Romance of Three Kingdoms Chapter 82


Sun Quan Submits To Wei, Receiving The Nine Dignities;
The First Ruler Attacks Wu, Rewarding Six Armies.

In the eighth month of the first year of Manifest Might (AD 221) the First Ruler marched at the head of his army and camped at Baidicheng (City of the White Emperor), through the Kui Pass. His advanced guard had gone beyond the River Lands when his attendants told him that Zhuge Jin had come as a messenger from Wu. He told them not to admit Zhuge Jin.

But Huang Quan said, “His brother being your Prime Minister, Zhuge Jin is certainly come on some important mission. Your Majesty ought to see him and hear what he says. If his proposals are admissible, then agree; if not, he can be made use of to take knowledge of your intentions to Sun Quan and let Sun Quan know that you intend to punish his crime.”

Then the First Ruler gave way, and the messenger was brought in. He bowed down to the earth.

“Zhuge Jin, you have come a long journey. What is its object?” said the First Ruler.

“My brother has long served Your Majesty; I have come at the risk of my life to discuss Jingzhou affairs. When Guan Yu was at Jingzhou, my master repeatedly sought to ally the two families by marriage, but was refused. When Guan Yu attacked Xiangyang, Cao Cao wrote again and again urging my master to attack Jingzhou. But the Marquis was unwilling, and it was the enmity between your brother and Lu Meng that led to the attack and the unfortunate success.

“My master is now very sorry for it, but it was Lu Meng’s doing. However, Lu Meng is now dead, and his enmity has died with him. Moreover, Lady Sun is always thinking over returning to you. My master now proposes to send back the lady, to bind and hand over to you those officers who surrendered, and to restore Jingzhou. If the two houses swear perpetual amity, then we may join forces against Cao Pi and punish his usurpation.”

To this harangue the First Ruler only replied, “You of East Wu killed my brother. Yet you dare come with your artful talk!”

Zhuge Jin said, “I only wish to discuss the relative importance of the issues. Your Majesty is an Imperial Uncle, and Cao Pi has seized the throne of your House. Yet you do not think of destroying the usurper, but on the other hand you disregard the most honorable position in the world for the sake of a so-called brother, a connection of another name. Surely this is rejecting the chief for the subordinate, the main issue for a detail.

“The Middle Land is the biggest part of the empire, and the two capitals, Luoyang and Changan, are both famous as places whence the two, one the Founder, the other the Restorer, of the Hans, initiated their mighty task. Your Majesty takes no thought of these, but would dispute over Jingzhou. In other words, the important is abandoned for the worthless.

“All the world knows of your assumption of the dignity of Emperor and that you will assuredly restore the Hans and rescue their territory. Only now you do not try to deal with Wei, you only desire to attack Wu. I venture to think you have made a bad choice.”

All this argument only added fuel to the fire.

“The slayer of my brother shall not live in the same world as I. You ask me not to fight. I will cease when I have slain your master. Were it not for the sake of your brother, I would behead you at once. As it is, you may go; and you may tell your master to cleanse his neck ready for the blade of the executioner.”

Zhuge Jin saw that the position was hopeless and took his leave to return to the South Land.

But while Zhuge Jin had been absent, Zhang Zhao said to Sun Quan, “Zhuge Jin knows something of the strength of the Shu armies, and he made this mission an excuse to get out of danger. He will not return.”

The Marquis replied, “He and I are sworn friends—friends to the death. I shall not wrong him, nor will he betray me. When he was at Chaisang and Zhuge Liang came to our country, I wanted my friend Zhuge Jin to persuade his brother to remain with me. His reply was that his brother would not remain any more than he himself would go: Each would be faithful to his salt. That was quite clear enough. How could he desert me after that? Our friendship has something of the divine in it, and no talk from outside can sow dissension between us.”

Even as Sun Quan spoke, the servants told him that Zhuge Jin had returned.

“What do you think now?” said Sun Quan.

Zhang Zhao retired overwhelmed with shame. The luckless messenger unfolded his tale of failure.

“Then the South Land is in great danger,” said Sun Quan, as he heard the story.

But a certain man here interposed, saying, “I have a way out of the difficulty.”

He was Counselor Zhao Zi.

