| Chapter 42 |
Screaming Zhang Fei Triumphs At Long Slope Bridge;
As related in the last chapter two generals appeared in front of Zhao Yun, who rode at them with his spear ready for a thrust. Zhong Jin was leading, flourishing his battle-ax. Zhao Yun engaged and very soon unhorsed him. Then Zhao Yun galloped away. Zhong Shen rode up behind ready with his halberd, and his horse's nose got so close to the other's tail that Zhao Yun could see in his armor the reflection of the play of Zhong Shen's weapon. Then suddenly, and without warning, Zhao Yun wheeled round his horse so that he faced his pursuer, and their two steeds struck breast to breast. With his spear in his left hand, Zhao Yun warded off the halberd strokes, and in his right he swung the blue blade sword. One slash and he had cut through both helmet and head. Zhong Shen fell to the ground, a corpse with only half a head on his body. His followers fled, and Zhao Yun retook the road toward Long Slope Bridge.
But in his rear arose another tumultuous shouting, seeming to rend the very sky, and Wen Ping came up behind. However, although the man was weary and his steed spent, Zhao Yun got close to the bridge where he saw standing, all ready for any fray, Zhang Fei.
"Help me, Zhang Fei!" he cried and crossed the bridge.
"Hasten!" cried Zhang Fei, "I will keep back the pursuers!"
About seven miles from the bridge, Zhao Yun saw Liu Bei with his followers reposing in the shade of some trees. He dismounted and drew near, weeping. The tears also started to Liu Bei's eyes when he saw his faithful commander.
Still panting from his exertions, Zhao Yun gasped out, "My fault---death is too light a punishment. Lady Mi was severely wounded. She refused my horse and threw herself into a well. She is dead, and all I could do was to fill in the well with the rubbish that lay around. But I placed the babe in the breast of my fighting robe and have won my way out of the press of battle. Thanks to the little lord's grand luck I have escaped. At first he cried a good deal, but for some time now he has not stirred or made a sound. I fear I may not have saved his life after all."
Then Zhao Yun opened his robe and looked: The child was fast asleep.
"Happily, Sir, your son is unhurt," said Zhao Yun as he drew him forth and presented him in both hands.
Liu Bei took the child but threw it aside angrily, saying, "To preserve that suckling I very nearly lost a great commander!"
Zhao Yun picked up the child again and, weeping, said, "Were I ground to powder, I could not prove my gratitude."
Wen Ping and his company pursued Zhao Yun till they saw Zhang Fei's bristling mustache and fiercely glaring eyes before them. There he was seated on his battle steed, his hand grasping his terrible serpent spear, guarding the bridge. They also saw great clouds of dust rising above the trees and concluded they would fall into an ambush if they ventured across the bridge. So they stopped the pursuit, not daring to advance further.
In a little time Cao Ren, Xiahou Dun, Xiahou Yuan, Li Dian, Yue Jing, Zhang Liao, Xu Chu, Zhang He, and other generals of Cao Cao came up, but none dared advance, frightened not only by Zhang Fei's fierce look, but lest they should become victims of a ruse of Zhuge Liang. As they came up, they formed a line on the west side, halting till they could inform their lord of the position.
As soon as the messengers arrived and Cao Cao heard about it, he mounted and rode to the bridge to see for himself. Zhang Fei's fierce eye scanning the hinder position of the army opposite him saw the silken umbrella, the axes and banners coming along, and concluded that Cao Cao came to see for himself how matters stood.
So in a mighty voice he shouted: "I am Zhang Fei of Yan. Who dares fight with me?"
At the sound of this thunderous voice, a terrible quaking fear seized upon Cao Cao, and he bade them take the umbrella away.
Turning to his followers, he said, "Guan Yu had said that his brother Zhang Fei was the sort of man to go through an army of a hundred legions and take the head of its commander-in-chief, and do it easily. Now here is this terror in front of us, and we must be careful."
As he finished speaking, again that terrible voice was heard, "I am Zhang Fei of Yan.Who dares fight with me?"
Cao Cao, seeing his enemy so fierce and resolute, was too frightened to think of anything but retreat.
Zhang Fei, seeing a movement going on in the rear, once again shook his spear and roared, "What mean you? You will not fight nor do you run away!"
