Taking Of River Fu Pass, Yang Huai and Gao Pei Are Slain;
Siege Of Luocheng, Huang Zhong and Wei Yan Rival.
Sun Quan approved, wrote the two letters and sent them by two messengers.
In the meantime, Liu Bei had been winning the hearts of the people about Jiameng Pass, where his army lay. When he received the news of his wife's flight and of Cao Cao's threatened attack, he called in Pang Tong and laid the matter before him.
"The victor, whoever it is, will assuredly possess himself of our region of Jingzhou," said Liu Bei at the close.
"You need not trouble about that region," said Pang Tong. "I do not think the South Land or the Middle Land will try to take it so long as Zhuge Liang is there. But, my lord, write to Liu Zhang telling him you wish to return on account of this threatening danger. It will be a plausible excuse. You may say that on account of Cao Cao's attack, Sun Quan has sent to you for help, and that as his country and yours are neighbors and dependent upon each other for safety you cannot refuse. Further, you will assure him that there is no danger of any invasion by Zhang Lu. However, we have too few troops for our purpose and insufficient grain, so you must also urge your relative to send you thirty or forty thousand of veterans and a plentiful supply of food. He will not refuse, and with more soldiers and provisions we can do as we please."
Liu Bei agreed to this and sent a messenger to Chengdu. When his messenger reached the River Fu Pass, Yang Huai and Gao Pei, who commanded the garrison, already knew of the design, and the former of the two generals went with him to the city.
After reading the letter, the Imperial Protector asked Yang Huai, "Why did you come with the messenger?"
"Only because of that letter," Yang Huai replied. "This Liu Bei, from the day he first entered Yiazhou, has been trying to win over the hearts of your people by a display of kindness and virtue. He certainly intends no good, and I think you should refuse both the troops and the supplies he asks. To help him is like adding fuel to a fire."
"We are affectionate brothers, and I must help him," said the Imperial Protector.
"Liu Bei is nothing but a vagabond swashbuckler," some one cried, "and if you keep him here in the west, you are loosing a tiger in your household. If you give him the troops and supplies he asks, you are adding wings to your tiger."
Turning whence the voice proceeded, they recognized the speaker as one Liu Ba, a native of Lingling. His words threw the Imperial Protector into a state of doubt and hesitation. Huang Quan also dissuaded him most earnestly, and finally Liu Zhang actually decided to send only four thousand of worn-out soldiers and a paltry supply of grain. At the same time fresh orders enjoining a diligent watchfulness were sent to the guardians of the passes.
When Liu Bei read the letter that accompanied the Imperial Protector's miserable contribution to his strength, he was furious and cried, "I have been spending myself in your defense, and this is my reward! You are mean and greedy enough to stint my supplies. How can you expect generous service?"
Liu Bei tore the letter to fragments and execrated the writer thereof. The bearer of the letter fled back to the capital.
Then said Pang Tong, "You have hitherto laid too much stress on humanity and righteousness. However, that is all over now, and all affection between you two is at an end, now that you have torn up that letter."
"Yes. And since that is so, what next?" asked Liu Bei.
"I have three schemes ready in my mind. You may choose which pleases you."
"What are your three schemes?"
"The first, and best, is to send an army forthwith and seize Chengdu. The second is to capture and put to death the two generals of the River Fu Pass. They are the two most famous fighting men in this land. If you give out that you are returning to Jingzhou, they will assuredly come to say farewell. Seize and put them to death, and the Pass and Fucheng are both yours. Chengdu will follow soon. The third plan is to drop this role you have been playing, go back to Jingzhou and make a regular invasion. But if you ponder these schemes too long, you will get into such straits that nothing can save you."
Liu Bei replied, "Of your three schemes, O Instructor, I find the first too summary and the last too slow. I choose the second scheme, which is neither."
So a letter was written to Liu Zhang saying that Cao Cao was sending an army against Qingni; the generals there were unequal to the defense, and Liu Bei had to go to help. As the matter was pressing, there could be no personal leave-taking.
"I knew that the real desire of Liu Bei was to return to Jingzhou," said Zhang Song, when he heard of the letter to Liu Zhang.
