Zhang Song Turns The Tables On Yang Xiu;
Pang Tong Proposes The Occupation Of Shu.
"What proposal have you to offer that may avert this danger?" asked the Imperial Protector.
"My proposal is that we gain the support of Cao Cao. As we know, he has made a clean sweep of the empire. Lu Bu went first, and both the Yuans followed, all exterminated. Lately he has destroyed Ma Chao. In short he is the one man against whom no one can stand. Therefore, my lord, prepare me worthy gifts to take to the capital, and I will get Cao Cao to march an army against Hanzhong, which will keep this Zhang Lu occupied so that we shall be left alone."
This met Liu Zhang' views, and so he prepared gold and pearls and rich stuffs, worthy presents for the man of power. And when these were ready, he appointed Zhang Song his emissary. Zhang Song in the meantime occupied his leisure in secretly copying maps and plans of the west country. When all was ready, he started with a small escort.
They heard this in Jingzhou, and Zhuge Liang sent a trusty person to the capital to keep him informed as to all the doings.
Zhang Song arrived in Xuchang, and, after he had established himself in his lodging, he made daily visits to the Prime Minister's palace to try to obtain an interview. But the last success had filled Cao Cao with insufferable pride, and he did nothing but give banquets. He never appeared except for the most important affairs, and even carried on the business of the state in his own residence. So Zhang Song waited many days. But when he got to know the persons who were nearest the Prime Minister, he bribed them and obtained an audience.
Cao Cao was seated in the high place, and after his visitor had finished his salutations, he said, "Your master Liu Zhang has sent no tribute for several years; why?"
"Because the roads are dangerous and thieves and robbers infest them. Intercourse is restricted."
Cao Cao interrupted in a loud harsh voice, saying, "What thieves and robbers are there when I have cleansed the empire?"
"How can you say the land is tranquil when one sees Sun Quan in the south, Zhang Lu and Liu Bei in the west, and every one of these with armies reckoned in legions? The weakest of them has one hundred thousand troops."
The mean appearance of the emissary had prejudiced Cao Cao from the outset; and when Cao Cao heard these blunt words, he suddenly shook out his sleeves, rose and left the hall.
Those in attendance were annoyed with Zhang Song and said, "How can you behave so rudely when you come on a mission? Your whole attitude was blunt and discourteous. Happily for you, our lord remembered you had come from afar and did not take open notice of your fault. The best thing for you is to go home again as quickly as you can."
But Zhang Song smiled.
"We have no plausible flatterers and glib talkers in our western country," said he.
At this, one from below the steps called out, "So you call us plausible and glib then; and you have none such in your country, eh?"
Zhang Song looked around and saw the speaker was a man with thin delicate eyebrows crossing narrow eyes set in a pale spiritual face. He asked his name. It was Yang Xiu, son of the former Regent Marshal Yang Biao. The young man was then employed as Chief of the Secretariat of the Prime Minister. He was deeply read and had the reputation of being a clever controversialist, as Zhang Song knew. So on one side was a desire to confound and on the other overweening pride in his own ability, with contempt for other scholars. Perceiving the ridicule in Zhang Song' speech, Yang Xiu invited him to go to the library where they could talk more freely. There, after they had got settled in their respective places, Yang Xiu began to talk about the west.
"Your roads are precipitous and wearisome," said Yang Xiu.
"But at our lord's command we travel, even through fire and water; we never decline," replied Zhang Song.
"What sort of a country is this Yiazhou?"
"Yiazhou is a name for the group of western counties and territories known of old as the state of Shu. The roads are intersected by streams, and the land bristles with steep mountains. The circuit is over two hundred stations and marches and the area over one hundred thousand square miles. The population is dense, villages being so close that the crowings of cocks in one waken the people in the next, and the dogs barking in this excite the curs in that. The soil is rich and well cultivated, and droughts or famines are equally unknown. Prosperity is general and the music of pipes and strings can always be heard. The produce of the fields is piled mountain high. There is no place its equal."
"But what of the people?"
"Our administrators are talented as Sima Xiangru; our soldiers able as Ma Yuan; our physicians are expert as Zhang Ji; our diviners are profound as Yan Zun. Our schools of philosophy and our culture stand forth as models, and we have more remarkable people than I can enumerate. How should I ever finish the tale of them?"
