CHAPTER 84

Lu Xun Burns All Consecutive Camps;
Zhuge Liang Plans The Eight-Array Maze.
 

The last chapter closed with the report that the First Ruler had shifted camp in search of cool shade, and the news was very welcome to Lu Xun. He went forthwith to assure himself of the truth of the report and observe the new position. A level plain lay at his feet, whereon he saw something short of ten thousand Shu troops, the greater part of whom appeared invalids. On the banner of their leader he read the name "Van Leader Wu Ban".

"We consider these troops children," said Zhou Tai. "Let me and General Han Dang go out and smite them. I will give the formal guarantee of victory."

The Commander-in-Chief made no reply, but remained gazing out before him. Presently he said, "It seems to me that an air of slaughter is rising over there from that valley; surely there is an ambush there. These poor troops in the foreground are nothing but a bait. No, Gentlemen; do not leave your positions."

Those who heard this took it only as another proof of the imbecility of their pedant commander.

Next day Wu Ban' soldiers approached closer and challenged to battle, swaggering about and brandishing their weapons and shouting volleys of abuse without end. They manifested contempt by throwing off their armor and clothing and moving to and fro with the utmost carelessness, bare bodies and naked forms, blatantly unready to fight. Some even sat or lay asleep.

Xu Sheng and Ding Feng came to the commander's tent to complain, saying, "Those Shu soldiers despise us so much. Let us go out and punish them!"

But Lu Xun only smiled, saying, "You see everything from the point of view of brute courage. You seem not to know the principles of war laid down by Sun Zi and Wu Qi. This display is only meant to entice us into fight. You will see the pretense yourselves in about three days."

"In three days the change of camp will be complete, and the enemy will be too strongly posted for our success," said they.

"I am just letting them move their camp."

Xu Sheng and Ding Feng left the tent also sniggering. But on the third day the officers were assembled at a look-out point whence they saw that Wu's army had left.

"There is still a deadly look over the valley," said Lu Xun. "Liu Bei will soon appear."

Very soon they saw a whole army all well accoutered pass across the field escorting the First Ruler. And the sight took away all their courage.

"That is why I would not listen to those of you who wanted to fight Wu Ban," said Lu Xun. "Now that the ambush has been withdrawn, we can settle them in about ten days."

"The proper time to attack was when they began to transfer their camp. Now they are fully established with encampments stretching two hundred miles. Having spent seven or eight months in strengthening where they might be attacked, will it not be difficult to destroy them?" said they.

"I see you do not understand how to carry on war. This man Liu Bei is a capable and crafty man. When he first started on this expedition his methods were of the best, and he kept to them for a long time, so we gave him no chance against us. When his troops are worn out and his thoughts cease to be clear, that will be our day to attack."

At last they agreed with their chief.

Lu Xun had already had the plan whereby the Shu army was to be crushed, and at this stage he wrote to the Prince of Wu in full details, even naming a day for the victory.

"We have found another remarkably able leader," said the Prince, "and I have no further anxiety. They all said he was a useless pedant, and only I knew better. Reading this letter shows him nothing at all of a pedant."

Then the Prince of Wu mustered the remainder of his soldiers to hold in reserve.

Meanwhile the First Ruler had sent orders to hasten the marines down the river and take up stations along the banks deep in the territory of Wu.

However, Huang Quan spoke against this, saying, "It is easy enough for the ships to go a down, but how about returning? Let me make the first advance, and Your Majesty may follow. That will make it more than probable that nothing will go wrong."

"Those Wu enemy are afraid," objected the ruler, "and I want to make a dash at them. Where is the difficulty?"

Though many others had spoken against the proposal, the First Ruler did not give up the notion of going into the forefront of the attack. Then dividing the army into two portions, he placed Huang Quan in command on the North of the Great River, to keep a watch on Wei, while he commanded on the South of the Great River. They made encampments and stations along the bank.

The spies of Wei duly reported these doings to the Ruler of Wei: "Shu marches against Wu, erecting forty base camps along two hundred miles of woods and hills. Moreover, the Ruler of Shu places Huang Quan in command of the North of the Great River. Huang Quan's marines patrolled as far as thirty miles daily. We do not know their intention."

The Ruler of Wei laughed aloud when he heard the details of the long line of camps and the encampments among the trees and all this.

"Liu Bei is going to be defeated," said he.

"How do you know?" asked his courtiers.