Zhang Song then also composed a letter to Liu Bei. While he was looking about for a trusty person to take it, his brother Zhang Su, who was the Governor of Guanghan, came to see him. Zhang Song hid the letter in his sleeve while he talked with his brother. Zhang Su noticed his anxious inquietude, which he could not explain. Wine was brought in and, as the two brothers chatted over it, the letter dropped to the floor unnoticed by Zhang Song. One of Zhang Su' servants saw it, picked it up, and gave it to his master, who opened and read it.
This is about how it ran:
"What I said to you lately was not mere meaningless talk. Why, then, postpone action? The ancients valued the person who took by force and held by conciliation. If you act at once, the whole matter is in your hand. Why abandon all and return to Jingzhou? Surely I do not hear aright! When you get this letter, attack without a moment's delay and remember that I am your ally on the inside. Above all, no delay!"
"This plot of my brother's will end in the destruction of the whole family," said Zhang Su. "I must get in the first word."
So at once he went in and laid the whole matter before the Imperial Protector.
"I have always treated your brother so well!" said Liu Zhang, very angry.
Liu Zhang issued orders to arrest Zhang Song and behead him and all his household in the market place.
Zhang Song, such as he have been but few,
Having thus learned of a real conspiracy to deprive him of his heritage, Liu Zhang assembled his officers and asked their advice.
Little thought he that a letter would betray
When he plotted for another. But success he never knew,
For himself there opened out a gory way.
Huang Quan spoke out, saying, "Prompt action is needed. Send to every strategic point telling them to increase the garrisons and keep careful guard and, above all, prevent the entrance of any person from Jingzhou."
Such orders were sent to all points of vantage where were garrisons.
In the meantime, carrying out Pang Tong's scheme, Liu Bei had marched down to Fucheng, where he halted and sent in a messenger to invite the two generals to come forth and say farewell. But they did not respond at once to this invitation.
"What is the real meaning of this retirement?" said one to the other.
"This Liu Bei ought to die," said Gao Pei. "Let us hide daggers under our dress and stab him at the place of farewell. That will end all our lord's troubles."
"A most excellent plan," said Yang Huai.
So they two, taking only a small escort of two hundred, went down out of the Pass to say goodbye. Most of their forces were left in the camp.
On the way down to River Fu, Pang Tong had said to his master, "You have need to be on your guard against those two if they come to bid you farewell. If they do not come, then the Pass must be attacked without delay."
Just as he said this, a violent gust of wind overthrew the leading flag of the army, and Liu Bei asked what this portended.
"That means a surprise; those two intend to assassinate you, so be on your guard."
Accordingly, Liu Bei put on double armor and girded on his sword in readiness. When the two generals arrived, the army halted while the generals should pay the farewell visit.
Then Pang Tong said to his two generals, Wei Yan and Huang Zhong, "However many soldiers come down from the Pass, see to it that none return."
The two generals of the Western Land of Rivers, Yang Huai and Gao Pei, armed with hidden daggers, came up, their escort bearing gifts of sheep and wine. They marked no precautions being taken against an attack and began to think their task of murder would be an easy one. They were led in to where Liu Bei sat under a tent, his adviser with him.
They said, "We hear, O Imperial Uncle, that you contemplate a long march, and therefore we come to offer a few poor gifts to speed you on your way."
The cups of farewell were duly filled. Then Liu Bei replied, "You have a heavy responsibility to defend the Pass, Generals. I pray you drink first."
They drank. Then Liu Bei said, "I have a secret matter to talk over with you."
So all the two hundred soldiers of the escort were sent away and led to the midst of the camp.
As soon as they had gone, Liu Bei shouted, "My generals, lay hands upon these two rebels!"
Thereupon Kou Feng and Guan Ping rushed out from behind the tent. The two generals of the Pass were taken aback, but began to struggle. However, Kou Feng and Guan Ping each seized one man and held him.
"Your lord and I are of the same house;" said Liu Bei, "why then have you plotted against me and conspired to sow enmity between us?"
