Cao Cao understood and at once prepared his army to move. Just at this moment
an imperial messenger was announced with the very command Cao Cao wanted, and Cao Cao immediately set out.
At Luoyang everything was desolate. the walls had fallen, and there were no means of rebuilding them, while rumors and reports of the coming of Li Jue and Guo Si kept up a state of constant anxiety.
the frightened Emperor spoke with Yang Feng, saying, “What can be done？ There is no answer from the East of Huashang, and our enemies are near.”
then Yang Feng and Han Xian said, “We, your ministers, will fight to the death for you.”
But Dong Cheng said, “the fortifications are weak and our military resources small, so that we cannot hope for victory, and what does defeat mean？ I see nothing better to propose than a move into the east of Huashang Mountains.”
the Emperor aGREed to this, and the journey began without further preparation. There being few horses, the officers of the court had to march afoot. Hardly a bowshot outside the gate they saw a thick cloud of dust out of which came all the clash and clamor of an advancing army. The Emperor and his Consort were dumb with fear. Then appeared a horseman； he was the messenger returning from the East of Huashang Mountains.
He rode up to the chariot, made an obeisance, and said, “General Cao Cao, as commanded, is coming with all the military force of the East of Huashang； but hearing that Li Jue and Guo Si had again approached the capital, he has sent Xiahou Dun in advance. With Xiahou Dun are many capable leaders and fifty thousand of proved soldiers. They will guard Your Majesty.”
All fear was swept away. Soon after Xiahou Dun and his staff arrived. Xiahou Dun, Xu Chu,
and Dian Wei were presented to the Emperor who graciously addressed them.
Then one came to say a large army was approaching from the east,
and at the Emperor’s command Xiahou Dun went to ascertain who these were.
He soon returned saying they were Cao Cao’s infantry.
When the rebel generals showed signs of pursuit,
Yang Feng and Dong Cheng had to play a double-edged sword. They sent to offer to discuss terms of peace with Li Jue and Guo Si； at the same time they sent a secret edict to enlist the help from the leaders of the White Wave rebels——Han Xian, Li Yue, and Hu Cai. The White Wave was a branch of the Yellow Scarves, and Li Yue was actually a brigand and had inspired rebels throughout the country. But the need for help was so desperate.
these three, being promised pardon for their faults and crimes and a grant of official rank, naturally responded to the call, and thus the loyal side was strengthened so that Hongnong was recaptured. But meanwhile Li Jue and Guo Si laid waste whatever place they reached, slaying the aged and weakly, forcing the strong to join their ranks. When going into a fight they forced these people-soldiers to the front, and they called them the “Dare-to-Die” soldiers.
Li Jue and Guo Si’s force was overwhelming. When Li Yue, the White Wave leader, approached with his army, Guo Si bade his soldiers scatter clothing and valuables along the road. The late robbers could not resist the temptation, so a scramble began. Then Guo Si’s soldiers fell upon the disordered ranks and did much damage. Yang Feng and Dong Cheng had to take the Emperor away to the north.
the enemy came very near, and the Emperor left his carriage and went on foot. Yang Feng and Dong Cheng escorted him to the bank of the Yellow River. Li Yue sought a boat to ferry him to the other side. The weather was very cold and the Emperor and Empress cuddled up close to each other shivering. They reached the river but the banks were too high, and they could not get down into the boat. So Yang Feng proposed to fasten together the horses’ bridles and lower down the Emperor slung by the waist. However, the Empress’ brother, Fu De, found some rolls of white silk from dead soldiers, and they rolled up the two imperial personages in the silk, and thus they lowered them down near the boat. Then Li Yue took up his position in the prow leaning on his sword. Fu De carried the Empress on his back into the boat.
Li Jue and Guo Si pursued.
Li Yue said, “the danger is grave. I pray Your Majesty mount a horse and go in advance.”
the Emperor replied, “I cannot bear to abandon my officers.”
they wept and struggled on as best they could.
The White Wave leader Hu Cai was killed in one attack.
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.
So the strife of the rival factions ended at last,
and Zhang Ji memorialized asking the Emperor to go to Hongnong near Luoyang.
the Emperor was delighted, saying, “I have longed to go back to the east.”
Zhang Ji was rewarded with the title of Commander of the Flying Cavalry and was highly honored. Zhang Ji saw to it that the Emperor and the court had good supplies of necessaries. Guo Si set free all his captive officers, and Li Jue prepared transport for the court to move to the east. Li Jue told off companies of his Royal Guard to escort the cavalcade.
the proGREss had been without incident as far as Xinfeng. Near Baling Bridge the west wind of autumn came on to blow with great violence, but soon above the howling of the gale was heard the trampling of a large body of force. They stopped at a bridge and barred the way.
“Who comes？” cried a voice.
“the Imperial Chariot is passing, and who dares stop it？” said Yang Qi, riding forward.