"And how many such as you, Sir, do you think there are at the orders of your Imperial Protector?"
"Our officers are all geniuses: wise, bold, loyal, righteous, and magnanimous. As for poor simpletons like me, they are counted by hundreds; there are cartloads of them, bushels of them. No one could count them."
"What office may you hold then?"
Zhang Song replied, "Mine can hardly be called an office. I am a Supernumerary Charioteer. But, Sir, what state affairs may you control?"
"I am the First Secretary in the Palace of the Prime Minister," replied Yang Xiu.
"They say that members of your family held office for many generations, and I do not understand why you are not in court service actually assisting the Emperor, instead of filling the post of a mere clerk in the private palace of the Prime Minister."
Yang Xiu's face suffused with shame at this rebuke, but he mastered himself and replied, "Though I am among the minor officials, yet my duties are of great importance, and I am gaining experience under the Prime Minister's guidance. I hold the office for the sake of the training."
Zhang Song smiled, saying, "If what I have heard is true, Cao Cao's learning throws no gleaming light on the way of Confucius or Mencius, nor does his military skill illumine the art of Sun Zi or Wu Qi. He seems to understand the doctrine of brute force and holding on to what advantages he can seize, but I see not how he can give you any valuable training or enlighten your understanding."
"Ah, Sir; that comes of dwelling in out-of-the-way parts. How could you know of the magnificent talents of the great Prime Minister? But I will show you something."
Yang Xiu called up an attendant and bade him bring a book from a certain case. He showed this to his guest, who read the title "The New Book of Cao Cao". Then Zhang Song opened it and read it through from the beginning, the whole thirteen chapters. They all dealt with the art of war.
"What do you take this to be?" asked Zhang Song, when he had finished.
"This is the great Prime Minister's discussion of the art of ancient and modern war composed on the model of Sun Zi's Treatise on the Art of War. You may be disdainful of the Prime Minister's talents, but will this not go down to posterity?"
"This book! Every child in Yiazhou knows this by heart. What do you mean by calling it a new book? It was written by some obscure person of the time of the Warring States, and Cao Cao has plagiarized it. But he has deceived no one but you, Sir."
"But what is the use of your sarcastic insult in saying that your school children know the book by rote? It has never been given to the world, although copies have been made. It belongs to his private library."
"Do you disbelieve me? Why, I know it and could repeat it."
Then Zhang Song repeated the whole book, word for word, from beginning to end.
Yang Xiu said, "You remember it like this after only one reading! Really you are marvelous."
He boasted not a handsome face,
At leave-taking Yang Xiu said, "Remain a while in your lodgings till I can petition our Prime Minister to give you another interview."
Nor was his body blessed with grace.
His words streamed like a waterfall,
He read a book and knew it all.
Shu's glories could he well rehearse,
His lore embraced the universe.
Or text or note of scholiast
Once read, his memory held fast.
Zhang Song thanked him and left. By and bye Yang Xiu went to see Cao Cao on the matter of receiving the emissary from the west and said, "Sir, why did you formerly treat Zhang Song so off-hand?"
"He spoke very rudely; that is why."
"But you bore with Mi Heng; why not with this man?"
"Mi Heng's reputation for scholarship stood highest of all, and I could not bear to put him to death. But what ability has this Zhang Song?"
"To say nothing about his speech being like the River of Heaven, nothing daunts his talent for dialectic. I happened to show him your new treatise; he read it over once and could repeat it. From this, it is evident he is cultured and has a prodigious memory. There are few like him in the world. But he said the book was the work of an obscure person of a few hundred years back, and every school child in his country knew it."
"It only shows that the ancients and I are in secret sympathy," replied Cao Cao.
However, Cao Cao ordered the book to be torn up and burned.
"Then may I bring him to see you, Sir, that he may see the glory of our court."
Cao Cao grudgingly consented, saying "I am reviewing troops tomorrow on the western parade ground. You may bring him there and let him see what my army looks like. He will be able to talk about it when he goes home. When I have dealt with the south, I shall take the west in hand."
