“He fears an ambush in the wood,” said Cao Cao. “We will set up flags there and deceive him. There is a long embankment near the camp but behind it there is no water. There we will lay an ambush to fall upon Lu Bu when he comes to burn the wood.”
So Cao Cao hid all his soldiers behind the embankment except half a hundred drummers, and he got together many peasants to loiter within the stockade as though it was not empty.
Lu Bu rode back and told Chen Gong what he had seen.
“This Cao Cao is very crafty and full of wiles,” said the adviser. “Do not act.”
“I will use fire this time and burn out his ambush,” said Lu Bu.
Next morning Lu Bu rode out, and there he saw flags flying everywhere in the wood. He ordered his troops forward to set fire on all sides. But to his surprise no one rushed out to make for the stockade. Still he heard the beating of drums and doubt filled his mind. Suddenly he saw a party of soldiers move out from the shelter of the stockade. He galloped over to see what it meant.
then the signal-bombs exploded； out rushed the troops and all their leaders dashed forward. Xiahou Dun, Xiahou Yuan, Xu Chu, Dian Wei, Li Dian, and Yue Jing all attacked at once. Lu Bu was at a loss and fled into the open country. One of his generals, Cheng Lian, was killed by an arrow of Yue Jing. Two thirds of his troops were lost, and the beaten remainder went to tell Chen Gong what had come to pass.
“We had better leave,” said Chen Gong. “An empty city cannot be held.”
So Chen Gong and Gao Shun, taking their chief’s family with them,
When Cao Cao’s soldiers got into the city,
they met with no resistance.
Zhang Chao committed suicide by burning himself. Zhang Miao fled to Yuan Shu.
Thus the whole northeast fell under the power of Cao Cao. He immediately tranquilized the people and rebuilt the cities and their defenses.
Lu Bu in his retreat fell in with his generals, and Chen Gong also rejoined him, so that he was by no means broken.
“I have but small army,” said Lu Bu, “but still enough to break Cao Cao.”
And so he retook the backward road. Indeed：
Thus does fortune alternate, victory, defeat, the happy conqueror today, tomorrow, must retreat？
What was the fate of Lu Bu will appear later.
“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.”
“If you do not, we cannot live in pence,” said they.
To these requests his brothers added their persuasion, till at length he consented to assume the administrative duties. He forthwith appointed Sun Qian and Mi Zhu as his Advisers, and Chen Deng his Secretary. He moved his army from Xiaopei to Xuzhou City, and he put forth proclamations to reassure the people.
He also attended to the burial ceremonies； he and all his army dressing in mourning. After the fullest sacrifices and ceremonies, a burial place for the late Imperial Protector was found close to the source of the Yellow River. The dead man’s testament was forwarded to court.
the news of the events in Xuzhou duly reached the ears of Cao Cao, then in Juancheng.
Said he, angrily, “I have missed my revenge. This Liu Bei has simply stepped into command of the region without expending half an arrow： He sat still and attained his desire. But I will put him to death and then dig up Tao Qian’s corpse in revenge for the death of my noble father！”
Orders were issued for the army to prepare for a new campaign against Xuzhou.
[e] the Land Within the Passes, or Guanzhong, was the area around Changan.
But Adviser Xun Yu remonstrated with Cao Cao, saying, “the Supreme Ancestor secured the Land Within the Passes* and his illustrious successor on the throne, Liu Xiu, took Henei. They both first consolidated their position whereby they could command the whole empire. Their whole proGREss was from success to success. Hence they accomplished their great designs in spite of difficulties.
“Illustrious Sir, your Land Within the Passes and your Henei are Yanzhou and the Yellow River, which you had first, and which is of the utmost strategic point of the empire. If you undertake this expedition against Xuzhou leaving many troops here for defense, you will not accomplish your design； if you leave too few, Lu Bu will fall upon us. And finally if you lose this and fail to gain Xuzhou, whither will you retire？ That region is not vacant. Although Tao Qian has gone, Liu Bei holds it； and since the people support him, they will fight to the death for him.
To abandon this place for that is to exchange the GREat for the small,
to barter the trunk for the branches,
to leave safety and run into danger.
I would implore you to reflect well.”
Thus relieved Cao Cao set off for the east gate. Then he fell in with Dian Wei, who took him under his protection and fought through the press, leaving a trail of death behind till they reached the gate. Here the fire was raging fiercely, and burning beams were falling on all sides. The earth element seemed to have interchanged with the fire element.
Dian Wei warded off the burning pieces of wood with his lance and rode into the smoke making a way for his lord. Just as they were passing through the gate a flaming beam fell from the gate tower. Cao Cao just warded it off with his arm,
but it struck his steed on the quarters and knocked the steed down. Cao Cao’s hand and arm were badly burned and his hair and beard singed. Dian Wei turned back to his rescue. Luckily Xiahou Yuan came along just then, and the two raised Cao Cao and set him on Xiahou Yuan’s horse. And thus they got him out of the burning city.
But they had to go through heavy fighting till daybreak.