Pang Tong bade them search the captives, and the hidden daggers were found. So both were ordered to immediate execution. However, Liu Bei hesitated and was unwilling to confirm the sentence and put them to death. But his adviser insisted that they were worthy of death for the assassination they had penned, and bade the executioners fall on. So the two men were beheaded. Of their following not one had been allowed to slip away.
Liu Bei summoned the soldiers of the escort to his tent, gave them wine to comfort them, and said, "Your leaders conspired to sow dissension between brothers and were found with daggers hidden beneath their clothing. They were assassins in intent and have met the fate they merited. You have committed no crime and need feel no alarm."
The soldiers thanked him for his clemency with low obeisance.
Then said Pang Tong, "If you will now show the way so that our troops may capture the Pass, you shall even be rewarded."
They consented. That same night the army set out, with the soldiers of the renegade escort leading the way.
When they reached the Pass they hailed the gate, saying, "Open the gate quickly; the generals have returned earlier than they expected because of important business."
Hearing the voices of their comrades, the gate guards had no suspicion of treachery and threw open the gates. In rushed the enemy soldiers and so gained possession of River Fu Pass without shedding a drop of blood. The defenders came over to the side of Liu Bei and were liberally rewarded. This done, the army was posted so as to guard the approaches and maintain what they had captured.
The next few days were spent in banquets and feasts in celebration of success.
At one of these feasts, Liu Bei turned to his adviser, saying, "This is what one might call a joyful occasion."
"To employ warlike weapons in making an attack upon the possession of another is not using them in the best way," replied Pang Tong. "Nor is such attack the most proper occasion for rejoicing."
Liu Bei replied, "The success of King Wu of Zhou was celebrated with music; I suppose weapons were not well used on that occasion either. Why do you talk so wide of reason? You would better retire."
Pang Tong laughed and withdrew from the table, while the attendants supported Liu Bei to his own chamber, where he had a long sleep. About midnight he awoke from his wine, and then the servants told him that he had driven sway his adviser from the feast. He was at once filled with remorse. Next day, having dressed early in full costume of ceremony, he took his seat in the great hall, summoned his adviser and apologized handsomely for his rude behavior the night before.
"I drank too much last night and spoke rudely; pray forget it."
Pang Tong, who had taken the whole episode in very good part from the first, laughed and talked as usual.
But Liu Bei went on, "Really I was the only one to blame yesterday."
"We both slipped up; it was not only you, my lord," said Pang Tong.
Then Liu Bei laughed too, and the two were as good friends again as ever.
When Imperial Protector Liu Zhang heard of the doings of his relative and guest, he said, "I did not think that such things would come to pass."
The officers of Yiazhou met to consider how to oppose the further advance of Liu Bei, and Huang Quan said, "Let us send without delay a force to hold Luocheng, which is the very throat of the road he must take. He may have veteran soldiers and fiery generals, but he will not be able to pass."
So the four ablest generals---Deng Xian, Ling Bao, Liu Gui, and Zhang Ren---were told off for this duty, and they led fifty thousand troops.
As they marched, Liu Gui said, "In the Silky Hills there is a wonderful Taoist who calls himself 'The Super Human of the Dark Void.' He has the gift of second sight, so let us visit him as we pass and inquire what our fortunes are to be."
"What should one seek of a hermit when one is out to repulse an enemy?" said his colleague, Zhang Ren, contemptuously.
"Your view is wrong," said Liu Gui. "The Holy One ((Confucius)) has said that it is characteristic of the most entire sincerity to be able to foreknow. So let us inquire of this man of high intelligence that we may know what to do and what to avoid."
Whereupon they went up into the hills and sought the hermit's retreat. They were a small party, on horseback. Meeting a wood-cutter, they inquired the whereabouts of the dwelling of the wise man, and he pointed to one of the highest hills, saying that the Sage lived on the very summit. They climbed up to the spot he had told them of and found a small hut. At their summons, a lad in Taoist garb came out to speak with them. He asked their names and led them into the presence of the Super Human, who received them seated on a rush cushion. They made a low obeisance, told him the reason of their coming, and asked of the future.
"How can a poor Taoist recluse know ought of fortunes, good or evil?" said he.