"Because Liu Bei does not know how to wage war. How can he beat off an enemy along a front of two hundred miles? The maxims of war forbid to camp in open plains, among marshes, amid precipitous heights and obstacles. He will be defeated at the hand of Lu Xun, and we shall hear of it in about ten days."

His officers felt more than doubtful and entreated their master to prepare an army.

But the Ruler of Wei replied, "If successful, Lu Xun will lead all his force westward into the Western Land of Rivers, and his country will be defenseless. I shall pretend to send an army to help. I shall send them in three divisions, and I shall overcome Wu easily."

They all bowed acquiescence and approval. Then orders went out appointing Cao Ren to lead an army out by Ruxu, Cao Xiu to take a second out by Dongkou, and Cao Zhen to command a third to go through Nanjun, and the three armies were to combine on a given date for a sudden attack on Wu. The Ruler of Wei would himself bring up the reinforcement in this southern campaign.

Reaching Chengdu, Ma Liang lost no time in seeing the Prime Minister and presenting the plan of the armies as they were in the field.

"Now the forces are on both sides of the Great River extending along a front of two hundred miles, with forty stations, each beside a mountain stream or in a pleasantly shaded forest. At our lord's command, I prepared this map, and he sent me to ask your opinion."

"Who advised such an arrangement? He ought to be put to death, whoever it was," cried Zhuge Liang sorrowfully, tapping the table at his side.

"It is entirely our lord's own work; no other had any hand in it," said Ma Liang.

"The life and energy of the Hans are done indeed," said Zhuge Liang. "He has committed those very faults which the rules of the Art of War lay down as to be particularly avoided. The camps are made where free movement is impossible, and nothing can save him if the enemy use fire. Beside, what defense is possible along a two-hundred-mile front? Disaster is at hand, and Lu Xun sees it all, which explains his obstinate refusal to come out into the open. Go back as quickly as you can and tell our lord that this will not do, that it must be changed at once."

"But if I am too late---if Wu has already attacked and won---, what then?"

"The enemy will not dare to follow up their victory by a march on Chengdu. So this capital is secure."

"Why will they not?"

"Wei is behind their back; that is why. Our lord will be compelled to shelter in Baidicheng. I have already placed ten thousand troops in hiding at Fishbelly Creek."

"Have you? I have been up and down that creek three or four times without seeing a soldier. I do not see the reason of telling lies to me," said Ma Liang.

"You will see; do not ask so many questions."

With the precious instructions which he had persuaded Zhuge Liang to draw up, Ma Liang hastened back to the imperial camp, while Zhuge Liang went to the capital to prepare a relief expedition.

The soldiers of Shu had become slack and idle and no longer maintained adequate defense, wherefore Lu Xun perceived that his moment had arrived, and called his generals to his tent to receive orders.

"There has been no fighting since I received our lord's command. I have spent the time in acquiring a knowledge of the enemy. As a preliminary operation I want to capture a camp on the south bank. Who volunteers?"

Out stepped Han Dang and Zhou Tai and Ling Tong, all three at once, each crying that he wanted to be sent. But they were sent back; the Commander-in-Chief did not want any of them.

Then he called up the junior general, Chunyu Dan, and said, "You will take the fourth camp on the south side; you may have five thousand troops. The commander of the post is Fu Tong. I shall support you."

When Chunyu Dan had gone, Lu Xun summoned Xu Sheng and Ding Feng and said, "Each of you will take three thousand troops and bivouac two miles from the camp, so that if your colleague is repulsed and pursued, you can rescue him."

Chunyu Dan marched between the lights and reached the camp he was to capture just after the third watch. His drums rolled, and he attacked at once. The defenders came out led by Fu Tong, who, spear ready to thrust, rode straight toward the leader of the attack and forced him back. Suddenly there arose the roll of other drums, and a cohort under Zhao Rong barred the way. Chunyu Dan turned off along another road, escaping with loss of many troops.

But he was not yet safe. Some distance farther he ran against the Mang tribesmen leader Shamo Ke. However, Chunyu Dan avoided him also and went on his way, pursued now by three parties. Soon he reached the spot two miles from the camp, and here the two leaders of Shu---Xu Sheng and Ding Feng---, who had been placed ready to afford succor, came out and stopped the pursuit. When the enemy had retired, Chunyu Dan was escorted back to camp.

He was wounded, and with the arrow still undrawn he appeared before Lu Xun and apologized for his failure.

