Romance of Three Kingdoms Chapter 92


Zhao Yun Slays Five Generals;
Zhuge Liang Takes Three Cities.

Zhuge Liang’s army marched northward, passing through Mianyang, where stood Ma Chao’s tomb. In honor of the dead Tiger General, Zhuge Liang sacrificed there in person, Ma Chao’s cousin—Ma Dai—being chief mourner for the occasion.

After this ceremony, when the Commander-in-Chief was discussing his plans, the spies came in to report: “The Ruler of Wei, Cao Rui, has put in motion all western forces under Xiahou Mao.”

Then Wei Yan went in to offer a plan, saying, “Xiahou Mao is a child of a wealthy family, soft and stupid. Give me five thousand troops, and I will go out by Baozhong, follow the line of the Qinling Mountains east to the Ziwu Valley and then turn north. In ten days I can be at Changan. Hearing of my rush, Xiahou Mao will hasten to vacate the city. Then he must flee by way of Royal Gate. I will come in by the east, and you, Sir, can advance by the Xie Valley with the main army. In this way all west of Changan will be ours in just one move.”

Zhuge Liang smiled at the suggestion.

“I do not think the plan quite perfect,” said he. “You are gambling by thinking there is no northerner worth considering guarding Changan. If anyone suggests sending a force across to block the exit of the mountains, I am afraid we should lose five thousand troops, to say nothing of the check to our elan. The plan will not work.”

“If you, O Prime Minister, march by the high road, they will bring against you the whole host Within the Passes and will thus hold you indefinitely. You will never get to the Middle Land.”

“But I shall go along the level road on the right of Longyou. I cannot fail if I keep to the fixed rules of war.”

Wei Yan withdrew, gloomy and dissatisfied.

Then Zhuge Liang sent Zhao Yun orders for the advanced guard to move.

Xiahou Mao was at Changan preparing his force. There came to him a general from Xiliang, named Han De, a man of great valor, whose weapon was a mighty battle-ax called “Mountain Splitter”. He brought with him eighty thousand of the Qiang tribesmen and offered his services. They were gladly accepted, and his army was made the van of the attack.

This Han De had four sons, all very expert in archery and horsemanship. They were named Han Ying, Han Yao, Han Qiong, and Han Qi, and they came to serve under their father. Han De led his sons and the eighty thousand troops by the road to Phoenix Song Mountain, where they were near the army of Shu, and here they drew up the array.

When the battle line was in order, the father, with his four sons, rode to the front and began to revile their enemy, shouting, “Rebels and raiders! How dare you invade our territory?”

Zhao Yun quickly lost his temper, rode forward and challenged. The eldest son, Han Ying, accepted and galloped out; but he was slain in the third bout. Immediately his brother Han Yao went out, whirling his sword. But now Zhao Yun’s blood was up, and the old dash and vigor came upon him so that the young man had no chance to win the battle. Then the third son, Han Qiong, took his great halberd and dashed out to his brother’s aid. Zhao Yun had now two opponents; nevertheless he held his own, nor blenched nor failed a stroke. Seeing that his two brothers were nearing defeat, the fourth son Han Qi went to join in the fray with his pair of swords that he had named “Sun and Moon”. And there was the veteran warrior with three against him, and he still kept them at bay.

Presently a spear thrust got home on Han Qi, who fell. Another general then coming out to take his place. Zhao Yun lowered his spear and fled. Han Qiong then took his bow and shot three arrows at the fugitive, who turned them aside so that they fell harmless. Angry at this, Han Qiong again seized his halberd and went in pursuit. But Zhao Yun took his bow and shot an arrow that wounded his pursuer in the face. So Han Qiong fell and died. Han Yao then galloped up and raised his sword to strike, but Zhao Yun slipped past, got within his guard and made Han Yao a prisoner. Zhao Yun quickly galloped into his own array with his captive, dropped him and then, dashing out, recovered his spear, which had fallen when he seized his man.

Han De was overwhelmed with the loss of all his sons and went behind the battle array. His Qiang tribesmen were too frightened at the prowess of Zhao Yun to be of any use in battle, and no one dared to meet the old warrior. So they retired, while Zhao Yun rode to and fro among them slaying at his will.

