Now Han Rong went to see Li Jue and Guo Si. After listening to his vigorous persuasions,
the two rebel generals aGREed to set free the officials and Palace people.
A famine occurred that same year and people were reduced to eating grass from the roadside. Starving, they wandered hither and thither. But food and clothing were sent to the Emperor from the governor of Henei, Zhang Yang, and the governor of Hedong, Wang Yi, and the court began to enjoy a little repose.
Dong Cheng and Yang Feng sent laborers to restore the palaces in Luoyang with the intention of moving the court thither. Li Yue was opposed to this.
Dong Cheng argued, “Luoyang is the original capital as opposed to the paltry town of Anyi. Removal would be but reasonable.”
Li Yue wound up by saying, “You may get the court to remove, but I shall remain here.”
But when the consent of the Emperor had been given and a start made, Li Yue secretly sent to arrange with Li Jue and Guo Si to capture the Emperor. However, this plot leaked out and the escort so arranged as to prevent such a thing, and they pressed on to the pass at Zhiguan Hills as rapidly as possible. Li Yue heard this, and without waiting for his rebel colleagues to join him set out to act alone.
About the fourth watch, just as the cavalcade was passing Zhiguan Hills, a voice was heard shouting, “Stop those carriages！ Li Jue and Guo Si are here！”
This frightened the Emperor GREatly,
and his terror increased when he saw the whole mountain side suddenly light up. Indeed：
[hip, hip, hip] the rebel party, erstwhile split in twain,
To work their wicked will now join three again. [yip, yip, yip]
How the Son of Heaven escaped this peril will be told in the next chapter.
When they had time to see their helper, they found him to be Dong Cheng,
the uncle of the Emperor or the “State Uncle”。 The Emperor wept as he related his sorrows and dangers.
Said Dong Cheng, “Be of good courage, Sire. General Yang Feng and I have pledged ourselves to kill both the rebels Li Jue and Guo Si and so purify the world.”
the Emperor bade them travel east as soon as possible, and so they went on night and day till they reached their destination Hongnong.
Guo Si led his defeated army back. Meeting Li Jue, he told Li Jue of the rescue of the Emperor and whither they was going.
“If they reach the Huashang Mountains and get settled in the east, they will send out proclamations to the whole country, calling up the nobles to attack us, and we and our families will be in danger,” said Guo Si.
“Zhang Ji is holding Changan, and we must be careful. there is nothing to prevent a joint attack on Hongnong, when we can kill the Emperor and divide the empire between us,” said Li Jue.
Guo Si found this a suitable scheme, so their armies came together again in one place and united in plundering the countryside. As they proceeded to Hongnong, they left destruction behind them.
Yang Feng and Dong Cheng heard of the rebels’ approach when they were yet a long way off, so Yang Feng and Dong Cheng turned back and decided to meet them at Dongjian.
Li Jue and Guo Si had previously made their plan. Since the loyal troops were few as
compared with their own horde, they would overwhelm the loyal troops like a flood. So when the day
of battle came, they poured out covering the hills and filling the plains. Yang Feng and Dong Cheng
devoted themselves solely to the protection of the Emperor and Empress. The officials, the attendants,
the archives and records,
and all the paraphernalia of the court were left to care for themselves.
The rebels ravaged Hongnong,
but the two protectors got the Emperor safely away into Shanbei.
Here are we two officers of the Throne, and we cannot help our lord. We have been born in vain,”
said Yang Biao to Zhu Jun.
Throwing their arms about each other, they wept and fell swooning to the earth. Zhu Jun went home, fell seriously ill and died.
thereafter the two adversaries fought every day for nearly three months, each losing many soldiers.
Now Li Jue was irreligious and practiced magic. He often called witches to beat drums and summon spirits, even when in camp. Jia Xu used to remonstrate with him, but quite uselessly.
Yang Qi said to the Emperor, “That Jia Xu, although a friend of Li Jue, never seems to have lost the sense of loyalty to Your Majesty.”
Soon after Jia Xu himself arrived.
the Emperor sent away his attendants and said to Jia Xu, weeping the while, “Can you not pity the Hans and help me？”
Jia Xu prostrated himself, saying, “That is my dearest wish. But, Sire, say no more： Let thy servant work out a plan.”
the Emperor dried his tears, and soon Li Jue came in. He wore a sword by his side and strode straight up to the Emperor, whose face became the color of clay.
then Li Jue spoke, “Guo Si has failed in his duty and imprisoned the court officers. He wished to slay Your Majesty, and you would have been captured but for me.”
the Emperor joined his hands together in salute and thanked Li Jue. Li Jue went away.
Before long Huangfu Li entered. the Emperor, knowing him as a man of persuasive tongue and that he came from the same county as Li Jue, bade him go to both factions to try to arrange peace.