“What good scheme do you propose, friend Zhao Zi?” said Sun Quan.

“Let my lord draw up a document, which I will take to Cao Pi in Wei, making a full statement of the case, and get him to attack Hanzhong and so draw off the danger from our land.”

“Though the suggestion is good, yet shall we not lose something of our dignity by that?” said Sun Quan.

“If there is any such thing, I will simply jump into the river—I could not look the South Land’s people in the face again.”

Sun Quan was satisfied and composed the memorial, styling himself “Minister”. Therein Zhao Zi was duly appointed messenger. He took the document and soon reached Capital Xuchang, where he first sought out the High Minister Jia Xu, and then saw the others.

Next day, Jia Xu stood forth one day at court and said, “East Wu has sent a high officer, Zhao Zi, with a memorial.”

“Because he wants the armies of Shu driven off,” said Cao Pi, smiling.

But he summoned Zhao Zi, who, having prostrated himself in the outer court, handed in his memorial.

After reading it, Cao Pi said, “What sort of an over-lord is the Marquis?”

“Intelligent, clear-sighted, wise, brave, and perspicacious,” was the reply.

Cao Pi laughed, “Your praise is none too enthusiastic.”

“I do not wish to overstate,” replied Zhao Zi, “but my master has shown various qualities at different times. He made use of Lu Su among the officials of high ranks, which shows his intelligence. He chose Lu Meng as leader of all armies, which showed his clear-sightedness. He captured Yu Jin but did not hurt him, which shows his kindliness. He took Jingzhou without slaughter, which shows his wisdom. He maintains the Three Rivers so as to command the respect of the empire, which shows his boldness. Lastly, he bows before Your Majesty, which shows his perspicacity. You see now that my epithets are justifiable.”

“Is he at all learned?”

“Sire, remember he commands a large fleet of ten thousand battleships and a huge army of million armored soldiers. He endeavors to find wise and capable people to help him, and his mind is full of plans and projects. When he has a little leisure, he reads the histories and the annals, for the sake of the general lessons to be learned therefrom. He is no dryasdust pedant seeking remarkable passages and culling model sentences.”

“Do you think I could overcome Wu?”

“If a large state has military force to attack, a small one has also preparations for defense.”

“Does Wu fear Wei?” asked Cao Pi.

“How can you think so, considering our army of million armored soldiers and the defensive moats we have in the River Han and the Great River?”

“How many such persons as high minister does Wu possess?”

“Nearly a hundred intelligent and specially qualified ministers like your servants; of my sort of ordinary knowledge there are too many to reckon up.”

Cao Pi sighed, saying, “The book says ‘Going on mission without losing the dignity of the master.’ That is the sort of man you are!”

Thereupon he issued the mandate ordering Xing Zhen, Minister of Ceremonies and Sacrifices, to be his ambassador to Wu, bearing for Sun Quan the title of “Prince of Wu” and allowing him to use the “Nine Signs of Honors”.

But when the messenger had gone out of the city, Liu Ye went to remonstrate, saying, “Sun Quan has done this for fear of the armies of Shu. In my opinion, if Shu and Wu fight, heaven will make an end of one country. If you will send an army across the Great River to attack, and Shu attack at the same time from the west, Wu as a state will disappear. If Wu goes, then Shu will be left alone and can be dealt with when you will.”

“But I cannot attack Sun Quan now that he has come over to my side. It would prevent anyone else from doing so. No; I will really accept his submission. It is the best course.”

Liu Ye said, “After all, though talented, he is but a General of the Flying Cavalry and Lord of Nanzhang of the decadent days of Han. His rank is low and his influence small, yet he still wants to contest the Middle Land. If you promote him to kingly rank, he is only one step below yourself. While doubting the reality of his submission, you give him an exalted rank and increase his influence. Surely this is only giving wings to a tiger.”

“Not at all; I am helping neither Wu nor Shu. I am waiting till they are at grips, and if one goes under, there will be only one left to destroy. That will be easy. However, say no more, for I have decided.”

Whereupon Xing Zhen was bidden to take the mandate and the Nine Dignities and accompany Zhao Zi to Wu.