[hip, hip, hip]
I thought of brave old people, of Zhao Yun,
Who, in spite of numbered years three scores and ten,
Was marvelous strong in battle; who one day
Slew four opposing generals, as great as
When at Dangyang he had saved his lord.
[yip, yip, yip]

Seeing the successful battle that Zhao Yun was waging, Deng Zhi led on his troops to join in the fight. This completed the discomfiture of the Xiliang army, and they ran away. Han De, seeing the danger of being captured, threw off his armor and went on foot. The soldiers of Shu drew off and returned to their camp.

In camp Deng Zhi felicitated his veteran colleague.

“For a man of seventy years, you are unique and wonderful,” said he. “You are as much the hero as you ever were. It is almost an incomparable feat to have slain four generals in one day.”

“Yet the Prime Minister thought me too old and did not wish to employ me. I had to give him a proof.”

The captive Han Yao was sent to the main body with the messenger who bore an account of the victory.

In the meantime, Han De led his defeated army back to his chief, to whom he related his sad story with many tears. Then Xiahou Mao got angry and decided to lead his own army out against Zhao Yun.

When the scouts reported his coming, Zhao Yun took his spear and mounted his steed. He led one thousand troops out to Phoenix Song Mountain, at the foot of which he made his array. Xiahou Mao was wearing a golden casque, riding a white horse, and carrying a huge sword. From his place beneath the great standard, he saw Zhao Yun galloping to and fro. He was going out to give battle, when Han De checked him.

“Is it not mine to avenge my four sons?” said Han De.

Han De seized his mountain-splitter ax, and rode directly at the warrior, who advanced with fury. The contest was but short, for in the third encounter Zhao Yun’s spear thrust brought Han De to the earth. Without waiting a moment he made for Xiahou Mao, who hastily dashed in behind his ranks and so escaped. Then Deng Zhi led on the main body and completed the victory. The force of Wei retired three miles and made a camp.

This first battle having gone against him, Xiahou Mao called his officers to consult.

He said, “I have heard Zhao Yun long ago, but have never met face-to-face. Now though that warrior is old, he still has incredible prowess. The story of Dangyang where he alone fought against a whole host and came out victor is really not fabricated. But what to be done against such a champion?”

Then Cheng Wu, son of Cheng Yu, said, “My opinion is that this Zhao Yun, though brave in the field, is lacking in the council chamber. Really he is not greatly to be feared. Give battle again soon, but first prepare a two-pronged ambush. You can retreat and so draw him into it. Then go up on the hill top and direct the attack from that point of vantage so that he may be hemmed in on all sides and be captured.”

The necessary plans for this were made, and two parties of thirty thousand each, led by Dong Xin and Xue Ze, went into ambush right and left. The ambush laid, Xiahou Mao advanced once more to attack, drums rolling and flags flying. As soon as he appeared, Zhao Yun and Deng Zhi went to meet him.

Deng Zhi said, “The army of Wei were beaten only yesterday. This renewed attempt must mean that they are trying some trick. You should be cautious, General.”

“I do not think this youth, with the smell of mother’s milk still on his lips, worth talking about. We shall surely capture him today.”

Zhao Yun pranced out, and Pan Sui came to meet him from the side of Wei. But Pan Sui made no stand and quickly ran away. Zhao Yun plunged in to try to capture Xiahou Mao. Then there came out to stop him no less than eight generals of Wei, all of whom passed in front of Xiahou Mao. But one by one they too fled. Zhao Yun pressed forward at full speed, Deng Zhi coming up behind.

When Zhao Yun had got deeply involved, with the battle raging all around him, Deng Zhi decided to retire. This was the signal for the ambush to come out, Dong Xin from the right and Xue Ze from the left. Deng Zhi was so hampered that he could not attempt to rescue his colleague. Zhao Yun was thus entirely surrounded. However, he struggled on, losing men at every dash, till he had but one thousand troops left. He was then at the foot of the hill whence Xiahou Mao was directing operations, and observing his enemy from this point of vantage, Xiahou Mao sent troops to check Zhao Yun whithersoever he went. Zhao Yun decided to charge up the hill, but was stopped by rolling bulks of timber and tumbling rocks.

The battle had lasted long, and Zhao Yun was fatigued. So he halted to rest a time, intending to renew the struggle when the moon should be up. But just as he had taken off his armor the moon rose and, with it, his enemies began to attack with fire as well, and the thunder of the drums was accompanied by showers of stones and arrows.

The oncoming host shouted, “Zhao Yun! Why don’t dismount and be bound?”