Huangfu Li accepted the mission and first went to Guo Si, who said, “I would release the officers if Li Jue would restore the Emperor to full liberty.”
Huangfu Li then went to the other side. To Li Jue he said, “Since I am a Xiliang man, the Emperor and the officers have selected me to make peace between you and your adversary. Guo Si has consented to cease the quarrel. Will you aGREe to peace？”
“I overthrew Lu Bu； I have upheld the government for four years and have many GREat services to my credit as all the world knows.
That other fellow, that horse-thief,
has dared to seize the officers of state and to set himself up against me.
I have sworn to slay him. Look around you.
Do you not think my army large enough to break him？”
Said Lu Bu, “After Wang Yun and I plotted to slay Dong Zhuo
and my misfortune in the Li Jue and Guo Si’s sedition,
I drifted about from one place to another, and none of the nobles east of the Huashang Mountains seemed willing to receive me. When Cao Cao with wicked ambition invaded this region and you, Sir, came to its rescue, I aided you by attacking Yanzhou and thus diverting a portion of his force. I did not think then that I should be the victim of a vile plot and lose my leaders and my soldiers. But now if you will, I offer myself to you that we may together accomplish GREat designs.”
Liu Bei replied, “When the late Tao Qian died, there was no one to administer Xuzhou, and so I assumed that task for a time. Now since you are here, General, it is most suitable that I step down in your favor.”
Whereupon Liu Bei handed the insignia and the seal of authority to Lu Bu. Lu Bu was on the point of accepting them, when he saw Guan Yu and Zhang Fei, who stood behind the Imperial Protector, glaring at him with angry eyes.
So Lu Bu put on a smile and said, “I may be something of a fighting man, but I could not rule a GREat region like this.”
Liu Bei repeated his offer. But Chen Gong said, “the strong guest does not oppress his host. You need not fear, Lord Liu Bei.”
then Liu Bei desisted. Banquets were held and dwelling places prepared for the guest and his retinue.
As soon as convenient, Lu Bu returned the feast. Liu Bei went with his two brothers. Half through the banquet Lu Bu requested Liu Bei to retire to one of the inner private rooms, whither Guan Yu and Zhang Fei followed him. There Lu Bu bade his wife and daughter bow as to their benefactor. Here also Liu Bei showed excessive modesty.
Lu Bu said, “Good younger brother, you need not be so very modest.”
Zhang Fei heard what Lu Bu said, and his eyes glared, crying,
“What sort of a man are you that dares call our brother ‘younger brother’？
He is one of the ruling family——a jade leaf on a golden branch. Come out,
and I will fight you three hundred bouts for the insult.”
“I have heard of your mighty exploits,” said Cao Cao. “Will you join my army？”
“That is my strongest desire,” said Xu Chu.
So Xu Chu called up his clan, some hundreds in all, and they formally submitted to Cao Cao. Xu Chu received the rank of general and received ample rewards. The two rebel leaders, He Yi and Huang Shao, were executed. Runan and Yingchuan were now perfectly pacified.
Cao Cao withdrew his army and went back to Juancheng. Xiahou Dun and Cao Ren came out to welcome him, and they told him that spies had reported Yanzhou City to be left defenseless. Lu Bu’s generals, Xue Lan and Li Fang, had given up all its garrison to plundering the surrounding country. They wanted him to go against it without loss of time.
“With our soldiers fresh from victory, the city will fall at a tap of the drum,” said they.
So Cao Cao marched the army straight to the city. An attack was quite unexpected but the two leaders, Xue Lan and Li Fang, hurried out their few soldiers to fight. Xu Chu, the latest recruit, said he wished to capture these two and he would make of them an introductory gift.
the task was given him and he rode forth. Li Fang with his halberd advanced to meet Xu Chu. The combat was brief as Li Fang fell in the second bout. His colleague Xue Lan retired with his troops. But he found the drawbridge had been seized by Li Dian, so that he could not get shelter within the city. Xue Lan led his men toward Juye. But Lu Qian pursued and killed him with an arrow. His soldiers scattered to the four winds. And thus Yanzhou was recaptured.
Next Cheng Yu proposed an expedition to take Puyang. Cao Cao marched his army out in perfect order. the van leaders were Dian Wei and Xu Chu； Xiahou Dun and Xiahou Yuan led the left wing； Li Dian and Yue Jing led the right wing； Yu Jin and Lu Qian guarded the rear. Cao Cao himself commanded the center.
When they approached Puyang,
Lu Bu wished to go out in person and alone to attack,
but his adviser Chen Gong protested, saying,
“General, you should not go out until the arrival of the other officers.”
