Romance of Three Kingdoms Chapter 83


Fighting At Xiaoting, The First Ruler Captures An Enemy;
Defending The Three Gorges, A Student Takes Supreme Command.

In spring, the first month of the second year of Manifest Might (AD 221), the veteran warrior Huang Zhong was among the officers who followed the First Ruler to war against Wu. When he heard his master talk of old and incapable leaders, he girded on his sword and with a few faithful followers made his way to the camps at Yiling. He was welcomed by Hu Ban, the commander in charge of the siege there.

“For what reason do you come, O Veteran General?” asked he.

“I have followed the Emperor ever since he left Changsha, and I have done diligent service. I am now over seventy, but my appetite is still good for ten pounds of meat, and I can still stretch the strongest bow, and I can still ride five hundred miles without fatigue. I am not weak or worn out. But our master has been talking of old and useless leaders, and I am come to take part in the fight with Wu. If I slay one of their leaders, he will see I may be old but not worn out.”

Just about that time the leading division of the Wu army drew near the camp. Huang Zhong hastily rose, went out of the tent, and mounted to go into the battle.

“Aged General, be careful!” said the generals.

But Huang Zhong paid no attention and set off at full speed. However, Hu Ban and Feng Xi rode out to help him. As soon as he saw the array of the enemy, he pulled up and challenged Commander Pan Zhang of the vanguard. Pan Zhang sent out one of his generals, Shi Ji, to take the challenge. Shi Ji despised his seed antagonist and rode lightly forth with his spear set, but in the third bout Huang Zhong cut him down. This angered Pan Zhang who flourished the green-dragon saber, the great sword of the old warrior Guan Yu which had passed into his possession, and took up the battle. These two fought several bouts, and neither was victor, for Huang Zhong was brimful of energy. His antagonist, seeing that he could not overcome the old man, galloped off. Huang Zhong pursued and smote his army and scored a full victory.

On his way back Huang Zhong fell in with the two youthful generals, Guan Xing and Zhang Bao.

“We come by the sacred command to aid you if necessary. And now that you have scored so complete a victory, we pray you return to the main camp,” said they.

But the veteran would not. Next day Pan Zhang came to challenge again, and Huang Zhong at once accepted. Nor would he allow Guan Xing and Zhang Bao to come with him, or accept assistance from any other.

He led out five thousand troops. Before many bouts had been exchanged, Pan Zhang made a feint and got away. Huang Zhong pursued, shouting to him not to flee.

“Flee not, for now will I avenge the death of Guan Yu!” cried he.

Huang Zhong pursued some ten miles, but presently he fell into an ambush and found himself attacked from all sides—Zhou Tai on the left, Han Dang on the right, Ling Tong from behind, and the erstwhile flying Pan Zhang turned to attack the front—, so that he was surrounded and hemmed in. Huang Zhong forced his way to retreat. But suddenly a great storm came on, the wind blowing violently, and as Huang Zhong was passing some hills, an enemy cohort led by Ma Zhong came down the slopes, and one of the arrows wounded the veteran in the armpit. He nearly fell from his horse with the shock. The soldiers of Wu, seeing Huang Zhong wounded, came on all together, but soon the two youthful generals, Guan Xing and Zhang Bao, drove them off and scattered them. Thus they rescued Huang Zhong.

He was taken back to the main camp. But he was old and his blood was thin, and the wound gaped wide, so that he was near to die.

The First Ruler came to visit him and patted his back and said, “It is my fault, O Veteran General, that you have been hurt in the battle!”

“I am a soldier,” said the old man. “I am glad that I could serve Your Majesty. But now I am seventy-five, and I have lived long enough. Be careful of your own safety for the good of the state.”

These were his last words. He became unconscious and died that night. A poem was written of him:

[hip, hip, hip]
First among veterans stands Huang Zhong,
Who won great merit in the conquest of Shu.
Old, he still donned his coat of mail,
And laid his hand to the curving bow.
His valor was the talk of all the north,
Fear of his might maintained the west.
Tardy he bowed his snow-white head to death,
Fighting to the end—in very truth a hero.
[yip, yip, yip]

Huang Zhong passed away, and the First Ruler looked on, very sad. He made Huang Zhong a grave in Chengdu and ordered an honorable burial there.