However, Zhao Yun did not think of that, but got upon his steed to strive once more to extricate himself. And his enemies pressed closer and closer, pouring in flights and flights of arrows. No advance was possible, and the end seemed very near.

“I refused the repose of age,” sighed he, “and now my end will come to me here!”

Just then he heard new shouting from the northeast, and the array of Wei became disordered. To his joy, Zhao Yun saw Zhang Bao coming toward him, the serpent halberd in his hand, and a man’s head hanging at his bridle.

Soon Zhang Bao reached the veteran general’s side and cried, “The Prime Minister feared some misfortune had befallen you, so he sent me to your help! I have five thousand troops here. We heard that you were surrounded. On the way I met Xue Ze and slew him.”

Zhao Yun’s courage revived, and he and the young general went on toward the southwest, driving the soldiers of Wei before them in disorder. Soon another cohort came in from the side, the leader wielding the green-dragon saber.

This was Guan Xing, and he cried, “The Prime Minister sent me with five thousand troops to your aid. On the way I encountered Dong Xin and slain him. Here is his head. The Prime Minister is coming up too!”

“But why not press on to capture Xiahou Mao since you have had such wonderful success?” cried Zhao Yun.

Zhang Bao took the hint and went forward. Guan Xing followed.

“They are as my own children,” said Zhao Yun to those who stood near. “And they press on wherever there is merit to be won. I am an old leader and high in rank, but I am not worth so much as these two youths. Yet will I risk my life once more for the sake of my old lord the First Ruler.”

So he led the remnant of his troops to try to capture Xiahou Mao.

During that night the army of Wei was smitten till corpses covered the earth and gore ran in rivers. Xiahou Mao was unskillful, and young, and inexperienced in battle. His army was in utter rout, and he could not think but only flee. At the head of a hundred cavalries, he made for Nanan. His army, leaderless, scattered like rats.

Zhang Bao and Guan Xing set out for Nanan. At the news of their coming, Xiahou Mao closed the city gates and urged his soldiers to defend. Zhao Yun soon joined the generals, and they attacked on three sides. Deng Zhi arrived also, and the city was quite surrounded.

After vain efforts for ten days, they heard the news: “The Prime Minister has stationed the rear army in Mianyang, the left army in Yangping Pass, the right army in Shicheng. He himself is leading the center army toward Nanan.”

The four generals went to visit Zhuge Liang and told him their failure at the city. He got into his light chariot and rode out to view the city, after which he returned and summoned the officers to his tent.

Zhuge Liang said, “The moat is deep, the walls are steep. Wherefore the city is well defended and difficult to take. My present plan omits this place. If you persist in the attack and the Wei armies march to try for Hanzhong, our army will be in danger.”

“Consider what the capture of Xiahou Mao would mean,” said Deng Zhi. “He is an Imperial Son-in-Law, and worth more than slaying a hundred ordinary leaders. We have begun the siege, and we should not raise it.”

Zhuge Liang said, “I have other plans. West of this lies Tianshui and north Anding. Does anyone know the governors of these two places?”

“Ma Zun is the Governor of Tianshui, Cui Liang that of Anding,” replied a scout.

Zhuge Liang then called to him one by one—Wei Yan, Zhang Bao, Guan Xing, and two trusted subordinates—and gave each certain instructions. They left to carry out their orders.

Next Zhuge Liang ordered the soldiers to pile up beneath the walls heaps of firewood and straw, saying he was going to burn the city. The defenders on the wall derided him.

Cui Liang, the Governor of Anding, was much frightened when he heard that Xiahou Mao was besieged, and began to see to his own defenses. He mustered his four thousand soldiers, resolved to defend his city as long as possible. Then there came a man from the south direction, who said he had secret letters.

Cui Liang had him brought into the city, and, when questioned, the man said, “I am one of Xiahou Mao’s trusted soldiers and named Pei Xu. I was sent to beg for help from Tianshui and Anding. The city of Nanan is hard pressed. Every day we have raised fires to call the attention of your cities to our plight, but our signals have all failed. No one has come. I was ordered to fight my way through the besiegers and come to tell you. You are to give assistance immediately, and our General will open the gates to help you.”

“Have you a letter from the General?” asked Cui Liang.

A letter was produced from inside the man’s dress, all moist with perspiration. After the Governor had read it, the soldier took it back and went on to the direction of Tianshui.