However, after a time, as Liu Gui repeated his request again and again and comported himself most humbly, the hermit bade the lad bring paper and ink and he wrote eight lines, which he handed to his questioner.
"Supported by dragon and phoenix,
Having read the oracle, they pressed the seer to reveal them their individual fortunes, but he replied, "Why ask these things? None can escape his fate."
So flies he westward.
But the phoenix shall fall to the earth.
And the dragon shall soar to the sky;
There shall be successes and failures,
For such is the eternal law.
See that ye act when occasion offers,
Lest ye descend to the Nine Golden Springs."
Liu Gui ventured to question the Sage further, but his eyelids dropped as if he slumbered. Nor would he vouchsafe a word more, and the four generals took leave and descended the hill.
"One must have faith in such as he says," said Liu Gui.
"What is to be gained by listening to the sayings of a daft old man?" replied Zhang Ren.
So they continued their road to Luocheng. When they arrived, they said, "Luocheng is the throat of the road to Chengdu. We must create a pincers defense for the city. Two of us are to guard the ramparts while the other two are to station themselves in front of the city, where is a point of vantage sheltered by some hills."
Thus Deng Xian and Ling Bao wanted to build the ramparts outside the city. Twenty thousand troops were told off; the two generals went to establish two camps in two stockades twenty miles away, hoping to be able to keep the foe away from the city.
The River Fu Pass being captured, Liu Bei took counsel with his adviser as to the next point to be attempted. This was Luocheng.
The scouts reported: "Liu Zhang has sent four generals to the defense of that city, and two camps has been established twenty miles away to form an ox horn."
Then Liu Bei assembled his officers and asked who would go to attack the camps. The veteran Huang Zhong offered himself.
"Veteran General, take your own troops and go," said Liu Bei. "A goodly reward shall be yours if you capture the two camps."
Huang Zhong thanked his lord and was just leading away his troops when suddenly up spoke a youthful leader, saying, "The General is too old to go on such an expedition; I am of poor ability, but I wish to take his place."
The speaker was Wei Yan.
Huang Zhong replied, "I already have my commission; why should you wish to supplant me?"
"Because the task is beyond an old man's strength," said Wei Yan. "The two generals in those camps we know are the best and boldest in the country. They are strong, and, veteran as you are, I fear you will be unable to overcome them. If you fail, our lord's great design will be hindered. Therefore I ask that I may replace you, and my intent is kindly."
This reminder of his age angered the old man.
"Old, am I? Dare you compete with me in the use of warlike weapons?" said Huang Zhong.
"Yes; I dare. And our lord shall be the judge. The winner shall undertake this expedition. Do you agree?"
Huang Zhong ran down the steps and called to his soldiers to bring his small sword.
But Liu Bei would stop this contest and said, "I have need of both of you in the task that lies before me. When two tigers fight, one is sure to lose; and the loss of either of you is more than I could bear. Be reconciled and quarrel no more."
"You two must not quarrel," said Pang Tong. "But as there are two camps to be taken and two generals to fight, take one each and let each lead his own troops. The first to capture his camp shall be held to have rendered the greater service and to have acquired the greater merit."
This decision pacified them, and it was settled that Huang Zhong, the veteran, should go against Ling Bao, and Wei Yan, the younger leader, should attack Deng Xian.
But after they had marched away, Pang Tong recommended, "You, my lord, should follow them lest they should quarrel on the way."
So leaving the city of Fucheng in care of his adviser, Liu Bei also marched, taking with him Kou Feng, his adopted son, and Guan Ping, his nephew by adoption. They took five thousand troops.
After having received the command to take one of the camps, Huang Zhong went to his own camp and issued orders for the morning meal to be ready very early, and for every one to be in marching order by daybreak. When the time arrived, his army set out, taking the road through a gully to the left of the hills.
But early as Huang Zhong started, his rival had stolen a march on him. Wei Yan had sent over the night before to find out the hour fixed for Huang Zhong's start and had arranged his own departure a watch earlier, by which he would be able to reach his objective at dawn. After Wei Yan' troops had taken their early meal, they removed the bells from the horses end put gags in their own mouths to prevent talking, and all-silently the army stole out of the camp just as the other party were eating their breakfast. The ensigns were furled and weapons covered lest the glint of steel should betray their movement.