Cao Cao returned to his camp. His officers crowded about his tent, anxious for news of his health. He soon recovered and laughed when he thought of his escape.
“I blundered into that fool’s trap, but I will have my revenge,” said he.
“Let us have a new plan soon,” said Guo Jia.
“I will turn his trick to my own use. I will spread the false report that I was burned in the fire, and that I died at the fifth watch. He will come to attack as soon as the news gets abroad, and I will have an ambush ready for him in Maling Hills. I will get him this time.”
“Really a fine stratagem！” said Guo Jia.
So the soldiers were put into mourning, and the report went everywhere that Cao Cao was dead. And soon Lu Bu heard it, and he assembled his army at once to make a surprise attack, taking the road by the Maling Hills to his enemy’s camp.
As he was passing the hills,
he heard the drums beating for an advance, and the ambushing soldiers leapt out all round him. Only by desperate fighting did he get out of the melee and with a
sadly diminished force
returned to his camp at Puyang.
There he strengthened the fortifications and
could not be tempted forth to battle.
But Chen Gong, the strategist, came in hastily, saying, “General, you are going away； whither？”
“I am going to camp my troops at Puyang, that vantage point.”
“You are making a mistake,” said Chen Gong. “the two you have chosen to defend this city are unequal to the task. For this expedition remember that about sixty miles due south, on the treacherous road to the Taishan Mountains, is a very advantageous position where you should place your best men in ambush. Cao Cao will hasten homeward by double marches when he hears what has happened. If you strike when half his troops have gone past this point, you may seize him.”
Said Lu Bu, “I am going to occupy Puyang and see what develops. How can you guess my big plan？”
So Lu Bu left Xue Lan in command at Yanzhou and went away.
Now when Cao Cao approached the dangerous part of the road near the Taishan Mountains, Guo Jia warned him to take care as there was doubtless an ambush.
But Cao Cao laughed, saying, “We know all Lu Bu’s dispositions. Xue Lan is keeping the city. Do you think Lu Bu has laid an ambush？ I shall tell Cao Ren to besiege Yanzhou, and I shall go to Puyang.”
In Puyang, when Chen Gong heard of the enemy’s approach, he spoke, saying, “The enemy will be fatigued with long marches, so attack quickly before they have time to recover.”
Lu Bu replied, “I, a single horseman, am afraid of none. I come and go as I will. Think you I fear this Cao Cao？ Let him settle his camp； I will take him after that.”
Now Cao Cao neared Puyang, and he made a camp. the next day he led out his commanders, and they arrayed their armies in open country. Cao Cao took up his station on horseback between the two standards, watching while his opponents arrived and formed up in a circular area.
Lu Bu was in front, followed by eight of his generals, all strong men：
Zhang Liao of Mayi, backed by Hao Meng,
Cao Xing, and Cheng Lian； Zang Ba of Huaying,
backed by Wei Xu, Song Xian, and Hou Cheng.
they led an army of fifty thousand in total.
Seeing he could not persuade Liu Bei, Tao Qian then said, “As you are set in determination, perhaps you will consent to encamp at Xiaopei. It is only a little town, but thence you can keep watch and ward over the region.”
they all with one voice prayed Liu Bei to consent, so he gave in. The feast of victory being now ended, the time came to say farewell. When Zhao Yun took his leave, Liu Bei held his hands alternately while dashing away the falling tears. Kong Rong and Tien Kai went home to their own places.
When Liu Bei and his brothers took up their abode in Xiaopei, they first repaired the defenses, and then they put out proclamations in order to calm the inhabitants.
In the meantime Cao Cao had marched toward his own region.
Cao Ren met and told him, “Lu Bu is very powerful, and he has Chen Gong as adviser. Yanzhou is as good as lost, with the exception of three counties which have been vigorously and desperately defended by Xun Yu and Cheng Yu.”
Cao Cao said, “I own that Lu Bu is a bold fighter but nothing more； he has no craft. So we need not fear him seriously.”
then he gave orders to make a strong camp till they could think out some victorious plan.
Lu Bu, knowing of Cao Cao’s return, called two of his subordinate generals, Xue Lan and Li Fang, to him and assigned to them the task of holding the city of Yanzhou, saying, “I have long waited for opportunity to employ your skill. Now I give you ten thousand soldiers, and you are to hold the city while I go forth to attack Cao Cao.”
But Chen Gong, the strategist, came in hastily, saying,
“General, you are going away； whither？”
“I am going to camp my troops at Puyang,
that vantage point.”
“What does this mean？” said Liu Bei.
Tao Qian said, “there is trouble on every side, and the kingly rule is no longer maintained. You, Sir, are a member of the family and eminently fitted to support them and their prerogatives. I am verging on senility, and I wish to retire in your favor. I pray you not to decline, and I will report my action to the court.”
Liu Bei started up from his seat and bowed before his host, saying, “Scion of the family I may be, but my merit is small and my virtue meager. I doubt my fitness even for my present post, and only a feeling of doing right sent me to your assistance. To hear such speech makes me doubt. Surely you think I came with GREed in my heart. May God help me no more if I cherished such a thought.”