Two days later a mounted messenger came to Anding and said to Cui Liang: “Governor Ma Zun of Tianshui with his troops have already started for Nanan. The troops of Anding should march at once to their aid.”

Cui Liang took the advice of his officers. Most of them said, “If you do not go, and Nanan is taken, we shall he blamed for giving up the Imperial Son-in-Law. He must be rescued.”

Thereupon Cui Liang marched. The civil officers were left in charge of the city. The army took the high road to Nanan. They saw flames shooting up to the sky all the time, and the Governor urged the army to march faster. When fifteen miles from the city, there was heard the drums of an attacking force, and the scouts came to say that the road ahead was held by Guan Xing, while Zhang Bao was coming up quickly in their rear.

At this news the soldiers scattered in all directions. Cui Liang had a hundred men left with whom he tried to cut his way out that he might return to his own city. He got through.

But when he came to his own city, a flight of arrows greeted him from the wall, and Wei Yan shouted to him, saying, “I have taken the city. You had better yield!”

This was what had happened. Wei Yan and his soldiers, disguised as an Anding soldiers, in the darkness of the night had beguiled the wardens of the gate into opening it, and the men of Shu had got in.

Cui Liang set off for Tianshui. But one march away a cohort came out, and beneath the great flag he saw a light chariot. In the chariot sat a man in Taoist robe with a feather fan in his hand. Cui Liang at once recognized Zhuge Liang, but as he turned, up came Guan Xing and Zhang Bao, who summoned him to surrender. As he was entirely surrounded, no other course was open to him, so he gave in. He went to the great camp with Zhuge Liang, who treated him with courtesy.

After a time Zhuge Liang said, “Is the Govenor of Nanan a friend of yours?”

“He is one Yang Ling, a cousin of Yang Fu. Being neighboring counties, we are very good friends.”

“I wish to trouble you to persuade him to capture Xiahou Mao. Can you?”

“If you, O Prime Minister, order me to do this, I would ask you to withdraw your troops and let me go into the city to speak with him.”

Zhuge Liang consented and ordered the besiegers to draw off seven miles and camp. Cui Liang himself went to the city and hailed the gate. He entered and went forthwith to his friend’s residence. As soon as he had finished the salutations, he related what had happened.

“After the kindness we have received from Wei, we cannot be traitors,” said Yang Ling. “But we will meet ruse with ruse.”

He led Cui Liang to the Commander-in-Chief and told the whole story.

“What ruse do you propose?” asked Xiahou Mao.

“Let us pretend to offer the city, and let the army of Shu in. Once they are in, we can massacre them.”

Xiahou Mao agreed to plot the scheme.

Cui Liang went back to Zhuge Liang’s camp, where he said, “Yang Ling wants to offer the Prime Minister the city. He also wants to capture Xiahou Mao, but he is so afraid of having few soldiers that he has made no hasty move.”

“That is simple enough,” replied Zhuge Liang. “Your hundred troops are here. We can mix with them some of my generals dressed as your officers and so let them get into the city. They can hide in Xiahou Mao’s dwelling and arrange with Yang Ling to open the gates in the night. And my grand army will come in to make the capture for you.”

Cui Liang thought within himself, “If I do not take the Shu generals, they will arouse suspicion. I would rather take them and will kill them as soon as they get within the walls. Then, I will give the signal and beguile Zhuge Liang to enter, and so dispose of him.”

So Cui Liang consented to Zhuge Liang’s proposal.

Zhuge Liang gave him instructions, saying, “I will send my trusty Guan Xing and Zhang Bao with you. You will pass them off as the rescuers just to set Xiahou Mao’s mind at rest. But when you raise a fire, I shall take that as my signal and come in.”

At dusk the two trusty generals, having received their secret orders, put on their armor, mounted, took their weapons, and got in among the Anding troops. Cui Liang led the small force to the gate. Yang Ling was on the wall. The drawbridge was hoisted. He leaned over the guard rail and scanned those below.

“Who are you?” asked he.

“We are rescuers from Anding.”

Now Cui Liang shot an arrow over the wall, to which a secret letter was bound, saying:

“Zhuge Liang is sending two generals into the city that they may help him to get in, but do nothing till we get inside lest the ruse gets known and the game be spoiled.”