This roar had scarcely begun when one of Cao Cao's staff, Xiahou Jie, reeled and fell from his horse terror-stricken, paralyzed with fear. The panic touched Cao Cao and spread to his whole surroundings, and he and his staff galloped for their lives. They were as frightened as a suckling babe at a clap of thunder or a weak woodcutter at the roar of a tiger. Many threw away their spears, dropped their casques and fled, a wave of panic-stricken humanity, a tumbling mass of terrified horses. None thought of ought but flight, and those who ran trampled the bodies of fallen comrades under foot.
Panic-stricken Cao Cao galloped westward with the rest, thinking of nothing but getting away. He lost his headdress, and his loosened hair streamed behind him. Presently Zhang Liao and Xu Chu came up with him and seized his bridle; fear had deprived him of all self-control.
"Do not be frightened," said Zhang Liao. "After all Zhang Fei is but one man and not worthy of extravagant fear. If you will only return and attack, you will capture your enemy."
That time Cao Cao had somewhat overcome his panic and become reasonable. Two generals were ordered back to the bridge to reconnoiter.
Zhang Fei saw the disorderly rout of the enemy but he dared not pursue. However, he bade his score or so of dust-raising followers to cut loose the branches from their horses' tails and come to help destroy the bridge. This done he went to report to his brother and told him of the destruction of the bridge.
"Brave as you are, brother, and no one is braver, but you are no strategist," said Liu Bei.
"What mean you, brother?"
"Cao Cao is very deep. You are no match for him. The destruction of the bridge will bring him in pursuit."
"If he ran away at a yell of mine, think you he will dare return?"
"If you had left the bridge, he would have thought there was an ambush and would not have dared to pass it. Now the destruction of the bridge tells him we are weak and fearful, and he will pursue. He does not mind a broken bridge. His legions could fill up the biggest rivers that we could get across."
So orders were given to march, and they went by a bye-road which led diagonally to Hanjin by the road of Minyang.
The two generals sent by Cao Cao to reconnoiter near Long Slope Bridge returned, saying, "The bridge has been destroyed. Zhang Fei has left."
"Then he is afraid," said Cao Cao.
Cao Cao at once gave orders to set ten thousand men at work on three floating bridges to be finished that night.
Li Dian said, "I fear this is one of the wiles of Zhuge Liang. So be careful."
"Zhang Fei is just a bold warrior, but there is no guile about him," said Cao Cao.
He gave orders for immediate advance.
Liu Bei was making all speed to Hanjin. Suddenly there appeared in his track a great cloud of dust whence came loud rolls of drums and shoutings.
Liu Bei was dismayed and said, "Before us rolls the Great River; behind is the pursuer. What hope is there for us?"
But he bade Zhao Yun organize a defense.
Now Cao Cao in an order to his army had said, "Liu Bei is a fish in the fish kettle, a tiger in the pit. Catch him this time, or the fish will get back to the sea and the tiger escape to the mountains. Therefore every general must use his best efforts to press on."
In consequence every leader bade those under him hasten forward. And they were pressing on at great speed, when suddenly a body of soldiers appeared from the hills and a voice cried, "I have waited here a long time!"
The leader who had shouted this bore in his hand the green-dragon saber and rode Red Hare, for indeed it was no other than Guan Yu. He had gone to Jiangxia for help and had returned with a whole legion of ten thousand. Having heard of the battle, he had taken this very road to intercept pursuit.
As soon as Guan Yu appeared, Cao Cao stopped and said to his officers, "Here we are, tricked again by that Zhuge Liang!"
Without more ado he ordered a retreat. Guan Yu followed him some three miles and then drew off to act as guard to his elder brother on his way to the river. There boats were ready, and Liu Bei and family went on board. When all were settled comfortably in the boat, Guan Yu asked where was his sister, the second wife of his brother, Lady Mi. Then Liu Bei told him the story of Dangyang.
"Alas!" said Guan Yu. "Had you taken my advice that day of the hunting in Xutian, we should have escaped the misery of this day."
"But," said Liu Bei, "on that day it was 'Ware damaged when pelting rats.'"
Just as Liu Bei spoke, he heard war drums on the south bank. A fleet of boats, thick as a flight of ants, came running up with swelling sails before the fair wind. He was alarmed.