Two leaders of the barring party advanced to Yang Qi, saying, “General Guo Si has ordered us to guard the bridge and stop all spies. You say the Emperor is here： We must see him, and then we will let you pass.”
So the pearl curtain was raised and the Emperor said, “I, the Emperor, am here. Why do you not retire to let me pass, gentlemen？”
they all shouted, “Wan shui！ Long Life！ Long Life！” and fell away to allow the cortege through.
But when they reported what they had done, Guo Si was very angry, saying, “I meant to outwit Zhang Ji, seize the Emperor, and hold him in Meiwo. Why have you let him get away？”
He put the two officers to death, set out to pursue the cavalcade, and overtook it just at the county of Huaying. The noise of a GREat shouting arose behind the travelers, and a loud voice commanded, “Stop the train！”
the Emperor burst into tears.
“Out of the wolf’s den into the tiger’s mouth！” said he.
No one knew what to do； they were all too frightened.
But when the rebel army was just upon them, they
heard the beating of drums and from behind some
hills came into the open a cohort of one thousand soldiers preceded by a
GREat flag bearing the name Han General Yang Feng.
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.”
Dian Wei rode out in answer to the challenge, and some thirty bouts were fought.
Then Dian Wei turned and fled toward his own side. The bravo followed and came quite close. But a flight of arrows drove him away.
Cao Cao hastily drew off his men for one and a half miles and then secretly sent a certain number to dig a pitfall and sent troops armed with hooks to lie in ambush.
the following day Dian Wei was sent out with one hundred horse. His adversary nothing loath came to meet Dian Wei.
“Why does the defeated leader venture forth again？” cried he laughing.
the swashbuckler spurred forward to join battle, but Dian Wei, after a faint show of fighting, turned his horse and rode away. His adversary intent upon capture, took no care, and he and his horse all blundered into the pitfall. The hookmen took him captive, bound him, and carried him before Cao Cao.
As soon as he saw the prisoner, Cao Cao advanced from his tent, sent away the soldiers, and with his own hands loosened the leader’s bonds. Then he brought out clothing and dressed him, bade him be seated and asked who he was and whence he came.
“I am named Xu Chu. I am from Qiao. When the rebellion broke out, I and my relations of some hundreds built a stronghold within a rampart for protection. One day the robbers came, but I had stones ready for them. I told my relatives to keep on bringing them up to me and I threw them, hitting somebody every time I threw. This drove off the robbers. Another day they came and we were short of grain. So I aGREed with them to an exchange of plow oxen against grain. They delivered the grain and were driving away the oxen when the beasts took fright and tore off to their pens. I seized two of oxen by the tail,
one with each hand,
and hauled them backwards a hundred or so paces.
The robbers were so amazed that they thought no more about oxen but went their way.
So they never troubled us again.”
Cao Cao replied, “It is not a good plan to keep soldiers idle here during such scarcity.”
“If that is so, it would be more advantageous to attack the eastern counties of Chencheng, Yingchuan, and Runan, and feed your army on their supplies. The remnants of the Yellow Scarves, He Yi and Huang Shao, are there with stores and treasures of all kinds that they have amassed by plundering wherever they could. Rebels of their stamp are easily broken. Break them, and you can feed your army with their grain. Moreover, both the court and the common people will join in blessing you.”
This new design appealed strongly to Cao Cao, and he quickly began his preparations to carry it out. He left Xiahou Dun and Cao Ren to guard Juancheng, while his main body, under his own command, marched to seize Chencheng. This done they went to Runan and Yingchuan.
Now when the Yellow Scarves leaders, He Yi and Huang Shao, knew that Cao Cao was approaching. They came out in a GREat body to oppose him. They met at Goat Hill. Though the rebels were numerous, they were a poor lot, a mere pack of beasts without organization and lacking discipline. Cao Cao ordered his strong archers and vigorous crossbowmen to keep them in check.
Dian Wei was sent out to challenge. the rebel leaders chose a second-rate champion for their side, who rode out and was vanquished in the third bout. Then Cao Cao’s army pushed forward, and they made a camp at Goat Hill.
the following day the rebel Huang Shao himself led forth his army and made his battle array along a circle. A leader advanced on foot to offer combat. He wore a yellow turban on his head and a GREen robe. His weapon was an iron mace.
He shouted, “I am He Man, the devil who shoots across the sky. Who dare fight with me？”
Cao Hong uttered a GREat shout and jumped from the saddle to accept the challenge. Sword in hand he advanced on foot and the two engaged in fierce combat in the face of both armies. They exchanged some fifty blows, neither gaining the advantage. Then Cao Hong feigned defeat and ran away.
He Man went after him. Just as he closed,
Cao Hong tried a feint and then suddenly wheeling about,
wounded his adversary.
Another slash, and He Man lay dead.
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.