Hence the very next day Yang Xiu took Zhang Song over to the west parade ground, where a review of the Tiger Guard was to be held. There were fifty thousand of them, and when drawn up in order, they made a very brave show with their gleaming helmets and bright new uniforms. Their drums rolled to shake the heavens, and their weapons glittered in the sun. Their discipline and order were perfect; their gay banners fluttered in the breeze. They looked ready to fly even, so alert and smart were they.
Zhang Song glanced at them contemptuously. After a long time Cao Cao called up Zhang Song and, pointing to his army, said, "Have you ever seen such fine bold fellows in Yiazhou?"
"We never see this military parade in Yiazhou; we govern the people by righteousness."
Cao Cao changed color and looked hard at the bold speaker, who gazed back at him without the least sign of fear.
Yang Xiu shot a quick glance at Zhang Song, but Cao Cao went on, saying, "I regard the rat-class of the world as of no more importance than so many weeds, and for my army to reach a place is to overcome it, to give battle is to conquer, to besiege is to take. Those who are with me, live; but those who oppose me, die. Do you understand?"
"O Prime Minister, I know well that when you march out your army, you always conquer. I knew it when you attacked Lu Bu at Puyang; and when you fought Zhang Xiu at Wancheng; and when you met Zhou Yu at the Red Cliffs; and when in Huarong Valley encountered Guan Yu; and on that day when you cut off your beard and threw away your robe at Tong Pass; and when you hid in a boat to escape the arrows on the River Wei. On all these occasions, no one could stand against you."
It made Cao Cao very angry to be thus twitted with his misfortunes and he said, "You stuck-up pedant! How dare you thus bring up all my failures?"
Cao Cao called to his attendants to eject the bold disputant and put him to death.
Yang Xiu ventured to argue with him, saying, "You may behead him, but he came from the west bearing tribute, and his death would have a very evil effect on all distant peoples."
But Cao Cao was too angry to be reasonable and persisted. However, Xun Yu also remonstrated, and Zhang Song was not put to death. But he was beaten and ejected. He returned to his lodging and left the city that night, reflecting upon what he had intended and what he had accomplished.
Thought he, "I did not expect such arrogance when I came with the intention of giving him a region. When I get back, Liu Zhang will expect great things. Now I am returning empty handed and a failure to endure the laughter of my fellow country people. I will not go back. I have heard of the virtues of Liu Bei, and I will go to him and see what manner of man he is. Then I can decide what to do."
So with his little escort and following he made for Jingzhou. He had reached the boundaries of Wuchang when he met a body of horsemen, at the head of whom rode a general in simple undress, who pulled up, saying, "Surely you are the Charioteer Zhang Song."
"I am he," said Zhang Song.
The general quickly dismounted and humbly said, "I have expected you these many days. I am Zhao Yun."
Zhang Song dismounted and returned the salutation, saying, "Then you are no other than the Fine Man of Changshan."
"No other," was the reply. "And my lord Liu Bei bade me await you here and offer you refreshment after your long and toilsome journey."
At this some soldiers brought forward wine and food which they offered kneeling.
Zhang Song said, "I am come because the world says Liu Bei is liberal and kindly disposed."
After a few cups of wine, the two retook the road toward Jingzhou City, which they neared next day at evening. They went to the guest-house. Here they found a large number of people who received the visitor with the beating of drums and every sign of respect.
And the officer in command, bowing low, said, "My brother sent me to meet you after your long and dusty journey and prepare the guest-house for your reception. My name is Guan Yu."
So Zhang Song and Zhao Yun dismounted and entered the guest-house, where hosts and guest exchanged formal salutations and took their seats. In a short time refreshments were served, and both men were most diligent in their attention to the traveler. This roadside banquet was prolonged to the time of setting the watch, when they prepared for rest.
Next morning, after the early meal, they mounted and continued their journey. Very soon they met Liu Bei himself, with an escort, and his two chief advisers, deferentially standing by the roadside.
As soon as he recognized them, Zhang Song dismounted and walked toward them. Liu Bei received him with extreme respect.