"It was no fault of yours;" said the Commander-in-Chief, "I wanted to test the force of our enemy. My plan of attack is quite ready."

"The enemy is very strong and will not be easily overcome," said Xu Sheng and Ding Feng. "We have now suffered great loss to no purpose."

"This plan of mine would not hoodwink Zhuge Liang, but happily he is not here. His absence will allow me to score a great success."

Then he summoned his generals to receive orders: "Zhu Ran is to lead the marine force. He is to advance next day afternoon, when the southeast wind will serve. His ships are laden with reeds and straw, which are to be used as ordered. Han Dang is to attack the north bank, Zhou Tai the south. Each soldier, in addition to his weapons, is to carry a bundle of straw or reeds, with sulfur and saltpeter hidden therein, and each has a piece of tinder. They are to advance, and, when they reach the Shu camps, they are to start a conflagration. But they are to burn only alternate camps, twenty in all, leaving the others untouched. They are to advance and only stop if they capture Liu Bei."

The leaders received the orders and so set out.

The First Ruler was in his own camp, pondering over a plan to destroy the armies of Wu, when suddenly the staff that bore the great standard in front of his own tent fell over and lay on the ground. There was no wind to account for this, so he turned to Cheng Ji and asked what it might portend.

"It means only one thing, that the troops of Wu will raid the camp tonight," said Cheng Ji.

"They will not dare after the slaughter of yesterday."

"But suppose that was only a reconnaissance; what then?"

Just then a report came in that some troops of Wu could be seen, very far off, going along the hills eastward.

"They are soldiers meant to put us in confusion," said the First Ruler. "Tell the generals not to move, but let Guan Xing and Zhang Bao, with a small mounted force, go out to reconnoiter."

It was dusk when these two returned, and they then reported: "Fire is seen among the camps on the north bank."

The Emperor hastily bade Guan Xing go to the north camps and Zhang Bao to the south to find out what was really happening. And they started.

About the middle of the first watch the wind got up and blew strong from the east. Then fire arose from the camp on the left of the First Ruler's own. He was starting to extinguish this flame when another fire began in the camp on his right. With the aid of the strong breeze both fires became fierce, and soon the trees caught. A confused roar showed the gathering strength of the fire. The soldiers of the burning camps were rushing into the First Ruler's own camp to escape the fire, and in their confusion they trampled on each other, so that many died.

Behind them came the troops of Wu bent on slaughter. Ignorant of how many they might be, the First Ruler mounted and dashed for Feng Xi's camp, but that also was in flames, which seemed to rise to the very sky. By this time flames were rising from both sides of the river, so that everything was as visible as by day.

Feng Xi leaped to his horse and fled, followed by a few of his mounted troops. This small force ran against the soldiers of Wu under Xu Sheng. A melee ensued, thereupon the First Ruler turned and galloped west. Xu Sheng then left Feng Xi and went in pursuit. Presently the Emperor saw a party of soldiers in the way and became greatly alarmed.

This was Ding Feng's army, and the First Ruler was between two foes. In his terror he saw no possibility of safety, no road was open. Just at this moment another cohort broke through to his side and rescued him. The leader was Zhang Bao, and he led the Imperial Guards, who fled, taking the First Ruler with them. As they marched along, they fell in with another force of Shu; the leader was Fu Tong, and he joined up with them. The Wu army was still following when the fugitives reached Saddle Hill. The two leaders, Zhang Bao and Fu Tong, were urging their lord to go to the top of this out of immediate danger. Soon Lu Xun arrived with his army and began to surround the hill. Zhang Bao and Fu Tong held the road up the hill and kept the enemy from ascending. From the summit could be seen flames all around, and the First Ruler witnessed the corpses of his soldiers lay about in heaps or floated in the streams.

Next day, the soldiers of Wu set themselves to firing the hill. The First Ruler's remaining escort fled for their lives like rats, and their lord was in despair. Suddenly he saw a general followed by a few horsemen cutting an arterial alley through and coming up the hill. As he drew nearer the Emperor recognized Guan Xing.

Guan Xing quickly leapt down, prostrated himself and said, "Your Majesty, the fire is gaining all round, and this place is not safe. I request you to try to reach Baidicheng, and as many as possible will gather there."

"Who will dare stay behind to keep off the enemy?" said the First Ruler.

Fu Tong volunteered, saying, "I will fight to death to guard the rear!"

