaking nonsense! Marquis Wen may have guarded Dong Zhuo’s gates but he was simply waiting patiently for the chance to execute Dong Zhuo!” Kuai Liang quickly chided.
“No need to withdraw!” Liu Mang interjected. If Pang Shanmin were to withdraw, Liu Mang would really become someone who flatters eunuchs. He would become just as bad as the other corrupted officials like Dong Zhuo in the eyes of others.
“Pang Shanmin. Since you despise eunuchs, I will allow you explain yourself so that you can avoid your family’s name from being humiliated.”
“Hmph! We are all ears!” Pang Shanmin glared at Liu Mang with disdain. The surroundings turned tense.
“Pang Shanmin. Why do you hate the eunuchs?” Liu Mang asked as he laughed.
Pang Shanmin replied with hostility as he easily explained about the corrupt eunuchs during the Disaster of Partisan Prohibitions1. Many Confucian scholars and students tried to expose the corrupt eunuchs. Most of them eventually got arrested while some of them had their civil liberties stripped for life.
“Your Majesty. This is only during Emperor Huan’s reign. Do I need to personally tell everyone about what happened during Emperor Ling’s reign?” Pang Shanmin ridiculed. He wanted to say that Liu Mang was ignorant.
After being mocked, Liu Mang stood up. His gaze fixed on the youth. His hand had already let go of his cup as it moved towards his sword.
“Your Majesty! You must not do this!” Kuai Liang spoke anxiously. Does Liu Mang want to draw his sword here?
“Does Your Majesty want to kill me? That’s good. I was just thinking about going to join my Brother Qishan! Come!” Pang Shanmin was not afraid. He still believed that Liu Mang was the one that killed Tang Qishan.
“Brother Qishan?” Liu Mang did not know who this person is.
“Hm?” The other generals also went on alert when they saw that Liu Mang’s hand was almost at his sword. Kuai Yue acted as though none of it was his concern. On the other hand, Cai Mao was secretly cheering for Liu Mang to kill Pang Shanmin. To him, both Liu Mang and the Lumen Academy were not his friends. If Liu Mang were to kill Pang Shanmin, there would be a show to watch. He signaled for the soldiers to act slower as though he wanted to give Liu Mang the chance to act.
While everyone was getting tense, Jia Xu continued to drink his wine indifferently. He knew Liu Mang would not draw his sword and offend everyone during the banquet. Liu Biao would have no choice but to arrest Liu Mang if that were to happen. He knew Liu Mang would not act rashly in Liu Biao’s territory.
“Haha! Good! Good! Pang Shanmin is truly a talented individual!” Liu Mang suddenly laughed and patted Pang Shanmin instead. Instead of feeling grateful, Pang Shanmin ridiculed instead.
“I don’t dare accept the praise. I am merely higher class compared to Your Majesty!” There were no grades in the past. So higher class in this case meant being a master or parent. Pang Shanmin was humiliating Liu Mang by saying that he is teaching Liu Mang like a father teaching his son.
Of course, Liu Mang was angry. He would have already executed this person if this was not Jingzhou. Even Jia Xu would not dare to ridicule Liu Mang like this.
Liu Mang endured the anger in his heart and said, “There is no need for Pang Shanmin to teach me about what happened during Emperor Ling’s reign.”
Liu Mang then told the story of Cao Jie, a eunuch who was involved in a power struggle. He had Empress Dou placed under house arrest and installed the underage Emperor Ling on the throne as a puppet. He was one of the Ten Attendants2 and was Cao Cao’s non-biological grandfather3.
Pang Shanmin nodded. He felt that he had underestimated Liu Mang.
“Pang Shanmin, have you read ‘Records of the Grand Historian’?”
“Of course I have read it!” Pang Shanmin replied, feeling contented. Sima Qian’s Records of the Grand Historian was a banned book during the Han and Wei dynasties. Citizens, officials and even warlords did not have the right to read this book. The fact that Pang Shanmin could read it showed the power and influence of the Pang Family. As this was a chaotic era, the restriction was no longer as strict. As a result, the Kuai brothers and the Lumen Academy students could also read it now.
“Then do you know who wrote this book?”
“Does Your Majesty not know? It’s Sima Qian!”
“Oh. Then who is this Sima Qian? He is a eunuch!” Liu Mang spoke loudly. When he said eunuch, he said it as though it was a job instead of making it sound like he wanted to scold the person.
“You!” Pang Shanmin became speechless.
“Pang Shanmin. You use this paper freely for writing but do you know what paper this is?”
“Cai Hou paper.”
“And who made this paper?”
“This Cai Lun is also a eunuch!” Liu Mang started to speak more menacingly.
“Emperor He was only eleven when Emperor Zhang passed away. His mother Empress Dou and her brother Dou Xian held all the political power, turning the government into a dictatorship. Who was the one that helped Emperor He regain power and save the great Han Dynasty?”
“It is Zheng Zhong!” Pang Shanmin did not want to say the name but could not help himself as he was a scholar.
“And who is Zheng Zhong?” Liu Mang asked again. Before he could answer his own question, Pang Shanmin loudly replied, “He is a eunuch!”