"Your exalted name has been long known to me;" said Liu Bei, "it has reverberated through my ears. My one regret is that cloudy hills and long distances have hitherto prevented me from enjoying the advantage of your instruction. Hearing that you were passing through, I have come to meet you; and if you would be willing to notice me and condescend to rest for a time in my city, thus allowing me to satisfy my long disappointed desire to see you, I should indeed hold myself fortunate."
Naturally the traveler's vanity was tickled, and he joyfully remounted. They rode bridle to bridle into the city. When they reached the residence, again they exchanged profound salutations and compliments before they took their various places as host and guest. And then a banquet was served. But all throughout Liu Bei refrained from saying a word about the west; he only chatted on general and common things.
The visitor noted this steady avoidance and resolved to probe his host's thoughts.
"How many counties are there in Jingzhou, where you are now, O Imperial Uncle?"
Zhuge Liang replied, "Jingzhou is only ours temporarily; we have borrowed it from the South Land. They are always sending messengers to demand its return. However, now that our lord has married their daughter, his position is more secure. But it is still temporary."
"The South Land is large," said Zhang Song, "yet their six territories and their eighty-one counties do not satisfy them. The people are strong and the land is fruitful."
Said Pang Tong, "Our lord, being of the dynastic family, has never occupied a territory of the empire. Those others, thievish as they are, may indeed seize upon as much territory as they are strong enough to hold, but such deeds are not according to the wise person's heart."
"Noble Sirs, pray say no more; what virtue have I that I should expect anything from the future?" said Liu Bei.
"Not so, indeed," said Zhang Song. "Illustrious Sir, you are of the lineage of Han; your noble character is widely known. No one could say that your fate excludes all thoughts of occupying territory, where you might begin to set up authority and take an emperor's position."
Liu Bei deprecated such a suggestion, "Sir, you go too far; this really is too much."
The next three days were spent in banquets and wine parties, but all the time no mention was made of the Western Land of Rivers. And when, at the end of that time, Zhang Song took leave, his host was at the three-mile "parting road" to bid him farewell and offer refreshment.
When the moment came for the parting, Liu Bei raised his wine-cup and said, "I am sincerely grateful that you deigned to come here. You have prolonged your visit to three days, but now the moment of parting has come. Who knows when I may have the privilege of receiving your instructions again?"
As Liu Bei said this, the tears flowed, but he hid them while Zhang Song, willing to believe that this emotion was on his account, thought how wonderfully kind and noble his host must be to be thus affected. Quite overcome, Zhang Song decided to speak about the west.
So he said, "I have thought that I, too, would come to you one day, but so far I have found no way. In Jingzhou I see Sun Quan on the east, always ready to pounce; I see Cao Cao on the north, greedy to swallow. So this is not a wholly desirable place for you to remain in."
"I know this but too well," said Liu Bei, "but I have no secure place to go to."
"Yiazhou is well protected, has much fertile soil, is populous and well governed. Its scholars are attracted by your virtue. If you marched your armies westward, you could easily become a real power there and restore the glory of the Hans."
"But how dare I attempt this? The ruler is also of the Imperial House. The whole region is devoted to him for his good deeds, and no other person could attain such a hold."
"I am no traitor," said Zhang Song, "but in your presence I feel constrained to be perfectly open and plain. Liu Zhang, the Imperial Protector of Yiazhou, is naturally weak and can neither use the wise nor employ the capable. Then again Zhang Lu threatens the north. People are distracted and would gladly welcome an appreciative ruler. The journey I have just made was to propose to support Cao Cao and place the region under him, but I found him rebellious and set on evil, proud and arrogant. So I have turned aside to you. If you will take Yiazhou, you will have a base from which to deal with Hanzhong when you will, and the whole country beside. You will continue the rightful line, and your name will live in history. Would not that be real fame? If then you think of taking our country, I am willing to do what little I can as an ally within. But do you contemplate such a step?"
"I am deeply grateful that you think so well of me. But the Imperial Protector being a member of the family, I should lay myself open to general execration, were I to attack him."
"When a hero finds himself in the world, his duty is to work out his destiny, to exert himself and perform his task as best as he can, to press forward among the foremost. At the moment the position is that, if you fail to seize this opportunity, some other will take possession of Yiazhou, and you will regret when too late."
"And I have heard much of the difficult nature of the country, its many high mountains and numerous streams, and its narrow roads. How could such a country be invaded?"