Sun Quan assembled his officers to discuss how the armies of Shu could be driven off. Then came the news of princely rank conferred by Wei. By the rules of courtesy, the messenger bearing the edict should be met at a great distance from the capital, but Gu Yong was opposed to accepting the rank.

“My lord, you should style yourself ‘Supreme Ruler’ and ‘Lord’ of the nine territories. You should not receive any rank from Wei.”

“But on one occasion Liu Bang received the princedom of Han (Hanzhong) from Xiang Yu. I have to depend upon circumstances. Why refuse?”

Sun Quan discussed the matter no more, but went out at the head of a great gathering of officers to welcome the messenger.

Xing Zhen, the bearer of the mandate from Wei, on first arrival comported himself haughtily as the representative of a superior country and an imperial ambassador. And when he entered the city, he did not descend from his carriage. Wherefore Zhang Zhao ventured to rebuke him.

“Everyone must obey the rules of courtesy as everyone must respect the laws. You, Sir, are behaving proudly as if there was no such thing as a sword in this country.”

Immediately the messenger descended from his chariot and was presented to Sun Quan. Afterwards they went in side by side.

As the cavalcade proceeded, a loud voice was heard in the rear of the two carriages, crying, “Here we are prevented from risking our lives in smashing Wei and swallowing Shu; and our lord receives a title from another man. Are not such things shameful?”

The man was Xu Sheng.

And Xing Zhen sighed, saying, “If all the leaders and ministers of the South Land are like this, the Prince of Wu will not long be content to obey another.”

However, the title was accepted. And when he had received the felicitations of his officers, Sun Quan gave orders to collect beautiful works in jade and brilliant pearls, which were sent to Wei as return gifts.

Not long after came tidings of the forces of Shu: “The First Ruler, together with King Shamo Ke of the Mang nations, leads his own army and a large number of tribesmen from the east and south. Furthermore, he is aided by the two Shu generals of Dongxi, Liu Ning and Du Lu, with their cohorts. They advance both by land and by water, a mighty host, of which the shouting shakes the heavens. The naval force has already come out at Wukou, and the land force has reached Zigui.”

Although Sun Quan had been created a prince, yet Emperor Pi would not send a relieve army.

When the terrible news came, the Prince of Wu asked present advice from his officers, saying, “How are we going to meet those forces?”

But there was none to help him. They only muttered and were silent.

“Ah!” sighed he. “After Zhou Yu I had Lu Su, and Lu Meng succeeded Lu Su. But now they have all three gone, and there is no one to share my troubles!”

But just then a very youthful general stepped out from the ranks of the officials and said, with a lowly obeisance, “Though I am young, I am not a little versed in the books of war, and with a few legions I could destroy the power of Shu.”

Sun Quan recognized Sun Huan, the son of Sun Hu. Sun Hu was originally from the Yu family, and he had served under Sun Jian, Sun Quan’s father. Sun Jian loved the youth and gave him his own family name of Sun and so made him a member of his own clan. Sun Hu had four sons, of whom Sun Huan was the eldest. Sun Huan was an expert archer and horseman and had accompanied Sun Quan in several campaigns, where he had distinguished himself right well and had been given a rank of Commander. At this time he was twenty-five.

“How do you think you can overcome them?”

“There are two able commanders under my command named Xie Jing and Li Yi, both very brave. With a few legions I will capture Liu Bei.”

“Though you are brave, nephew, yet you are young and ought to have an assistant.”

Thereupon Tiger General Zhu Ran stepped forward, saying, “Let me go.”

Sun Quan consented. He promoted Sun Huan to General of the Left Army, and he told off fifty thousand of soldiers and marines, over whom he placed Sun Huan and Zhu Ran as joint commanders. They were to start as soon as possible.

The scouts reported that the army of Shu was camped at Yidu, and Sun Huan led half his army to the borders of that county and camped in three stockades.

Now the Shu General Hu Ban had received his seal as Leader of the Van. From the day he left the borders of the River Lands, he had had uninterrupted success. Everyone had submitted at the mere rumor of his coming. He had conducted his campaign with unstained swords as far as Yidu. When he heard that Sun Huan was camped there to oppose his progress, he sent back rapid messengers to the First Ruler, who was then at Zigui.

The First Ruler got angry, saying, “So they think this youth is able to withstand me?”