The boats came nearer. There Liu Bei saw the white clad figure of a man wearing a silver helmet who stood in the prow of the foremost ship.
The leader cried, "Are you all right, my uncle? I am very guilty."
It was Liu Qi. He bowed low as the ship passed, saying, "I heard you were in danger from Cao Cao, and I have come to aid you."
Liu Bei welcomed Liu Qi with joy, and his soldiers joined in with the main body, and the whole fleet sailed on, while they told each other their adventures.
Unexpectedly in the southwest there appeared a line of fighting ships swishing up before a fair wind.
Liu Qi said, "All my troops are here, and now there is an enemy barring the way. If they are not Cao Cao's ships, they must be from the South Land. We have a poor chance. What now?"
Liu Bei went to the prow and gazed at them. Presently he made out a figure in a turban and Taoist robe sitting in the bows of one of the boats and knew it to be Zhuge Liang. Behind him stood Sun Qian.
When they were quite near, Liu Bei asked Zhuge Liang how he came to be there.
And Zhuge Liang reported what he had done, saying, "When I reached Jiangxia, I sent Guan Yu to land at Hanjin with reinforcements, for I feared pursuit from Cao Cao and knew that road you would take instead of Jiangling. So I prayed your nephew to go to meet you, while I went to Xiakou to muster as many soldiers as possible."
The new-comers added to their strength, and they began once more to consider how their powerful enemy might be overcome.
Said Zhuge Liang, "Xiakou is strong and a good strategic point. It is also rich and suited for a lengthy stay. I would ask you, my lord, to make it a permanent camp. Your nephew can go to Jiangxia to get the fleet in order and prepare weapons. Thus we can create two threatening angles for our position. If we all return to Jiangxia, the position will be weakened."
Liu Qi replied, "The Directing Instructor's words are excellent, but I wish rather my uncle stayed awhile in Jiangxia till the army was in thorough order. Then he could go to Xiakou."
"You speak to the point, nephew," replied Liu Bei.
Then leaving Guan Yu with five thousand troops at Xiakou he, with Zhuge Liang and his nephew, went to Jiangxia.
When Cao Cao saw Guan Yu with a force ready to attack, he feared lest a greater number were hidden away behind, so he stopped the pursuit. He also feared lest Liu Bei should take Jiangling, so he marched thither with all haste.
The two officers in command at Jingzhou City, Deng Yi and Liu Xin, had heard of the death of their lord Liu Zong at Xiangyang and, knowing that there was no chance of successful defense against Cao Cao's armies, they led out the people of Jingzhou to the outskirts and offered submission. Cao Cao entered the city and, after restoring order and confidence, he released Han Song and gave him the dignified office of Director of Ambassadorial Receptions. He rewarded the others.
Then said Cao Cao, "Liu Bei has gone to Jiangxia and may ally himself with the South Land, and the opposition to me will be greater. Can he be destroyed?"
Xun You said, "The splendor of your achievements has spread wide. Therefore you might send a messenger to invite Sun Quan to a grand hunting party at Jiangxia, and you two could seize Liu Bei, share Jingzhou with Sun Quan, and make a solemn treaty. Sun Quan will be too frightened not to come over to you, and your end will be gained."
Cao Cao agreed. He sent the letters by a messenger, and he prepared his army---horse and foot and marines. He had in all eight hundred thirty thousand troops, but he called them a million. The attack was to be by land and water at the same time.
The fleet advanced up the river in two lines. On the west it extended to Jingxia, on the east to Qichun. The stockades stretched one hundred miles.
The story of Cao Cao's movements and successes reached Sun Quan, then in camp at Chaisang. He assembled his strategists to decide on a scheme of defense.
Lu Su said, "Jingzhou is contiguous to our borders. It is strong and defensive, its people are rich. It is the sort of country that an emperor or a king should have. Liu Biao's recent death gives an excuse for me to be sent to convey condolence and, once there, I shall be able to talk over Liu Bei and the officers of the late Imperial Protector to combine with you against Cao Cao. If Liu Bei does as I wish, then success is yours."
Sun Quan thought this a good plan, so he had the necessary letters prepared, and the gifts, and sent Lu Su with them.