Then Zhang Song drew the map from his sleeve, saying, "I am so deeply affected by your virtue that I offer you this map of the country, whereby its roads and rivers may be known."
Liu Bei unrolled the map; it was covered with notes, on the lie of the land, lengths and widths, and such matters. Strategic points on rivers and hills were shown, and store-houses and granaries and treasuries. Everything was plainly stated.
Zhang Song went on, "Sir, you can prepare your plans promptly. I have two friends who will certainly help you. And when they come to see you, you may be perfectly frank with them. Their names are Fa Zheng and Meng Da."
Liu Bei thanked him with joined hands.
Said he, "As the blue mountains grow not old and the green waters always remain, so shall I never forget. And when I shall have accomplished my task, you shall have no mean reward."
Replied Zhang Song, "I look for no reward. Having met with an enlightened lord, I felt compelled to unbosom myself to him."
Zhang Song left soon after, and Guan Yu escorted him for several miles.
After arrival in Yiazhou, Zhang Song lost no time in sending for his friends, Fa Zheng and Meng Da. The former was the first to come, and he was told of Cao Cao's arrogance and haughtiness toward humans of parts.
"As for the man himself," said Zhang Song, "he is a man to grieve with but not a person to rejoice with. I have promised Yiazhou to Liu Bei, the Imperial Uncle, and I want your especial advice and assistance."
"I think Liu Zhang is incapable," said Fa Zheng, "and I have felt drawn to Liu Bei for some time past. So we are in sympathy here."
Shortly after Meng Da arrived. Meng Da and Fa Zheng were fellow townsmen. When Meng Da entered the room and saw the other two in earnest and secret conversation, he said, "I know what you two are about; you are scheming to hand over Yiazhou to somebody."
"It is really so; you have guessed right," said Zhang Song.
"But to whom ought it to go?" said Fa Zheng.
"There is but one: Liu Bei," said Meng Da.
All three clapped their hands and laughed.
Then said Fa Zheng to Zhang Song, "You will see our lord tomorrow; what about that?"
"I shall recommend that you two be sent to Jingzhou on a mission."
They thought that a suitable scheme.
And when the lately arrived messenger saw his master and was asked how he had fared, Zhang Song said, "Cao Cao is a rebel who desires to get the whole empire into his hands. I need hardly tell you that. But he also hankers after this region."
"Then what will become of us?" said Liu Zhang.
"I have a plan to check both our enemies. Liu Bei, the Imperial Uncle, now in Jingzhou, is a relative of yours, and he is generous and well disposed. This is a matter of common knowledge. Cao Cao was simply overwhelmed at the result of the battle at the Red Cliffs, and Zhang Lu more so. Now my plan is that you ally yourself with your distinguished relative against Cao Cao and Zhang Lu."
"I have been thinking thus for a long-time; can you recommend a suitable emissary?"
"The only ones are Fa Zheng and Meng Da."
These two were summoned and, meanwhile, a letter was prepared. Fa Zheng was to proceed as emissary to open up friendly relations, and Meng Da would follow in due course with an army to welcome Liu Bei into the Western Land of Rivers.
While still discussing the details of the policy, a person forced his way in, his face all running with sweat, and cried out, "My lord, your land of forty-one counties will be lost to you and pass to another if you listen to Zhang Song."
Zhang Song turned a startled look on the intruder, who was Huang Quan of Xiliang, First Secretary in the Imperial Protector's palace.
The Imperial Protector said, "Why do you use such language? Liu Bei is of my family, and so I am seeking his support."
Said Huang Quan, "I know all about him; he is liberal minded to gain people to his side, and his softness can overcome the hardest. He is bolder than any other. He gains humans' hearts from afar off, and those near him look up to him. He also has the wisest advisers and the boldest warriors. But if you call him here as a soldier, think you that he will be content to remain in a lowly condition? And if you treat him as an honored guest, can a state stand two rulers? Hear me, my lord, and you stand secure as Taishan Mountains; be deaf to my words, and your position is as precarious as a pile of eggs. This Zhang Song has lately come home through Jingzhou where he has certainly been plotting with Liu Bei. Slay this man; and make an end of Liu Bei. That will be for the happiness of this land."