“My brave general is gone,” sighed he, “and the third of my five Tiger Generals, and I have been unable to avenge their death. It is very grievous!”

So the Emperor led the Imperial Guards to Xiaoting, where he summoned a great assembly. He divided his forces into eight parts ready for an attack by land and water. The marines were placed under Huang Quan, and he himself led the land forces. It was then the second month of the second year of Manifest Might Era (AD 221).

When Han Dang and Zhou Tai heard that the army of Shu was approaching, they marched toward it. When near, the two armies were arrayed. The two leaders of Wu rode out and saw the First Ruler riding out under the great standard with his staff about him. A silken umbrella splashed with gold was over his head; right and left were white banners, golden axes, and other insignia of an emperor.

Then Han Dang spoke, “Your Majesty is now the Ruler of Shu. Why do you risk your life in the battlefield? It would be most regrettable if any untoward event happened.”

The First Ruler pointed the finger of scorn at the speaker and said, “You rats of Wu bereft me of my brother, and I have sworn that you shall not live with me under the same sky!”

“Who dares plunge in among the enemy?” asked Han Dang, turning to those in his train.

Marching General Xia Xun set his spear and rode to the front, and so did Zhang Bao with a roar gallop out to meet him. But this thunderous voice affrighted Xia Xun, and he sought to flee. Then Zhou Tai’s brother, Zhou Ping, seeing that his colleague was panic-stricken, flourished his sword and rode out too. At once Guan Xing dashed to the front. Zhang Bao roared again and thrusting at Xia Xun and unhorsing him. This disconcerted Zhou Ping and enfeebled his defense, so that Guan Xing speedily slew him with a slash. Then the two youths rode furiously at Han Dang and Zhou Tai. They sought refuge in their battle array.

“The tiger fathers have not begotten curs of sons,” said the First Ruler with a sigh of satisfaction.

Then he waved his whip as a signal to fall on, and the Wu army suffered a great defeat. The Shu force of the eight divisions was irresistible as a river in flood, and the slaughter was immense.

Gan Ning was in his ship ill, but he roused himself when he heard the armies of Shu had come, and mounted to go into the battle. Soon he met a cohort of the Mang soldiers. These warriors wore their hair loose and went barefoot. Their weapons were bows and crossbows and long spears and swords and axes. And they had shields to ward off blows. They were led by their own King Shamo Ke. His face was spotted with red as if splashed with blood, and his eyes were green and big. He rushed among Gan Ning’s troops wielding a spiked iron mace with bone pendants, and he had two bows slung at his belt. He was terrible to look upon.

Gan Ning recognized that he had no chance of victory against such a man and did not engage Shamo Ke, but turned his steed to flee. But as Gan Ning fled, Shamo Ke shot an arrow that pierced Gan Ning’s skull. Wounded as he was, Gan Ning rode on to Fuchikou, but there he dismounted and sat under a big tree, where he died. On the tree were many hundreds of crows, and they gathered round the corpse as if to protect it.

[e] Gan Ning’s temple on the mouth of Fuchi River is still here today. When visitors come to pay respect, they often see crows bidding farewell to them when they leave.

The Prince of Wu was sore grieved at the news of Gan Ning’s death, and had the remains buried honorably. Moreover, he raised a temple in Fuchikou to Gan Ning’s memory*.

[hip, hip, hip]
Gan Ning was first of warriors in Wu,
With silken sails he stemmed the Great River’s tide,
Right loyally he served his prince, and true,
He made two ill friends put their hate aside.
Light horse led he by night a camp to raid,
And first he warmed his soldiers with generous wine.
In his resting place the holy crows welcome guests,
And fragrant incense smolders at his shrine.
[yip, yip, yip]

This victory gave the First Ruler possession of Xiaoting. But at the muster after the battle, Guan Xing did not appear. Search parties were sent to find him, and they went far and wide beating the country around.