All this time Liu Bei was at Jiangxia where, with Zhuge Liang and Liu Qi, he was endeavoring to evolve a good plan of campaign.
Zhuge Liang said, "Cao Cao's power is too great for us to cope with. Let us go over to the South Land and ask help from Sun Quan. If we can set north and south at grips, we ought to be able to get some advantage from our intermediate position between them."
"But will they be willing to have anything to do with us?" said Liu Bei. "The South Land is a large and populous country, and Sun Quan has ambitions of his own."
Zhuge Liang replied, "Cao Cao with his army of a million holds the Han River and a half of the Great River. The South Land will certainly send to find out all possible about the position. Should any messenger come, I shall borrow a little boat and make a little trip over the river and trust to my little lithe tongue to set north and south at each other's throats. If the south wins, we will assist in destroying Cao Cao in order to get Jingzhou. If the north wins, we shall profit by the victory to get the South Land. So we shall get some advantage either way."
"That is a very fine view to take," said Liu Bei. "But how are you going to get hold of anyone from the South Land to talk to?"
Liu Bei's question was answered by the arrival of Lu Su, and as the ship touched the bank and the envoy came ashore, Zhuge Liang laughed, saying, "It is done!"
Turning to Liu Qi he asked, "When Sun Ce died, did your country send any condolences?"
"It is impossible there would be any mourning courtesies between them and us. We had caused the death of his father, Sun Jian."
"Then it is certain that this envoy does not come to present condolences but to spy out the land."
So he said to Liu Bei, "When Lu Su asks about the movements of Cao Cao, you will know nothing. If he presses the matter, say he can ask me."
Having thus prepared their scheme, they sent to welcome the envoy, who entered the city in mourning garb. The gifts having been accepted, Liu Qi asked Lu Su to meet Liu Bei. When the introductory ceremonies were over, the three men went to one of the inner chambers to drink a cup of wine.
Presently Lu Su said to Liu Bei, "By reputation I have known you a long time, Uncle Liu Bei, but till today I have not met you. I am very gratified at seeing you. You have been fighting Cao Cao, though, lately, so I suppose you know all about him. Has he really so great an army? How many, do you think, he has?"
"My army was so small that we fled whenever we heard of his approach. So I do not know how many he had."
"You had the advice of Zhuge Liang, and you used fire on Cao Cao twice. You burned him almost to death so that you can hardly say you know nothing about his soldiers," said Lu Su.
"Without asking my adviser, I really do not know the details."
"Where is Zhuge Liang? I should like to see him," said Lu Su.
So they sent for him, and he was introduced.
When the ceremonies were over, Lu Su said, "I have long admired your genius but have never been fortunate enough to meet you. Now that I have met you, I hope I may speak of present politics."
Replied Zhuge Liang, "I know all Cao Cao's infamies and wickednesses, but to my regret we were not strong enough to withstand him. That is why we avoided him."
"Is the Imperial Uncle going to stay here?"
"The Princely One is an old friend of Wu Ju, Governor of Changwu, and intends to go to him."
"Wu Ju has few troops and insufficient supplies. He cannot ensure safety for himself. How can he receive the Uncle?" said Lu Su.
"Changwu is not one to remain in long, but it is good enough for the present. We can make other plans for the future."
Lu Su said, "Sun Quan is strongly posted in the six southern territories and is exceedingly well supplied. He treats able people and scholars with the greatest courtesy and so they gather round him. Now if you are seeking a plan for your Prince, you cannot do better than send some friend to confer with him."
"There have never been any relations between my master and yours," said Zhuge Liang. "I fear there would be nothing but a waste of words. Besides, we have no one to send."
"Your elder brother Zhuge Jin is there as adviser and is longing to see you. I am but a simple wight, but I should be pleased to discuss affairs with my master and you."
"But Zhuge Liang is my Directing Instructor," said Liu Bei, "and I cannot do without him. He cannot go."
Lu Su pressed him. Liu Bei pretended to refuse permission.
"It is important. I pray you give me leave to go," said Zhuge Liang.
Then Liu Bei consented. And they soon took leave and the two set out by boat for Sun Quan's headquarters.
The result of this journey will appear in the following chapter.
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