Thus far successful in getting the start of his rival, Wei Yan thought as he rode along what a fine score he would make if he anticipated Huang Zhong also in his attack and captured the camp of Ling Bao before Huang Zhong could get there. Wei Yan at once deviated from his own line and marched toward the camp defended by Ling Bao, of which the capture had been assigned to Huang Zhong.
Just before arrival, Wei Yan halted his troops and bade them prepare the drums and ensigns and their weapons.
Early as it was, yet the camp commander was on the alert, for the advancing force had been observed by his scouts. At the first sign of attack, the defenders poured out in full force. Wei Yan galloped up and made straight for Ling Bao. These two fought twenty or so of bouts, and then the troops of the Western Land of Rivers came up and joined in the battle. The troops of Jingzhou under Wei Yan having marched a long distance, were fatigued and could not withstand this onslaught, so they fell back. Wei Yan heard the confused sound of hoofs behind him and, giving up all thought of finishing his encounter with Ling Bao, turned his horse and fled. The troops of the Western Land of Rivers kept up the pursuit, and the attackers were defeated and retired.
They had gone about two miles when another army of Yiazhou appeared from behind some hills. They advanced with heating drums. Their leader, Deng Xian, shouted to Wei Yan to surrender, but Wei Yan heeded him not; whipping up his steed he fled the faster. However, the tired horse tripped and fell on its knees, throwing its rider to the ground. Deng Xian's forces came galloping up, and he himself set his spear to thrust and slay Wei Yan. Before the spear could get where it was supposed to be, twang! went a bowstring, and Deng Xian lay prone upon the earth.
Ling Bao, Deng Xian's colleague, rode up quickly to his rescue, but just then a body of horse came dashing down the hill, and their leader shouted, "General Huang Zhong is here!"
With uplifted sword Huang Zhong rode toward Ling Bao, who turned his steed and galloped off to the rear. Huang Zhong pursued, and the army of Yiazhou were thrown into confusion. So Huang Zhong was able to rescue his colleague Wei Yan. Huang Zhong had thus slain Deng Xian and forced his way up to the gate of the camp. Once again Ling Bao came and engaged Huang Zhong. The two had fought some ten bouts when appeared another body of soldiers. Thereupon Ling Bao fled again, and this time he made for the other camp, abandoning his own to the troops of Jingzhou.
But when he drew near his camp, he saw no longer the familiar flags of his own side. Instead, alien banners fluttered in the breeze. He checked his steed and stared at the new force. The leader was a general wearing a silver breastplate and clad in a silken robe, no other than Liu Bei himself. On his left was his son and on his right rode his nephew.
"Whither would you come?" cried Liu Bei. "The camp is ours; I have captured it."
Now Liu Bei had led his troops in the track of the other two armies ready to help either in case of need. He had come across the empty and undefended camp and taken possession.
Left with no place of refuge, Ling Bao set off along a byway to try to get back to Luocheng. He had not gone far when he fell into an ambush and was taken prisoner. Bound with cords he was taken to the camp of Liu Bei.
The ambush had been prepared by Wei Yan, who, knowing he had committed a fault that could in no wise be explained away, had collected as many of his soldiers as he could find and made some of the captured soldiers of Yiazhou guide him to a spot suitable for laying an ambush.
Liu Bei had hoisted the flag of amnesty for his enemies, and whenever any soldier of the Western Land of Rivers laid down his weapons and stripped off his armor he was spared. Also all the wounded were granted life. Liu Bei told his enemies that they had liberty of choice.
He said, "You soldiers have parents and wives and little ones at home, and those who wish to return to them are free to go. If any wish to join my army, they also will be received."
At this proof of generosity the sound of rejoicing filled the land.
Having made his camp, Huang Zhong came to Liu Bei and said, "Wei Yan should be put to death for disobedience!"
The culprit was summoned and came, bringing with him his prisoner. Liu Bei decided that the merit of capturing an enemy should be set against his fault and bade him thank his rescuer, enjoining upon them both to quarrel no more. Wei Yan bowed his head and confessed his fault, and Huang Zhong was handsomely rewarded.