However, the dashing young soldier was only following in his father’s foe. When Guan Xing had got in among the army of Wu, he had caught sight of Pan Zhang, his especial enemy, and galloped in pursuit. In terror, Pan Zhang took to the hills and disappeared in one of the valleys.

In seeking him, Guan Xing lost his way and went to and fro till it grew dark without finding a way out. It was clear moonlight. Near midnight he came to a farm, where he dismounted and knocked at the door. A venerable old man appeared and asked who he was.

“I am a leader of the army, and I have lost my way. I beg a meal, for I am starving,” said Guan Xing.

The old man led him into a hall lit by many candles, and there he saw in the family altar a picture of Guan Yu. At once he began to wail and bowed before it.

“Why do you wail thus?” asked the old man.

“This is my father,” said Guan Xing.

At this, the old man prostrated himself before his guest.

“Why should you treat my father with such respect?” asked Guan Xing.

“This place is sacred to his honored spirit. While he lived the people served him, and now that he is a spirit should they not revere him the more? I have been waiting for the armies of Shu to avenge his death, and it is indeed the great good fortune of the people that you have come.”

Then the host brought forth wine and food and served his guest. Moreover, he unsaddled and fed his horse.

In the third watch a knocking came at the door, and when the old man opened it, the visitor was no other than Pan Zhang, the General of Wu. He also asked shelter.

As Pan Zhang came in, Guan Xing recognized him and drew his sword, crying, “Stay, you ruffian! Do not flee!”

Pan Zhang turned to flee. But before he could turn, Guan Xing raised his sword: It fell, and Pan Zhang lay dead. Taking the heart-blood of his dead enemy, Guan Xing poured it in libation before the picture of his father. After that he took possession of his father’s green-dragon saber, curved as the young moon. Having hacked off the head of his fallen enemy, he fastened it to his bridle. Then he took leave of his aged host, saddled his enemy’s horse, and rode away toward his own camp.

The old man dragged the corpse of the dead commander outside and burned it.

Guan Xing had not gone very far when he heard the neighing of horses and soon met a troop led by Ma Zhong, one of Pan Zhang’s generals, who was looking for his chief. Ma Zhong fell into a great rage when he saw the head of Pan Zhang swinging at the neck of Guan Xing’s horse and beheld the famous sword in his hand. Ma Zhong galloped up furiously, and Guan Xing, who recognized an enemy of his late father, rushed to meet him. Just as he would strike, however, Ma Zhong’s three hundred troops galloped up to support their general, and Guan Xing was surrounded. He was in dire danger, but just opportunely came up a troop of horse led by his cousin Zhang Bao. At this, Ma Zhong, thinking discretion the better part, drew off his army and rode away.

The two cousins pursued him. Before they had gone far, they met another force under Mi Fang and Fu Shiren, who had come out to seek Ma Zhong. The two bodies of soldiers met and fought, but the troops of Shu were too few for victory and drew off. Thence they made their way to headquarters in Xiaoting, where they told their adventures and presented the head of Pan Zhang. The First Ruler was very pleased and rewarded all armed forces.

Ma Zhong went back and rejoined Han Dang and Zhou Tai. Then they collected their troops, many wounded, and stationed them in various points.

Ma Zhong, together with Mi Fang and Fu Shiren, marched to the river bank and encamped. The night they arrived, many soldiers were groaning with the pain of their wounds.

Mi Fang, who was listening unknown to them, heard one of them say, “We are Jingzhou soldiers and victims of Lu Meng’s vile machinations. If we had only remained under Liu Bei! Now he is Emperor and has set out to destroy Wu, and he will do it one day. But he has a special grudge against Mi Fang and Fu Shiren. Why should we not kill these two and go over to Shu? They will think we have done well.”

Another said, “Do not be hasty. We will do it presently when there is a chance.”