It was dusk when they started. Guan Xing led the way. They got their lord safely down the hill and away. As soon as the troops of Wu noticed the flight, they pressed forward, each anxious to gain kudos by the capture of the Emperor's person. Great armies of Wu, blotting out the sky and hiding the earth, went westward in pursuit.

The First Ruler ordered his soldiers to make fires of their clothing and other things in the road so as to hinder pursuit.

Zhu Ran marched up from the river to try to intercept the flight, and the noise of his drums was terrifying. The First Ruler thought there was no possibility of escape from this force, and cried, "This is the end!"

His two nephews dashed to the front to try to cut a way through, but returned wounded and bleeding. And the noise of the pursuers came constantly nearer as they found their way along the valleys. About the first glimpse of dawn the case seemed quite desperate. But just at the worst they saw Zhu Ran's soldiers suddenly begin to break up and scatter, tumbling into streams and rolling down precipices. Soon the reason was evident: a fearsome general leading a cohort came to their relief.

Once again the First Ruler was rescued from pressing danger, and this time the rescuer was Zhao Yun. He had been in Jiangzhou, and news of the straits of his lord had reached him there. He had set out forthwith. Then he had seen the glow of the burnings and had marched toward it. And thus he had arrived just at the moment to save his master when danger was most imminent.

As soon as Lu Xun heard that Zhao Yun had appeared, he ordered his troops to stop pursuit and retire. Zhao Yun happening upon Zhu Ran, engaged him forthwith and in the first encounter slew Zhu Ran with a spear thrust. And so the army of Wu were dispersed and retired, and the First Ruler got safely to the wall of Baidicheng.

But on the way thither his thoughts went back to his companions in misfortune, and he inquired after them anxiously.

"Though I am safe, how about the other generals and soldiers?" asked the First Ruler.

"The pursuers are close upon us, and we cannot wait for anything," said Zhao Yun. "I wish Your Majesty to get into the city as quickly as possible; and while you are reposing yourself, we may try to rescue some of the leaders."

When the First Ruler entered Baidicheng, he was in sore straits, only having about a hundred men left.

A poet wrote concerning this victory of Lu Xun:

But Fu Tong, who commanded the rearguard, was surrounded by the enemy in all eight directions.

Ding Feng shouted to him, "You would better surrender. Many of the soldiers of Shu have fallen, more have surrendered, and your lord is a prisoner. You have no hope against us with your scanty force."

But Fu Tong replied, "Shall I, a servant of Han, give in to the cure of Wu?"

Undaunted, he rode at his opponents and fought many bouts. But his strength and valor availed naught; struggle as he would, he could not make his way out. And so he fell among his enemies.

A poem celebrates his valiancy:

The Minister Cheng Ji, having got clear of the battle, rode swiftly to the river bank and called to the marines to join in the battle. They landed, but were soon scattered.

One of Cheng Ji's generals shouted to him: "The soldiers of Wu are upon us; let find a way to escape."

But Cheng Ji shouted back, "Since I first followed my lord, I have never yet turned my back upon the foe."

The enemy surrounded Cheng Ji, and, as he could do no more, he took his sword and slew himself.

Now Wu Ban and Zhang Nan had been besieging Yiling. Then came Feng Xi and told of the need of their lord, and they led off their army to rescue him. Whereupon Sun Huan was set free as Lu Xun had foretold would happen.

As soon as Sun Huan was free, he set off in pursuit of Feng Xi and Zhang Nan. These two marched until they met an army of Wu face to face, and so were between two forces. A desperate battle was fought, and both these generals perished therein.

Wu Ban broke through. He was pursued, but he luckily fell in with Zhao Yun and got safely to Baidicheng.

The Mang tribesmen King Shamo Ke was flying from the battle field when he met Zhou Tai, who slew him after a short fight.

The two Shu generals Du Lu and Liu Ning surrendered to Wu, as did many soldiers. Of the stores and weapons in the camps of Shu nothing was saved.

When the story of the disaster to Shu reached the Southern Land, and with it the report that the First Ruler had been killed in battle, Lady Sun gave way to wild grief. She rode down to the river bank and, gazing westward, wept and lamented. Then she threw herself into the stream and was drowned. Posterity erected a temple on the shore called "The Shrine of the Bold Beauty," and one who described it wrote a poem:

There could be no question that this exploit brought tremendous glory to Lu Xun. Anxious to push his advantage as far as possible, he led his exultant army westward. But as he drew near to Kui Pass, he suddenly pulled up his horse, remarking that he saw an aura of death about the mountain side in front.