"But how else am I to fend off my two enemies?"
"Fortify your country, dig out your moats, and raise your ramparts. Then you can wait on events."
"If these rebels invade this land, the position will be critical, as when fire singes one's eyebrows. It is idle talk to tell me to wait on events."
No notice was taken of Huang Quan, and Fa Zheng was about to set out when another interfered, crying, "No, no!"
This was a secretary, Wang Lei.
With bowed head Wang Lei stood and said, "My lord will bring misfortune upon himself if he listens to this Zhang Song."
"Not so; I make an alliance with Liu Bei in order to withstand Zhang Lu."
"Zhang Lu's invasion would be but a skin disease. Liu Bei' entry into this country would be a mortal malady. Liu Bei is an unscrupulous brave; he was once in Cao Cao's service and plotted against him. Then he hung on to Sun Quan and seized Jingzhou. This shows his character and his designs. Think you that you two can dwell together? If you invite him, then Shu is lost!"
"No more wild talk!" cried Liu Zhang angrily. "Liu Bei is of my clan and family and will not ravish me of my possessions."
He bade the guards escort both men outside and ordered Fa Zheng to set out. So he did, and before long came to Jingzhou. When the salutations were over, Fa Zheng presented his letter, which Liu Bei opened and read:
"I, Liu Zhang, a younger brother of our family, now write to General Liu Bei. From my humble place long have I gazed in your direction, but the roads of the Western Land of Rivers are precipitous, and I have failed to send my tribute. This is to my shame. The victims of misfortune aid each other, and those in trouble support each other. If friends act thus, how much more should members of the same family? Now Zhang Lu is mustering an army of invasion on my northern frontier, much to the injury of my tranquillity. Wherefore I send this letter that you may know of my distress; and if you remember the kindly bonds of family and will play a brotherly part and lead your armies to destroy these ruffians, you will be my eternal protector and I shall be ever grateful. This letter leaves much unsaid, but I await your coming."
This letter greatly pleased Liu Bei. He made a banquet for the bearer thereof, and when they had mellowed themselves with wine, he dismissed the attendants and spoke to Fa Zheng in confidence.
"Friend, I have long admired you, and Zhang Song extolled your virtues. I shall always feel grateful for this opportunity of hearing you."
Fa Zheng bowed, saying, "That is too great praise for a humble emissary from Shu. But they say that horses always neighed in recognition of Bo Le, the supreme judge of horses, and when a person has found his lord, he dies for him. Have you thought further of Zhang Song' proposals, General?"
"I have always been a wanderer, often in suffering and sorrow. I have often thought of the wren for even that tiny bird has a twig to rest on; and of the cunning hare, that secures safety with three openings to its burrow. Does not a person need at least a shelter? Your land of the west is fertile and a temptation, but its ruler is of my family, and I cannot plot against him."
"Yes; Yiazhou is a very paradise. But without a ruler it cannot exist. Liu Zhang knows not how to use the wise people, and his heritage must speedily pass to another. Today it is offered to your hands, and you must not miss the opportunity. You know the saying, that the leader in the hunt gets the quarry. If you will only consent, I will serve you to the death."
Liu Bei signified his gratitude.
Said he, "Let me reflect for a time and take advice."
The banquet terminated and the guest left. Zhuge Liang conducted Fa Zheng to his lodging while his master sat thinking.
Then Pang Tong said, "You must decide; not to decide is foolish. You are of high intelligence, my lord, and why do you hesitate?"
"What should my reply be?" asked Liu Bei.
"You know these surroundings, and with them you cannot attain your ends. Now before you lies a populous, fertile, and rich land, a base with the greatest possibilities. You have the promise of assistance from two men within, and it seems like a gift of providence. Why hesitate?"
"Now there are two men in the world as mutually antagonistic as fire and water. My opposite is Cao Cao. He is impetuous and I am long suffering; he is cruel and I am humane; he feigns while I am true. In all particulars I act the direct contrary to him. I refuse to risk the loss of the confidence and trust of the world for a trifling advantage."