Mi Fang started as he heard this. He told Fu Shiren, saying, “The troops are mutinous, and we ourselves are in danger. Ma Zhong is an object of especial hatred to the Ruler of Shu. Suppose we kill him and surrender. We can say we were compelled to give in to Wu, but as soon as the news of the Emperor came near, we wanted to get back.”

“It will not do,” said Fu Shiren. “If we go, they will kill us.”

“No; the Ruler of Shu is liberal and kind. And the heir, Liu Shan, is my nephew. They will surely not do any harm to a connection.”

In the end they decided to go. And in the third watch they made their way into their chief’s tent and stabbed him to death. Then they cut off his head, and with their grisly trophy and a few dozen followers they set off for the camp of the Ruler of Shu.

They arrived at the outposts and were taken to see Zhang Nan and Feng Xi, to whom they told their tale. Next day they went into the main camp and were admitted to the presence of the First Ruler, to whom they offered their trophy.

And they threw themselves on the ground and wept, saying “We are not traitors. We were the victims of Lu Meng’s wickedness. He said that Guan Yu was dead and tricked us into giving up the cities. We could not help surrendering. When we heard the Sacred Chariot had come, we slew Ma Zhong to satisfy your vengeance, and we implore forgiveness.”

But the First Ruler was angry, and said, “I left Chengdu a long time ago. Why did you not come to confess your fault before? Now you find yourselves in danger, and so you come with this specious tale to try to save your lives. If I pardon you, how shall I look my brother in the face when we meet beneath the Nine Golden Springs?”

Then he bade Guan Xing set up an altar to his father in the camp, and thereon the First Ruler offered the head of Ma Zhong in sacrifice before the tablet of Guan Yu. This done, he had Guan Xing strip the two deserters and make them kneel before the altar. And presently with his own hand, Guan Xing hewed them in pieces as a sacrifice.

Presently Zhang Bao came in and wailed before the First Ruler, saying, “The two enemies of my uncle have been slain, but when will vengeance be taken upon those of my father?”

“Do not grieve, my nephew,” said the First Ruler, “I am going to lay waste the South Land and slay the whole of the curs that live there. I will assuredly capture the two murderers of your father, and you shall hack them to pieces as a sacrifice.”

Zhang Bao went away, still weeping.

About this time the fear of the First Ruler was very great among the people of the South Land, who stood in dread of him so that they grieved night and day. Han Dang and Zhou Tai were rather frightened too, and they sent a report to their master of the assassination of Ma Zhong and what had befallen the assassins.

Then Sun Quan was distressed and called together his counselors. At this meeting Bu Zhi proposed submission and self-humiliation for the sake of peace.

Said he, “There were five persons—Lu Meng, Pan Zhang, Ma Zhong, Mi Fang, and Fu Shiren—whom Liu Bei had a grudge against, and they are all dead. Now the objects of his hate are the murderers of Zhang Fei—Fan Jiang and Zhang Da. Why not send back Zhang Fei’s head, and these two assassins, and give up Jingzhou and restore Lady Sun and ask for peace and alliance against Wei? This will make the army of Shu retire, and we shall have peace.”

This proposal seemed good. So the head of Zhang Fei was enclosed in a sandalwood box; Fan Jiang and Zhang Da were bound and put in a cage-cart. All these were sent, with letters, by the hand of Cheng Bing to the camp at Xiaoting.

The First Ruler was about to march farther east when they told him that a messenger had come from the South Land and what he had brought.

The Ruler struck his forehead with both hands, saying, “This is the direct gift of Heaven through my youngest brother’s spirit.”

He bade Zhang Bao prepare an altar whereon to sacrifice the heads of his father’s assassins. When he opened the box and saw the fresh features of Zhang Fei, he broke into wailing for the dead. Then the son hewed Fan Jiang and Zhang Da in pieces and offered them upon the altar.

But this sacrifice did not appease the First Ruler’s anger, and he still desired to destroy Wu. Whereupon Ma Liang remonstrated.