"We may not yet advance farther; I suspect an ambush."

So they retreated three miles and camped in a wide open space. And the army was arrayed ready against any sudden attack. Meanwhile, scouts were sent out. They returned reporting no soldiers. Lu Xun doubted and went up to the summit of a hill whence he could see over the country. The aura was still visible to him, and so he dispatched other people to spy. But he received the same report; not a soldier, not a horse.

Still, as the sun got lower and lower in the west, he saw the same appearance accentuated, and he began to feel grave doubts. He sent a confidant to look once more. This man came back, saying, "There is not a single soldier, but I have noticed on the river bank nearly a hundred heaps of boulders."

The Commander-in-Chief, still doubting, called in several of the natives and questioned them about the stones.

"Who put them there? Why did they look so ghastly?" asked Lu Xun.

"We do not know. This place is called Fishbelly Creek. When Zhuge Liang was going west into the Lands of Rivers, he came along here with a lot of soldiers and heaped up the boulders like that above the Sandy Rapid. We have seen vapors rising from the boulders; they seemed to come from inside them."

Lu Xun decided to go and look at these boulders himself. So he rode off, with a small escort. Looked down from a declivity, the stones were evidently arranged with a design related to the eight points of the compass. There were doors and door-sills and lintels.

"This looks likely to drive a person out of his senses;" he said, "I wonder whether it is any good."

They rode down with intent to examine the mysterious arrangement more closely and went in among the stones.

Presently one of the escort called attention to the increasing darkness and said, "The sun is setting; we ought to be returning to camp."

But as Lu Xun glanced round to look for an exit, a sudden squall came on and the dust whirled up, obscuring both sky and earth. And in the swirl the stones reared themselves up like steep mountains, pointed like swords, and the dust and sand shaped themselves into waves and hillocks one behind the other. The roar of the boiling river was as the drums before a battle.

"This is some trick of Zhuge Liang," said Lu Xun in a scared voice, "and I have been caught."

He would go out, but he had quite lost his way and could find no exit. As he stopped to consider what he should do, an old man suddenly appeared, who said, "Does the General wish to go out?"

"I greatly desire that you would pilot me out, O Elder," replied he.

Leaning on his staff, the old man led the way and with quiet dignity conducted Lu Xun outside. He had no difficulty in finding his way and paused not a single instant. When they were once again on the slope, Lu Xun asked his aged guide who he was.

"I am Zhuge Liang's father-in-law; my name is Huang Chenyan. My son-in-law placed these boulders here as you see them, and he said they represented the Eight-Array Maze. They are like eight doors, and according to the scheme are named: Gate of Rest, Gate of Life, Gate of Injury, Gate of Obstruction, Gate of Prospect, Gate of Death, Gate of Surprise, and Gate of Openings.

"They are capable of infinite mutations and would be equal to a hundred thousand soldiers. As he was leaving, he told me that if any leader of Wu became mazed in them, I was not to conduct him outside. From a precipice near by I saw you, General, enter in at the Gate of Death; and as I guessed you were ignorant of the scheme, I knew you would be entangled. But I am of a good disposition and could not bear that you should be entrapped without possibility of escape, so I came to guide you to the Gate of Life."

"Have you studied this matter, Sir?" asked Lu Xun.

"The variations are inexhaustible, and I could not learn them all."

Lu Xun dismounted, bowed low before the old man and then rode away.

The famous poet Du Fu wrote some verses which run something like this:

Lu Xun took his way to his camp in deep thought.

"This Zhuge Liang is well named Sleeping-Dragon," said he, "I am not his equal."

Then, to the amazement of all, he gave orders to retire. The officers ventured to remonstrate, seeing that they had been so successful.

"General, you have utterly broken the enemy, and Liu Bei is shut up in one small city; it seems the time to smite, and yet you retire because you have come across a mysterious arrangement of stones."

"I am not afraid of the stones, and it is not on their account that I retire. But I fear Cao Pi. He is no less resourceful than his father, and when he hears I am marching into Shu, he will certainly attack us. How could I return then?"

The homeward march began. On the second day the scouts brought a report: "Three Wei generals with three armies are debouching at three different points and moving toward the borders of Wu---Cao Ren from Ruxu, Cao Xiu from Dongkou, and Cao Zhen from Nanjun. Their intentions are unclear."

"Just as I thought," said Lu Xun. "But I am ready for them."

The story of the retreat will be told in the next chapter.

 

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