“It is a poor old man’s real sentiment,” said Tao Qian.
Time after time Tao Qian renewed his offer to entrust the region of Xuzhou to Liu Bei, but Liu Bei kept refusing.
In the midst of this came Mi Zhu, saying, “The enemies had reached the wall, and something must be done to drive them off. The present matter could await a more tranquil time.”
Said Liu Bei, “I ought to write to Cao Cao to press him to raise the siege. If he refuses, we will attack forthwith.”
Orders were sent to the three camps outside to remain quiescent till the letter could reach Cao Cao.
It happened that Cao Cao was holding a council when a messenger with a war letter was announced.
the letter was brought in and handed to him and,
when he had opened and looked at it,
he found it was from Liu Bei.
This is the letter, very nearly：
Kong Rong pressed rewards upon Taishi Ci, but he would accept nothing and departed. When his mother saw him, she was pleased at his success saying she rejoiced that he had been able to prove his gratitude, and after this he departed for Yangzhou.
Liu Bei went away to his friend Gongsun Zan and laid before Gongsun Zan his design to help Xuzhou.
“Cao Cao and you are not enemies. Why do you spend yourself for the sake of another？” said Gongsun Zan.
“I have promised,” Liu Bei replied, “and dare not break faith.”
“I will lend you two thousand horse and foot,” said Gongsun Zan.
“Also I wish to have the services of Zhao Yun,” said Liu Bei.
Gongsun Zan aGREed to this also. they marched away, Liu Bei’s own troops being in the front, and Zhao Yun, with the borrowed troops, being in rear.
In due course Mi Zhu returned saying that Kong Rong had also obtained the services of Liu Bei. The other messenger, Chen Deng, came back and reported that Tien Kai would also bring help. Then was Tao Qian’s heart set at ease.
But both the leaders, though they had promised aid, GREatly dreaded their antagonist and camped among the hills at a great distance,
fearful of coming too close to Cao Cao’s quarters.
Cao Cao knew of their coming and
divided his army into parts to meet them,
so postponing the attack on the city itself.
the victors were welcomed into the city, and as soon as possible a banquet was prepared in their honor. Mi Zhu was presented to Liu Bei. Mi Zhu related the story of the murder of Cao Song by Zhang Kai, Cao Cao’s vengeful attack on Xuzhou, and his coming to beg for assistance.
Liu Bei said, “Imperial Protector Tao Qian is a kindly man of high character, and it is a pity that he should suffer this wrong for no fault of his own.”
“You are a scion of the imperial family,” said Governor Kong Rong, “and this Cao Cao is injuring the people, a strong man abusing his strength. Why not go with me to rescue the sufferers？”
“I dare not refuse, but my force is weak and I must act cautiously,” said Liu Bei.
“Though my desire to help arises from an old friendship, yet it is a righteous act as well. I do not think your heart is not inclined toward the right,” said Kong Rong.
Liu Bei said, “This being so, you go first and give me time to see Gongsun Zan from whom I may borrow more troops and horses. I will come anon.”
“You surely will not break your promise？” said the Governor.
“What manner of man think you that I am？” said Liu Bei. “the wise one said, ‘Death is common to all； the person without truth cannot maintain the self.’ Whether I get the troops or not, certainly I shall myself come.”
So the plan was aGREed to. Mi Zhu set out to return forthwith while Kong Rong prepared for his expedition.
Taishi Ci took his leave, saying,
“My mother bade me come to your aid,
and now happily you are safe.
Letters have come from my fellow townsman,
Liu Yao, Imperial Protector of Yangzhou,
calling me thither and I must go.
I will see you again.”
Presently said Taishi Ci, “Give me a thousand soldiers, and I will go out and drive off these fellows.”
“You are a bold warrior, but they are very numerous. It is a serious matter to go out among them,” said Kong Rong.
“My mother sent me because of your goodness to her. How shall I be able to look her in the face if I do not raise the siege？ I would prefer to conquer or perish.”
“I have heard Liu Bei is one of the heroes in the world. If we could get his help, there would be no doubt of the result. But there is no one to send.”
“I will go as soon as I have received your letter.”
So Kong Rong wrote letters and gave them to his helper.
Taishi Ci put on his armor, mounted his steed, attached his bow and quiver to his girdle, took his spear in his hand, tied his packed haversack firmly to his saddle bow, and rode out at the city gate. He went quite alone.
Along the moat a large party of the besiegers were gathered, and they came to intercept the solitary rider. But Taishi Ci dashed in among them and cut down several and so finally fought his way through.
Guan Hai, hearing that a rider had left the city, guessed what his errand would be and followed Taishi Ci with a party of horsemen. Guan Hai spread them out so that the messenger rider was entirely surrounded. Then Taishi Ci laid aside his spear, took his bow,
adjusted his arrows one by one and
shot all round him. And as a rider fell
from his steed with every twang of Taishi Ci’s bowstring,
the pursuers dared not close in.