At once Li Dian dashed forward into the midst of the Yellow Scarves and laid hands on the rebel chief Huang Shao whom he carried off captive. Cao Cao’s troops then set on and scattered the rebels. The spoil of treasure and food was immense.
the other rebel leader, He Yi, fled with a few hundred horsemen toward Kobei Hills. But while on their road thither there suddenly appeared a force led by a certain swashbuckler who shall be nameless for the moment. This bravo was a well-built man, thickset and stout. With a waist ten span in girth. He used a long sword.
He barred the way of retreat. He Yi set his spear and rode toward him. But at the first encounter the bravo caught He Yi under his arm and bore He Yi off a prisoner. All the rebels were terror-stricken, dropped from their horses and allowed themselves to be bound. Then the victor drove them like cattle into an enclosure with high banks.
Presently Dian Wei, still pursuing the rebels, reached Kobei Hills. The swashbuckler went out to meet him.
“Are you also a Yellow Scarves rebel？” said Dian Wei.
“I have some hundreds of them prisoners in an enclosure here.”
“Why not bring them out？” said Dian Wei.
“I will if you win this sword from my hand.”
This annoyed Dian Wei who attacked him. they engaged and the combat lasted for two long hours and then was still undecided. Both rested a while. The swashbuckler was the first to recover and renewed the challenge. They fought till dusk and then, as their horses were quite spent, the combat was once more suspended.
In the meantime some of Dian Wei’s men had run off to tell the story of this wondrous fight to Cao Cao who hastened in amazement, followed by many officers to watch it and see the result.
Next day the unknown warrior rode out again,
and Cao Cao saw him. In Cao Cao’s
heart he rejoiced to see such a doughty
hero and desired to gain his services.
So Cao Cao bade Dian Wei feign defeat.
This year locusts suddenly appeared, and they consumed every GREen blade. There was a famine, and in the northeast grain rose to fifty “strings” of cash a cart. People even took to cannibalism. Cao Cao’s army suffered from want, and he marched them to Juancheng. Lu Bu took his troops to Shanyang. Perforce therefore the fighting ceased.
In Xuzhou. Imperial Protector Tao Qian, over sixty years of age, suddenly fell seriously ill, and he summoned his confident, Mi Zhu, to his chamber to make arrangements for the future.
As to the situation the adviser said, “Cao Cao abandoned his attack on this place because of his enemy’s seizure of Yanzhou； and now they are both keeping the peace solely because of the famine. But Cao Cao will surely renew the attack in the spring. When Liu Bei refused to allow you to vacate office in his favor, you were in full vigor. Now you are ill and weak, and you can make this a reason for retirement. He will not refuse again.”
So a message was sent to the little garrison town Xiaopei calling Liu Bei to a counsel on military affairs. This brought him with his brothers and a slender escort. He was at once called in to the sick man’s chamber. Quickly disposing of the inquiries about his health, Tao Qian soon came to the real object of his call for Liu Bei.
“Sir, I asked you to come for the sole reason that I am dangerously ill and likely to die at any time. I look to you, Illustrious Sir, to consider the Hans and their empire as more important than anything else, and so to take over the symbols of office of this region, the commission and the seal, that I may close my eyes in peace.”
“You have two sons, why not depute them to relieve you？” said Liu Bei.
“Both lack the requisite talents. I trust you will instruct them after I have gone, but do not let them have the guidance of affairs.”
“But I am unequal to so GREat a charge.”
“I will recommend to you one who could assist you. He is Sun Qian from Beihai who could be appointed to some post.”
Turning to Mi Zhu, Tao Qian said, “the noble Liu Bei here is the most prominent man of the time, and you should serve him well.”
Still would Liu Bei have put from him such a post, but just then the Imperial Protector, pointing to his heart to indicate his sincerity, passed away.
When the ceremonial wailing of the officials was over, the insignia of office were brought to Liu Bei. But he would have none of them.
The following days the inhabitants of the town and country
around crowded into the state residence,
bowing and with tears,
calling upon Liu Bei to receive the charge.
But when Dian Wei reached the drawbridge, he glanced behind him and missed his master. Immediately Dian Wei turned back and cut an alley inside. Just within he met Li Dian.
“Where is our lord？” cried Dian Wei.
“I am looking for him,” said Li Dian.
“Quick！ Get help from outside,” shouted Dian Wei. “I will seek him.”
So Li Dian hastened for aid, and Dian Wei slashed his way in, looking on every side for Cao Cao. He was not to be found. Dashing out of the city, Dian Wei ran up against Yue Jing, who asked where their lord was.
“I have entered the city twice in search of him, but cannot find him,” said Dian Wei.
“Let us go in together,” said Yue Jing.
they rode up to the gate. But the noise of bombs from the gate tower frightened Yue Jing’s horse so that it refused to pass. Wherefore Dian Wei alone went in, butting through the smoke and dashing through the flames. But he got in and searched on every side.