“Since this nephew of Sun Quan has been made a leader,” said Guan Xing, “it is unnecessary to send a leader of high rank. Let me go.”

“I was just wishing to see what you could do,” said the First Ruler, and he gave him orders to go.

Just as Guan Xing was leaving, Zhang Bao stepped forth and asked permission to go too.

“Then both go, my nephews,” said the Emperor. “But you must be prudent and not hasty.”

So they took leave, collected their troops and advanced. Sun Huan, hearing of the coming of a large army, called out all his troops and drew up his array. His two famous generals, Li Yi and Xie Jing, were placed by the great standard. They watched the soldiers of Shu filing out and noted two leaders in silver helmets and silver armors, riding on white horses, and the flags were white. First came Zhang Bao with a long spear, and then Guan Xing carrying a great saber.

“Sun Huan, you tiny rascal, your time has come!” cried Zhang Bao abusively. “How dare you stand against the forces of Heaven?”

“Your father is a headless devil,” cried Sun Huan, no way backward in reviling, “and you are going just now to join him. Don’t you see?”

Then Zhang Bao rode at Sun Huan. From behind his chief, Xie Jing dashed out to meet him. They fought nearly forty bouts, and then Xie Jing ran away with Zhang Bao in pursuit.

When Li Yi saw his comrade overcome, he whipped up his steed and came into the fray, whirling his silvered battle-ax. Zhang Bao fought twenty bouts with him, but neither got the better.

Then in the army of Wu, a marching general named Tan Xiong, seeing that his two comrades could not overcome Zhang Bao, shot a treacherous arrow from the ranks and wounded Zhang Bao’s steed. Feeling the pang of the wound, the horse bolted back to its own side, but fell before it reached it, throwing its rider sprawling on the ground. Seeing this, Li Yi turned and rode toward the prostrate leader to slay him with his battle-ax. But just as he was about to deliver his blow, lo! a red flash came between, and his head rolled along the earth.

The red flash was Guan Xing’s great sword. Seeing the horse fall and Li Yi coming up, he had rushed in and dealt that fatal blow. And he had saved Zhang Bao from death. Then they attacked and lay on so that Sun Huan suffered a great defeat. Then each side beat the retreat and drew off.

Next day Sun Huan came out to offer battle again, and the two cousins went forth together. Guan Xing, from horseback by the main standard, challenged his enemy. Sun Huan rode out fiercely, and they two fought near thirty bouts. But Sun Huan was not strong enough and drew off. The two youths followed and reached his camp. Hu Ban, together with Feng Xi and Zhang Nan, also launched another attack. Zhang Bao helped them with all his force and was the first to force his way into the ranks of Wu. He came across Xie Jing, whom he slew with a spear thrust. The soldiers of Wu scattered and fled, and the victory was on the side of Shu.

But Guan Xing was missing. Zhang Bao was desperate, saying, “If something wrong happens to Guan Xing, I will not live!”

So he girded on his huge spear and rode far and wide seeking him. Presently he met Guan Xing, bearing his sword in his left hand, while his right held a captive.

“Who is this?” asked Zhang Bao.

“In the melee I met an enemy,” said Guan Xing, “and I took him prisoner.”

Then Zhang Bao recognized Tan Xiong, the man who had let fly the treacherous arrow that had brought down his horse. The two returned to camp, where they slew their prisoner and poured a libation of his blood to the dead horse.

After this they drew up a report of the victory for the First Ruler. Sun Huan had lost his generals—Li Yi, Xie Jing, and Tan Xiong—as well as several other officers and many troops. His army was too weakened to continue the campaign, so he halted and sent back to Wu for reinforcements.

Then Generals Zhang Nan and Feng Xi said to Hu Ban, “The power of Wu is broken. Let us raid their encampment.”

But Hu Ban said, “Though so many have been lost, there are many left. Zhu Ran’s marine force is in a strong position on the river and is untouched. If you carry out your plan and the marines land in force and cut off our retreat, we shall be in difficulties.”

“That is easily met,” said Zhang Nan. “Let each of the two leaders Guan Xing and Zhang Bao take five thousand troops and go into ambush in the valleys to guard against any such move.”