“Your enemies are now all dead: You are avenged. Wu has sent a high officer with large concessions and awaits your reply.”

But the First Ruler angrily replied, “The one I would grind to pieces is Sun Quan. To act as he proposes and enter into alliance would be treachery to my two brothers and a breach of our oath. Now I will exterminate Wu, and Wei shall follow.”

He wished also to put the messenger to death to annihilate all emotions with Wu, but relented when his officers insistently interceded.

Poor Cheng Bing ran off terrified, glad to escape with life. He went back and told the Prince of Wu how implacable his enemy seemed.

Said he, “The Ruler of Shu, not listening to words of peace, was determined to level Wu before attacking Wei. Those under him protested in vain. What is to be done?”

Sun Quan was frightened and bewildered.

Seeing this, Kan Ze stepped forward and said, “Since there is a sky-supporting pillar, why not use it?”

“Whom do you refer to?” asked Sun Quan.

“You once had perfect confidence in Zhou Yu, and he was followed by Lu Su, equally able. Lu Meng succeeded and you pinned your faith upon him. Though now Lu Meng is dead, yet there is Lu Xun. And he is quite near, in Jingzhou. He is well-known to be a scholar, but really he is a bold and capable man, no whit inferior to Zhou Yu, in my opinion. The plan that broke Guan Yu was his. If anyone can destroy Shu, it is he. If he fails, then I will stand the same punishment as may be his.”

“If you had not spoken thus, my whole scheme might have gone amiss,” said Sun Quan.

“Lu Xun is a student,” said Zhang Zhao. “He is no match for Liu Bei. You may not use him.”

Gu Yong also said, “Lu Xun is too young and too inexperienced. I fear he will not be obeyed, and that will be mischievous.”

Bu Zhi added, “Lu Xun is well enough to control a region, but he is not fit for a big matter.”

Kan Ze got desperate, shouting, “It is the only hope. I will guarantee him with the lives of all my house!”

“I know he is able,” said Sun Quan, “and I have now made up my mind he is the man. Gentlemen, that is enough.”

Lu Xun was called home. Lu Xun was originally named Lu Yi. He was a native of Wujun in Wu, grandson of Lu Jun, who was Commander of the City Gates of the Han, and son of Lu Yu, Commander of Jiujiang. He was eight spans in height, with a beautiful face, like the finest jade.

When Lu Xun arrived at court and made his bow, Sun Quan said to him, “I wish to send you in supreme command of all the forces against Shu.”

“Sir, you have numerous old and tried officers under your command. I am very young and not at all clever,” replied Lu Xun.

“Kan Ze goes bail for you and pledges his whole house. Moreover, I know your abilities. You must be Commander-in-Chief and may not refuse the appointment.”

“But what will happen if the officers do not support me?”

“Here is authority!” said Sun Quan, taking his own sword from his side and giving it to Lu Xun. “Slay the disobedient and report afterwards.”

“I am grateful for this proof of confidence, but I dare not accept forthwith. I pray you assemble all the officers and confer the office upon me in their presence.”

Said Kan Ze, “The ancient fashion was to set up a platform and thereon present to the leader-elect a white yak’s tail and a golden ax with the seal of office and commission. Thereafter his dignity and the reverence due from others were beyond all question. It would be well, O Prince, to follow the old rule. Choose a good day and appoint Lu Xun before all the world, and no one will refuse support.”

An altar was begun at once. They worked at it day and night, and as soon as it was finished a great assembly was called. Then Lu Xun was requested to ascend and make his bow on receiving his appointment as Commander-in-Chief, General of the Right Army, General Who Guards the West, and Lord of Fenglou. The sword of authority and the seal of office were presented. His powers extended over the six territories and the eighty-one counties of the South Land, over the forces in Jingzhou and Wu.

And in charging him Sun Quan said, “Domestic affairs belong to me; outer affairs are under your direction.”

Lu Xun then descended. He chose Xu Sheng and Ding Feng as commanders of his guards, and the army lost no time in taking the field. The various dispositions of horse and foot and navy were made, and dispatches were sent to the outlying commanders.