When Cao Cao saw his sturdy protector Dian Wei cut his way out and disappear leaving him surrounded, he again made an attempt to reach the north gate. On the way, sharply outlined against the glow, he saw the figure of Lu Bu coming toward him with his trident halberd ready to kill. Cao Cao covered his face with his hand, whipped up his steed and galloped past.
But Lu Bu came galloping up behind him and tapping him on the helmet with the halberd cried, “Where is Cao Cao？”
Cao Cao turned and,
pointing to a dun horse well ahead, cried,
“there； on that dun！ That’s he.”
Hearing this Lu Bu left pursuing
Cao Cao to gallop after the rider of the dun.
Tao Qian Thrice Offers Xuzhou To Liu Bei;
Cao Cao Retakes Yanzhou From Lu Bu.
the last chapter closed with Cao Cao in GREat danger. However, help came. Xiahou Dun with a body of soldiers found his chief, checked the pursuit, and fought with Lu Bu till dusk. Rain fell in torrents swamping everything； and as the daylight waned, they drew off and Cao Cao reached camp. He rewarded Dian Wei generously and advanced him in rank.
When Lu Bu reached his camp, he called in his adviser Chen Gong. then Chen Gong proposed a new stratagem.
He said, “In Puyang there is a rich, leading family, Tian by name, who number thousands, enough to populate a whole county in themselves. Make one of these people go to Cao Cao’s camp with a pretended secret letter about Lu Bu’s ferocity, and the hatred of the people, and their desire to be rid of him. And by saying that only Gao Shun is left to guard the city, and they would help anyone who would come to save them. Thus our enemy Cao Cao will be inveigled into the city, and we will destroy him either by fire or ambush. His skill may be equal to encompassing the universe, but he will not escape.”
Lu Bu thought this trick might be tried, and they arranged for the Tian family letter to be sent.
Coming soon after the defeat, when Cao Cao felt uncertain what step to take next, the secret letter was read with joy. It promised interior help and said the sign should be a white flag with the word Rectitude written thereon.
“Heaven is going to give me Puyang！” said Cao Cao joyfully.
So he rewarded the messenger very liberally and began to prepare for the expedition.
then came Liu Ye, saying, “Lu Bu is no strategist, but Chen Gong is full of guile. I fear treachery in this letter, and you must be careful. If you will go, then enter with only one third your army, leaving the others outside the city as a reserve.”
Cao Cao aGREed to take this precaution. He went to Puyang,
which he found gay with fluttering flags.
Looking carefully he saw among them, at the west gate,
the white flag with the looked-for inscription.
His heart rejoiced.
Gao Shun, Wei Xu, and Hou Cheng pursued him, Lu Bu taking the lead. Cao Cao’s two generals, Yu Jin and Yue Jing, attacked the pursuers but could not check them. Cao Cao went away north. But from behind some hills came out Zhang Liao and Zang Ba to attack. Lu Qian and Cao Hong were sent to stop the attackers, but Lu Qian and Cao Hong were both defeated. Cao Cao sought safety in the west. Here again his retreat was met by Lu Bu’s four generals, Hao Meng, Cao Xing, Cheng Lian, and Song Xian.
the fight became desperate. Cao Cao dashed at the enemy’s array. The din was terrible. Arrows fell like pelting rain upon them, and they could make no headway.
Cao Cao was desperate and cried out in fear, “Who can save me？”
then from the crush dashed out Dian Wei with his double spears, crying, “Fear not, my lord！”
Dian Wei leapt from his steed, leaned his double spears against a wall and laid hold of a handful of battle-axes. Turning to his followers he said, “When the ruffians are at ten paces, call out to me.”
then he set off with mighty strides, plunging forward, careless of the flying arrows. Lu Bu’s horsemen followed, and when they got near, Dian Wei’s followers shouted, “Ten paces！”
“Five, then call！” shouted back Dian Wei, and went on.
Presently, “Five paces！”
then Dian Wei spun round and flung the battle-axes. With every fling a man fell from the saddle and never a battle-ax missed.
Having thus slain ten or so the remainder fled, and Dian Wei quickly remounted his steed, set his twin spears and rushed again into the fight with a vigor that none could withstand. One by one his opponents yielded, and he was able to lead Cao Cao safely out of the press of battle. Cao Cao and his commanders went to their camp.
But as evening fell, the noise of pursuit fell on their ears, and soon appeared Lu Bu himself.
“Cao Cao, you rebel, do not flee！” shouted Lu Bu as he approached with his halberd ready for a thrust.
All stopped and looked in each others’ faces： The soldiers were weary, their steeds spent. Fear smote them, and they looked around for some place of refuge.
You may lead your lord safely out of the press,
But what if the enemy follow？
We cannot say here what Cao Cao’s fate was,
but the next chapter will relate.