“Both these people and the corrupted officials are eunuchs! Pang Shanmin. Do you still think all eunuchs are corrupted and only brings disaster?” Liu Mang’s voice grew louder as he approached Pang Shanmin. Pang Shanmin retreated in response.
Cai Mao sighed as he shook his head. Regretfully, Pang Shanmin was not a match for the King of Shu. Even so, he was still happy because Pang Shanmin’s defeat meant the humiliation of the Lumen Academy.
“Well done!” Kuai Yue nodded as he looked at Liu Mang. He had heard about Liu Mang from his little brother but he didn’t believe it. He had thought that Kuai Liang and Yang Hong were simply fond of Liu Mang as they thought him and wanted to brag. Now, he found out that Liu Mang could really speak.
Pang Shanmin suddenly shouted. “But those eunuchs are not Cao Jie! They are unrelated!” Pang Shanmin stood up again in his last efforts to support his point.
Liu Mang would not allow this. “You said so yourself. The others are not Cao Jie. Then why must you implicate Cao Cao? Cao Jie is not Cao Cao!”
“Not Cao Cao! Not Cao Cao! You! You!” Pang Shanmin pointed at Liu Mang and suddenly spat out blood, spraying towards Liu Mang who was standing close to Pang Shanmin. Liu Mang had tried to move away immediately but the blood still managed to splash onto him.
“Brother Qishan! Brother Qishan! I am incompetent! I cannot avenge you!” Pang Shanmin moaned as he lay down motionlessly on the floor.
“Men! Come over here quickly and take Pang Shanmin away!” One person shouted once they saw Pang Shanmin collapse. Everyone in Jingzhou was stunned. They had heard the exaggerated expression of an angry person discharging fumes from the seven apertures of their heads but they have never saw a person struck speechless and vomit blood.
“Call a doctor!” A worried Lumen Academy student called out. Naturally they would be panicked when something like this happen to their teacher’s only son.
“Take Pang Shanmin away.” Liu Biao said as he waved his hands. The soldiers cupped their fist and took Pang Shanmin away. Liu Biao may be on guard against the Pang Family but he still had to give them face.
Seeing Pang Shanmin get taken away, Liu Mang mercilessly added, “Brother Shanmin. Don’t just read your books blindly. Make sure you understand them properly!”
“You!” Pang Shanmin spat out blood again.
Liu Biao shook his head as he thought to himself. This King of Shu really wants to offend the Pang Family!
Liu Mang did not know of Pang Shanmin’s identity. All he knew was that Pang Shanmin was related to Pang Tong who had almost taken his life. Naturally, he wanted to force Pang Shanmin to his death.
“Come, Your Majesty. I have not been strict enough and have ridiculed Your Majesty!” Liu Biao lifted his wine cup as he proposed a toast to Liu Mang. At the same time, he had hoped to explain himself.
“You are too kind!” Liu Mang also did not want to have a falling out with Liu Biao just because of Pang Shanmin. The two quickly let bygones be bygones.
“Father-in-law have said that the previous two were heroes but they cannot be compared to the last one!”
“Oh? Who is the last hero?” Kuai Yue asked. He had not been mixing with Liu Mang earlier because he did not want to be misunderstood by the Pang and Cai families. Now that the Lumen Academy scholars were all preoccupied with Pang Shanmin, he had the time to speak.
Cai Mao was happy that Liu Mang caused Pang Shanmin to spit out blood. To him, both Liu Mang and the Pang Family were his enemies. He would be happiest if both sides suffer.
Kuai Yue speaking to Liu Mang would not offend Cai Mao. As for the Huang Family, Huang She was absent for reasons unknown to most of those present. The reason why Huang She was absent was because he was afraid to appear. He had dispatched people to assassinate Liu Mang but failed. If Liu Mang were to point fingers at him, he would be accused of trying to kill royalty. Even though it was a chaotic era, there are still unspoken rules such as being forbidden to compete in power struggles via assassination.
Before this, Kuai Yue had been shown goodwill by Liu Mang. So now, he had to return the favor.
“The third hero is uncle!” Liu Mang immediately said as he toasted towards Liu Biao.
“Hahaha! You flatter me! Both Marquis Wen and Hanyang flatter me too much!” Liu Biao gave a modest expression but even Liu Mang could notice that Liu Biao was actually happy. Otherwise, Liu Biao would not call him Hanyang.
The other generals also started to flatter Liu Biao in agreement.
“Hahaha! You all overpraise me!”
However, Liu Biao was truly a hero for being able to take Jingzhou on his own. This feat alone made Liu Mang feel inferior. Besides that, there was also the citizens of Jingzhou. Despite having less land compared to Cao Cao, he was able to have a population comparable to Cao Cao. Besides that, none of his people were starving. It could be said that Jingzhou was the biggest and safest place to be.
Meanwhile, Cai Mao continued to look at Liu Mang. He did not want to oppose Liu Mang now as it was possible that he be humiliated like Pang Shanmin.
As a result, the hall remain harmonious.