When the dispatch reached Han Dang and Zhou Tai, who were camping near Xiaoting, they were alarmed, saying, “Why did the Prince appoint a mere bookish student to the commandership of all armed forces?”

So when the new Commander-in-Chief came, they showed their discontent by a lack of hearty support. Lu Xun went to his tent to receive the reports, and there the majority of the officers manifested only sullen respect and unwilling deference.

Then Lu Xun addressed them, saying, “By order of my superior I am Commander-in-Chief, and my commission is to destroy Shu. You, gentlemen, all know the ordinary military rules, and you would do well to obey them. The law is no respecter of persons, as those who disobey will find out. Do not have to regret when it is too late.”

They nodded in sullen acquiescence.

Then Zhou Tai said, “There is Sun Huan, nephew of our Prince. He is surrounded at Yiling and is short of food. I venture to request you to send relief to him and get him out, so that the Prince’s heart may be comforted.”

“I know all about him. His soldiers are faithful, and he can easily maintain his position. There is no need to go to his aid. When Shu is broken, he will be free to come out.”

They all sniggered as they left the tent, and Han Dang did not fail to express his contempt for the newly appointed Commander-in-Chief.

“This will be the end of Wu,” said he to his colleague. “Did you note what he said?”

“I tried him just to see what he would do,” said Zhou Tai. “You see he had no plan ready. He destroys Shu indeed!”

Next day general orders were issued for defense and prohibitions against giving battle, which provoked more laughter at the incapable pedant, as they thought him in command, and secret resolves to disobey. Moreover, the officers showed their contempt by a general disregard of orders.

So once more Lu Xun assembled them and said, “You know I am in command. Yet the recent orders for defense have been disregarded. Why?”

Then Han Dang spoke up, “Some of us followed General Sun Ce when he first subdued the South Land. Others won fame in destroying rebels, or in following the present Prince in his campaigns. All of us have donned our armors and gripped our weapons in many bloody fights. Now, Sir, you have been placed in supreme command to repulse Shu, and there should be some plan of campaign made for us at once, some dispositions of our forces, and some definite advance toward that end. Instead of that we are told to strengthen our defenses and are forbidden to fight. What are we to wait for? Will Heaven destroy our opponents for us? We are not afraid to die. Why is our keenness left to be eaten away and our energies wasted in idleness?’

All the others applauded this speech and cried that the speaker had expressed their own ideas.

“General Han Dang just says what we think: Let us fight a decisive battle,” they cried.

The new commander waited till the uproar had subsided; then drawing his sword, he shouted, “That I am a student is true. But I have been entrusted with a great task, a task for which the Prince of Wu considers me competent and for the performance of which I am prepared to bear all the responsibilities. As for you, you will do well to act on the defensive as I ordered and not allow yourselves to be led astray into any attacks. And I shall put the disobedient to death!”

This speech had little effect, and they dispersed grumbling and murmuring.

Meanwhile the Ruler of Shu had made a long chain of forty camps from Xiaoting to the borders of the River Lands, spreading out two hundred miles. These base camps looked very imposing with their fluttering banners by day and their fires at night.

Then the spies came in and reported: “Wu appointed Lu Xun as Commander-in-Chief. Lu Xun ordered his commanders to defend strategic points and not to engage in battle.”

“What sort of a man is this Lu Xun?” said the First Ruler.

“He is a scholar among the people of Wu, and, though young, he is very talented,” replied Ma Liang. “His schemes are very deep. He was the author of the villainous and crafty plan of attack on Jingzhou.”

“His crafty scheme caused the deaths of my brothers. But now I shall have him!” said the First Ruler angrily.

He gave orders to advance. But Ma Liang ventured to remonstrate and dissuade him.

“Be very careful,” said he. “This Lu Xun is no whit inferior to Zhou Yu.”

“I have grown old in the field,” said the Emperor. “Don’t you think me a match for this callow youth?”

He confirmed the order to go forward, and they attacked passes and fords and redoubts wherever they were.