Said Hu Ban, “I think it better to send some persons to pretend to be deserters. Let them tell Zhu Ran of the plan to raid the camp, and Zhu Ran will come to the rescue as soon as he sees fire. Then the ambushing soldiers can attack him.”

They thought this a fine plan, and they made the necessary arrangements.

Hearing of the ill success and losses of his colleague Sun Huan, Zhu Ran was already thinking of going to his help, when a few deserters appeared and hoarded his ship.

He questioned them, and they said, “We are Feng Xi’s soldiers, and we have deserted because of unfair treatment. We have a secret to tell.”

“What secret can you betray?”

“Tonight Feng Xi is going to make an attack upon General Sun Huan’s camp. He thinks it is a good chance. They are going to raise a fire as a signal.”

Zhu Ran saw no reason to doubt the men, and he sent off at once to tell Sun Huan. But the messenger never arrived, as Guan Xing intercepted and slew him.

Then Zhu Ran deliberated upon going to help.

“You cannot trust what those soldiers said,” said Cui Yu, one of the commanders. “Both army and navy will be lost if anything goes wrong. No, General; rather keep careful watch and let me go.”

Zhu Ran saw this was the wiser plan, so he gave Cui Yu ten thousand troops, and Cui Yu left.

That night Hu Ban, Zhang Nan, and Feng Xi made an attack on Sun Huan’s camp from three directions, and the soldiers were scattered and fled. Then the three generals set the whole camp on fire. Cui Yu saw the flames as he marched and pressed on. Then just as he was passing some hills, he came upon the ambush, and Guan Xing and Zhang Bao poured out from left and right. Taken by surprise, Cui Yu could only try to flee, but he met Zhang Bao, who made him prisoner.

When Zhu Ran heard the news, he was panic-stricken and dropped down-river twenty miles. The remnant of Sun Huan’s troops ran away, following their leader.

As they fled, Sun Huan inquired, “Is there any city ahead that has good defense and granary?”

They told him, saying, “To the north is Yiling, where we can camp.”

So they went thither.

Just as they reached the wall, their pursuers came up and the city was besieged in all four sides.

Guan Xing and Zhang Bao brought the captive Cui Yu back to Zigui and saw the First Ruler, who rejoiced at their success. The prisoner was put to death, and the soldiers were rewarded. The effect of these victories spread far, so that the leaders in Wu had no inclination to fight.

When the Prince of Wu received Sun Huan’s call for help, he was frightened and knew not what to do.

So he called a great council, and he said, “Sun Huan is besieged in Yiling, and Zhu Ran has been defeated on the river. What can be done?”

Then Zhang Zhao said, “Though several of your commanders are dead, yet have you many left. Half a score is enough to relieve your anxiety. Send Han Dang as Commander, with Zhou Tai as his second, Pan Zhang as Van Leader, Ling Tong as Rear Guard, Gan Ning in reserve. You want one hundred thousand troops.”

Sun Quan made the appointments as proposed. Gan Ning was very seriously ill just then, but he accepted the task.

Now the First Ruler had made a line of forty camps from Wukou and Jianping to Yiling, spreading twenty-five miles of distance.

He was exceedingly pleased with his two nephews, who had distinguished themselves again and again, and he said, “The generals that have followed me since the early days have got aged, and thus no longer a big use. But now that I have such two valorous nephews, I have no fear for Sun Quan.”

Then he heard of the coming of Sun Quan’s army under Han Dang and Zhou Tai, and he wished to select a commander to oppose the Wu army.

But those near him reported: “Huang Zhong and a half dozen other officers have run off to Wu!”

“Huang Zhong is no traitor,” said the First Ruler, smiling. “It is only that he heard what I happened to say about old and useless leaders. He will not accept he is useless and wants to prove he is not.”

Then he called Guan Xing and Zhang Bao and said to them, “Huang Zhong may fail in this enterprise of his, so I hope you two will not mind going to his assistance. As soon as there is some success to report, get him to return and do not let him come to grief.”

So the two got their troops together and went off to assist the aged warrior.

[hip, hip, hip]
When young, success is easy, thine at will,
The aged servant fails, though willing still.
[yip, yip, yip]

The next chapter will relate the outcome of Huang Zhong’s expedition.

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