Yang Ling went to show this letter to Xiahou Mao, who said, “Then Zhuge Liang is going to be our victim. Put a company of ax and bill men in the palace, and as soon as these two generals get inside, shut the gates and fall on. Then give the signal. As soon as Zhuge Liang gets inside the gate, seize him.”

All arrangements being made, Yang Ling went back to the wall and said, “Since you are Anding troops, you may be allowed in.”

The gate was thrown open and, while Guan Xing followed close after Cui Liang, Zhang Bao was a little way behind. Yang Ling came down to the gate to welcome them. As soon as Guan Xing got near, he lifted his sword and smote Yang Ling, who fell headless. Cui Liang was startled and lashed his steed to flee.

But Zhang Bao rushed forth and cried, “Scoundrel! Did you think your vile plot would be hidden from the eyes of our Prime Minister?”

With that Cui Liang fell from a spear thrust of Zhang Bao. Then Guan Xing went up on the wall and lit the fire. Soon the army of Shu filled the city. Xiahou Mao could make no defense, so he tried to fight his way through the south gate. There he met Wang Ping and was captured. Those with him were slain.

Zhuge Liang entered the city of Nanan and at once forbade all plunder. The various generals reported the deeds of valor. The captive Commander-in-Chief was placed in a prisoner’s cart.

Then Deng Zhi asked, “O Prime Minister, how did you know the treachery of Cui Liang?”

Zhuge Liang said, “I knew the man was unwilling in his heart to yield, so I sent him into the city that he might have a chance to weave a counter plot with Xiahou Mao. I saw by his manner he was treacherous, and so I sent my two trusty generals with him to give him a feeling of security. Had he been true to me, he would have opposed this. But he accepted it gaily and went with them lest I should suspect him. He thought they could slay the two leaders and entice me in. But Guan Xing and Zhang Bao already had orders of what to do. Everything turned out as I thought, and as they did not expect.”

The officers bowed their appreciation of his wonderful insight.

Then Zhuge Liang said, “I sent one of my trusty people to pretend he was a certain Pei Xu of Wei and so deceive this Cui Liang. Then I sent another messenger to reinforce the ruse. I also sent them to Tianshui to repeat the plan, but nothing has happened yet. I do not know the reason. We will take this opportunity to capture that place.”

It was decided to take Tianshui next, and thither they moved. Wu Yi and Liu Yang were to guard Nanan and Anding. Wei Yan was ordered to move toward Tianshui.

When Ma Zun, Governor of Tianshui, heard of Xiahou Mao’s being besieged in Nanan, he called a council at which one party—headed by Yin Shang and Liang Xu—were strongly of opinion that a rescue should be attempted.

“If anything sinister happens to the Imperial Son-in-Law, ‘golden branch and jade leaf’ as he is, we shall be held guilty of having made no attempt to save him. Wherefore, O Governor, you must march all the forces you have to his rescue,” said Yin Shang and Liang Xu.

Ma Zun found decision difficult, and while thinking over what was best to do, the arrival of Pei Xu, a messenger from Xiahou Mao, was announced. Pei Xu was taken to the Governor’s residence and there produced his dispatch and asked for aid. Soon came another man saying that the Anding troops had set out and calling upon Ma Zun to hasten. This decided him, and he prepared his army.

Then an outsider came in and said, “O Governor, you are the sport of one of Zhuge Liang’s wiles.”

All looked at him with surprise. He was one Jiang Wei. His father was Jiang Jiong, a former local official who had died in the court’s service while quelling one of the Qiang rebellions. Jiang Wei was well up in books, seeming to have read everything, and was also skilled in all warlike exercises. He had studied books on war. He was a very filial son and much esteemed. He held military rank of General.

Jiang Wei said to the Governor, “I hear Zhuge Liang is attacking Xiahou Mao, who is now in Nanan most closely besieged. How then can this messenger have got out? Pei Xu is an unknown officer whom no one has heard of, and the other messenger from Anding bears no dispatch. The fact is the men are imposters sent to beguile you into leaving your city undefended so that it may be the more easily captured.”

The Governor began to understand. He said, “Were it not for you, I would fall into a ruse.”

Then Jiang Wei said, “But do not be anxious. I have a scheme by which we can capture Zhuge Liang and relieve Nanan.”

[hip, hip, hip]
The fates all changing bring the man that’s needed,
And warlike skill comes from a source unheeded.
[yip, yip, yip]

The next chapter will unfold the ruse proposed by Jiang Wei.

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