Han Dang notified his chief of the movement of the Shu army, and Lu Xun, still rather dubious of the strict obedience to his orders, hastened to the point of danger. He found Han Dang on a hill surveying the enemy’s force, which advanced like a great wave. Amidst the army they saw a wide yellow umbrella, and Han Dang pointed it out.

“That must be Liu Bei,” said he. “I should like to kill him.”

“Careful,” said Lu Xun. “So far he has scored victory after victory, and his soldiers are very keen and confident. Maintain a careful defense on high grounds and do not go out to battle. If you do, you will lose. Impress that upon your officers and soldiers and make them understand the strategy, while you follow the enemy’s moves. They are hastening into the wide open space, and I do not wish to hinder them. Nor will I accept any challenge to battle, but wait till they have moved their camps into the forest and among the trees. Then I shall have a scheme ready.”

Han Dang agreed so far as words went, but in his heart he was still ill-conditioned. When the Shu army drew near, a small force came to challenge. They shouted all sorts of abuse and hurled reproaches to put their opponents to shame, but Lu Xun took no notice and bade his troops stop their ears. He would not allow them to go out to battle, but he went from fort to redoubt, encouraging the soldiers to remain carefully on the defensive.

The First Ruler’s heart burned within him at this refusal to come out to battle.

Said Ma Liang, “Lu Xun is a deep and crafty fellow. He recognizes the disadvantages of Your Majesty’s troops in being far from their base, and from spring to autumn he will not come out to fight till some move occurs that he may profit by.”

“What ruse can he be contemplating?” said the First Ruler. “The real fact is that he is afraid. Their army has suffered nothing but defeat times and again. They dare not meet us.”

One day the leader of the van, Feng Xi, memorialized the First Ruler, saying, “The weather is scorching, and the troops are camped in the full glare of sun. Beside, water is scarce and hard to get.”

Thereupon orders were given to move the camps into the shade of the forest close by and near the streams till the summer heats should have passed. This order given, Feng Xi moved the camp to a retired and shady spot for his troops.

Ma Liang said, “If our soldiers move, the enemy will rush out on us and we shall be hard set.”

“I will provide for that,” said the First Ruler. “I will send Hu Ban with ten thousand of our inferior troops to camp near their lines. But I will choose eight thousand of veterans and place them in ambush. Hu Ban will have orders to flee before the soldiers of Wu and lead them into my ambush if they come out, and I will cut off their retreat. We ought to capture this precocious youth.”

“A genius in plans, a marvel of prevision!” cried all those about him as this plan was unfolded. “None of us can approach you in cleverness.”

So they felicitated their ruler.

But Ma Liang said, “They say the Prime Minister is on a tour of inspection of the defenses in the eastern portion of Shu, seeing that they are in good order against any attack on the part of Wei. Why not send him a sketch of your present dispositions of troops and ask his opinion?”

“I also am not entirely ignorant of the art of war, and I see no reason to seek advice,” was the cold reply.

“There is an old saying about hearing both sides,” said Ma Liang.

“Well, then you go round to all the camps and make a map and take it to the Prime Minister. If he finds any fault, you may come and tell me.”

So Ma Liang went, while the First Ruler busied himself with getting his army into shelter from the fierce heat of summer.

His move was no secret, and the scouts soon told Han Dang and Zhou Tai, who rejoiced at the news and soon went to tell Lu Xun.

“All the enemies’ forty camps had been moved into the shade. Now, Sir, you can attack!” said they.

[hip, hip, hip]
That was not a bad plan, an ambush to set,
Thus thought he his chiefest opponent to get.
[yip, yip, yip]

Whether Lu Xun acted upon the suggestion of his subordinates will be seen in the next chapter.

Previous articleRomance of Three Kingdoms Chapter 84
Next articleRomance of Three Kingdoms Chapter 82
Discover the wonders of China through studying abroad - a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to expand your horizons, immerse yourself in a rich and diverse culture, and gain a world-class education.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here