Pang Tong smiled at these sentiments, saying, "My lord's words are quite in accord with abstract rectitude, but such ideas scarcely suit the days of rebellion. There are other ways of fighting than with warlike weapons, but to adhere too obstinately to the idea of abstract rectitude is to do nothing. One must be an opportunist, annex the weak and attack the willfully deluded, seize the recalcitrant and protect the docile. These were the teachings of the great Kings Tang and Wu 1. If after the settlement you reward with righteousness and make of the land a great country, will you be guilty of a breach of trust? Remember if you do not take it now, another will."
Liu Bei, a prey to confused emotions, replied, "These words are as jewels; they should be engraved on my very heart."
Thereupon he summoned Zhuge Liang to settle the details of an army to march west.
Zhuge Liang said, "This is an important place and must be very well defended."
Liu Bei replied, "I, Pang Tong, and my two generals Huang Zhong and Wei Yan will go into the west; you and our three best generals---Guan Yu, Zhang Fei, and Zhao Yun---can defend Jingzhou."
Guan Yu was told off for Xiangyang and the narrow pass at Qingni, Zhang Fei commanded four cities along the river, and Zhao Yun camped at Jiangling. For the march westward, Huang Zhong led the van, Wei Yan had the rearguard, while Liu Bei moved in the center with Kou Feng and Guan Ping as his aids. Pang Tong was Commander of the whole army.
Just as the fifty thousand troops were starting, there came Liao Hua to offer his service; he and his troops were attached to Guan Yu.
It was in the winter that the expedition started. Soon they met the force under Meng Da, five thousand soldiers, to act as escort into Yiazhou. Liu Bei informed Liu Zhang that he had started, and the latter sent orders to the counties along the road to entertain them well on the march.
The Imperial Protector proposed to go out in person to welcome Liu Bei and ordered carriages to be prepared and tents and banners. All the escort were dressed in glittering armor. At this Secretary Huang Quan, the sturdy opponent of the invitation to Liu Bei, again remonstrated.
"My lord, if you go out, you will be exposed to danger. I have been in your service for many years, and I would prevent you from being the victim of another's wiles. I pray you reflect."
Zhang Song said, "His words are those of one who would sow discord in a family and encourage the power of the robbers who threaten you. Assuredly such action is to your detriment."
Liu Zhang then spoke angrily to Huang Quan, saying, "I have decided, and why do you oppose me?"
The objector bowed his head and wept. Then approaching nearer, he seized hold of the Imperial Protector's robe with his teeth to hinder him. Liu Zhang angrily shook his robe and rose from his seat, but Huang Quan still held on till two of his teeth fell out. Then the guards forced him away, and he retired, still crying.
As Liu Zhang was starting, another man cried, "My lord, do you neglect the loyal words of your faithful Huang Quan to go to your death?"
And he threw himself prostrate at the steps in remonstrance. He was Li Hui of Jianning.
"The prince may have ministers who remonstrate with him, and the father may have children who oppose," said Li Hui. "Huang Quan has spoken faithfully, and you ought to listen. To let Liu Bei into this land is to welcome the tiger into your gates."
"Liu Bei is my brother and will not harm me," said the Imperial Protector. "And any other who shall oppose me shall suffer death."
So Li Hui was thrust out.
"The officers of Shu regard the safety of their families and no longer render you service. The generals are arrogant, and each has some scheme of his own to further. If you do not get Liu Bei to oppose the enemy without and your own people oppose you within, surely you are on the road to ruin."
So spoke Zhang Song, and the Imperial Protector replied, "I know the plan is for my advantage."
Whereupon he mounted his horse to ride out to Elm Tree Bridge.
Then a messenger reported to him: "Wang Lei has suspended himself, head downwards, at the city gate. In one hand he holds a written remonstrance and in the other a knife. And he says that if you heed him not, he will cut the rope and die at your feet."
Liu Zhang went to the gate, took the writing and read:
"Good medicine is bitter in the mouth but good for the disease; faithful words offend the ear but are good for the conduct. Of old King Huai of Chu listened not to Qu Yuan, but attended the meeting at Wu Pass and was captured by the state of Qin. Sir, you are thoughtlessly leaving your place to go to welcome Liu Bei, but I fear there is a way out and none in. Could you but behead Zhang Song in the market place and have nothing to do with this league with Liu Bei, it would be for the happiness of old and young, and assure the safety of yourself."