The prisoner was then taken before Liu Bei to decide upon his fate. Liu Bei loosened Ling Bao's bonds by his own hands and gave Ling Bao the cup of consolation. After he had drunk, Liu Bei asked if he was willing to surrender.
"Since you give me my life, I can do no other," said he. "Moreover, my two companions, Liu Gui and Zhang Ren, and I are sworn to live or die together. If you will release me, I will return and bring them also to you and therewith you will get possession of Luocheng."
Liu Bei gladly accepted the offer. He gave Ling Bao clothing and a horse and bade him go to the city to carry out his plan.
"Do not let him go," said Wei Yan. "If you do, you will never see him again."
Liu Bei replied, "If I treat humans with kindness and justice, they will not betray my trust."
So the prisoner was set free. When Ling Bao reached the city and saw his two friends, he told them, saying, "I slew many of the enemy and escaped by mounting the steed of one of them."
Ling Bao said no word of having been captured. Messengers were sent in haste to Chengdu for help.
The loss of his general, Deng Xian, disturbed the Imperial Protector greatly. He called his advisers together to consult.
Then his eldest son, Liu Xun, said, "Father, let me go to defend Luocheng."
"You may go, my son, but who is there to go with you?"
One Wu Yi at once offered himself. He was brother-in-law to Liu Zhang, who said, "It is well that you go, Brother-in-Law, but who will second you?"
Wu Yi at once recommended two men, Wu Lan and Lei Tong, who were appointed to assist in the command. Twenty thousand troops were given them, and they set out for Luocheng. Liu Gui and Zhang Ren came out to welcome them and told them what had happened.
Wu Yi said, "If the enemy draw near to the walls, it will be hard to drive them off again. What do you two think should be done?"
Ling Bao replied, "The city lies along River Fu and the current is strong. The enemy camp lies low at the foot of the hills; and with five thousand people I can cut the river banks, flood their camp, and drown Liu Bei and his army with him."
The plan was approved, and Ling Bao went away to carry it out. Wu Lan and Lei Tong were told off to supervise the workers. They began to prepare the tools for cutting the bank.
Leaving Huang Zhong and Wei Yan in command of the two camps, Liu Bei went away to Fucheng to consult with Pang Tong, the army's instructor. Intelligence had been received that Sun Quan had sent a messenger to seek to make a league with Zhang Lu to make a joint attack upon the Jiameng Pass, and Liu Bei was alarmed lest it should come to pass.
"If they do that, I am taken in the rear and helpless in both advance and retreat," said he. "What do you counsel, O Instructor?"
Pang Tong turned to Meng Da, saying, "You are a native of Shu and well skilled in its topography; what can be done to make the Pass secure?"
"Let me take a certain man with me, and I will defend it myself and answer for its safety."
"Who is he?" asked Liu Bei.
"He was formerly an officer under Liu Biao. His name is Huo Jun, and he is a native of Nanjun in the south."
This offer was accepted, and the two generals departed.
After the council, when Pang Tong returned to his lodging, the doorkeeper told him that a visitor had arrived. When Pang Tong went out to receive him, he saw a huge tall fellow eight cubits in stature and of noble countenance. His hair had been cut short and hung upon his neck. He was poorly dressed.
"Who may you be, Master?" asked Pang Tong.
The visitor made no reply, but went at once straight up the room and lay upon the couch. Pang Tong felt very suspicious of the man and repeated his question.
Pressed again, the visitor said, "Do let me rest a little; then I will talk with you about everything in the world."
This answer only added to the mystery and increased the host's suspicion, but he had wine and food brought in, of which the guest partook ravenously. Having eaten, he lay down and fell asleep.
Pang Tong wag greatly puzzled and thought the man must be a spy. He sent for Fa Zheng, met him in the courtyard, and told him about the strange visitor.
"Surely it can be no other than Peng Yang," said Fa Zheng.
Fa Zheng went inside and looked. Immediately the visitor jumped up, saying, "I hope you have been well since we parted last!"
Because two old friends meet again,
The next chapter will explain who the stranger was.
A river's fatal flood is checked.