Anger rose in Liu Zhang' breast as he read.
"Why do you insult me when I go to meet a kindly man I feel as if I were about to enjoy the delight of seeing brother?"
At this Wang Lei gave a great cry, severed the rope, and fell to the ground battered and dead.
Head downwards at the city gate one hung
Liu Zhang with thirty thousand troops went out to welcome his clansman, and there followed one thousand wagons laden with supplies and rich stuffs.
A last remonstrance in his outstretched hand.
Resolved that, were his words rejected, he
Would not survive defeat. Sincere was he
Who, desperate, held to Liu Zhang' silken robe
Until his broken teeth released their grip.
Sincere indeed, but how can he compare
With stern Wang Lei who went to awful death?
Liu Bei' advanced guard had arrived at River Moonstone. During the march the people had brought presents, and Liu Bei had given an order to pay for everything, under penalty of death for disobedience. Thus no one suffered, and the people came out in trusting crowds to watch the soldiers marching by and welcome them in every way. Liu Bei soothed them with very gracious words.
Then Fa Zheng secretly showed Pang Tong a letter from Zhang Song advocating the assassination of Liu Zhang near the place of welcome.
Pang Tong said, "Say nothing about this; after the two Lius have met, there may be opportunities, but this is too early to talk. Any plot would leak out."
So nothing was said. Fucheng, where the meeting was to take place, was one hundred twenty miles from Capital Chengdu. Liu Zhang arrived first and sent messengers to welcome Liu Bei. The two armies camped on the bank of River Fu. Liu Bei went into the city to see the Imperial Protector, and they met cordially as brothers should. Both shed a few tears, and by and bye they began a heart-to-heart talk. Then followed a banquet, and after this each returned to his own camp.
The Imperial Protector said, "How ridiculous have been proved the fears of Huang Quan and Wang Lei! They do not understand the force of family affection. I see he is really a kindly and noble man, and with him as a support I shall fear neither Cao Cao nor Zhang Lu. And I owe all this to Zhang Song."
To show his gratitude, Liu Zhang took off the green silken robe he wore and sent it as a gift to Zhang Song, together with five hundred ounces of gold.
However, some of his officers were not so content, and a group of them bade him beware.
"Do not rejoice too soon, O Master," said they, "for Liu Bei is hard enough within in spite of his mild exterior. You have not sounded him yet and should be on your guard."
"You are all too anxious;" said Liu Zhang, laughing, "my brother is no double-dealer, I am sure."
When Liu Bei had returned to his own tent, Pang Tong came in to ask what impression he had of his host of that day.
"He seems a very honest man," said Liu Bei.
"He is good enough, but some of his servants are discontented at this turn of affairs, and I would not guarantee there will be no murders. If you took my advice, you would have Liu Zhang assassinated at the return banquet. A hundred ruffians behind the arras, a signal from you, and the deed would be accomplished. All that would be needed, then would be a rush on Capital Chengdu. No sword need be drawn, no arrow fitted to the string."
"He is a brother of my house and has treated me with sincerity. I am a new-comer and so far unknown in this land. Such a deed would be abhorrent to all the world, and these people would resent it. I will not establish myself by such means."
"The scheme is not mine; it originated in a private letter from Zhang Song, who says it will have to be done some time."
At this moment Fa Zheng came in and said, "This is not for ourselves; it is the will of heaven."
"Liu Zhang and I are of the same house, and I would shudder at harming him."
"Sir, you are wrong. If you act not as we propose, then Zhang Lu will take Shu in revenge for the death of his mother. What is there for you at the end of your long march? Advance, and success is yours; retreat, and you have nothing. And delays are most dangerous. At any moment this scheme may leak out, and another will reap the profit. This is the day when Heaven smiles on you. Act before Liu Zhang suspects you; establish yourself."
So urged Fa Zheng, and Pang Tong backed it.
Their lord, by argument, they tried
What Liu Bei hid in his heart will be explained in the next chapter.
From rectitude to turn aside.
1 King Tang was founder of Shang Dynasty, and King Wu of Zhou Dynasty.