| Chapter 63 |
Zhuge Liang Mourns For Pang Tong;
Fa Zheng and the new comer met with every sign of joy, clapping their hands and laughing with pleasure.
"This is Peng Yang of Guanghan, one of our heroes. His blunt speech, however, offended Imperial Protector Liu Zhang, who put him to shame by shaving his head, loading him with fetters, and forcing him into a monastery. That is why his hair is short."
The introduction made, Pang Tong treated the stranger with all the courtesy due to a guest and asked why he had come.
"To save a myriad of your soldiers' lives. I will explain fully when I see General Liu Bei."
A message was sent to Liu Bei, who came over to see the visitor.
"How many troops have you, General?" asked Peng Yang, when Liu Bei arrived.
Liu Bei told him.
"As a leader you cannot be ignorant of the lie of the land. Your camps over there are on River Fu. If the river be diverted and the enemy hold your army in front and rear, not a soul can escape."
Liu Bei realized that this was true.
Peng Yang continued, "In the heaven, the bowl of the Dipper lies toward the west, and Venus stands over against us. The aspect is ominous of evil, and some misfortune threatens. It must be warded off."
Liu Bei offered Peng Yang an appointment as an adviser. Then he sent messages to the generals at the camps telling them to keep most vigilant look-out to guard against the cutting of the river bank. When this message came, Huang Zhong and Wei Yan agreed together to take duty day and night about and maintain the strict watch necessary in the presence of an enemy near at hand. They arranged means of communication in case either met with a body of the enemy.
One very stormy night, Ling Bao ventured out with a strong party of five thousand and went along the river bank to seek a suitable place for the breach. But a sudden shouting in his rear told him that the army of Jingzhou were on the alert, and he at once retired. Wei Yan came in pursuit and, as he pressed nearer, Ling Bao's troops hurried forward, trampling each other down in their haste. Suddenly Ling Bao and Wei Yan ran against each other, and they engaged. The fight was very short, for Wei Yan soon took his opponent prisoner. Wu Lan and Lei Tong who came to Ling Bao's rescue were easily beaten off, and Ling Bao was carried away. When Wei Yan reached the Pass, Liu Bei saw Ling Bao and greatly blamed him for his base ingratitude.
"I treated you generously and set you free, yet you repaid me with ingratitude. I cannot forgive again."
So the prisoner was beheaded, and his captor was rewarded. A banquet was given in honor of Peng Yang.
Soon after this came a letter from Zhuge Liang, by the hand of Ma Liang, who reported all calm in Jingzhou and told Liu Bei that he need feel no anxiety. Opening the letter, Liu Bei read:
"I have been making some astrological calculations. This is the last year of the cycle, the bowl of the Dipper is in the western quarter, and the planet Venus approaches Luocheng. The configuration is inimical to leaders, and the utmost caution is necessary."
Having read this and sent Ma Liang away, Liu Bei said, "I will return myself to Jingzhou and discuss the matter."
But Pang Tong opposed this, for he thought in his heart that Zhuge Liang's warning was due to a jealous desire to prevent him from winning the glory of conducting a victorious campaign in West River Land.
Therefore Pang Tong said, "I also have made calculations, and I read the signs to mean that the time is favorable for you to get possession of this land, and no evil is foreshown. Therefore be not of doubtful heart, my lord, but advance boldly."
Liu Bei was won over and decided to follow Pang Tong's advice. He ordered Huang Zhong and Wei Yan to lead.
Pang Tong asked of Fa Zheng what roads there were to follow, and the latter drew a map, which was found to agree exactly with that left by Zhang Song.
Fa Zheng said, "North of the mountains is a high road leading to the east gate. South of the mountains is another path leading to the west gate. Both these roads are suitable for the advance of an army."
So Pang Tong said to Liu Bei, "With Wei Yan to lead the way, I will go along the southern road, while you, my lord, will advance along the high road, with Huang Zhong in the van. We will attack Luocheng at the same time."
Liu Bei replied, "I was trained as a mounted archer and am accustomed to by-roads, wherefore, O Instructor, I think you should take the high road and let me take the other."
"There will be opposition on the high road, and you are the best to deal with it. Let me take the by-road."
"No; this does not suit me," replied Liu Bei. "A spirit bearing a massive iron club appeared to me in a dream and struck my right arm, so that I suffered great pain. I feel sure this expedition will turn out badly."
Pang Tong replied, "When a soldier goes into battle, he may be killed, or he may be wounded. He accepts whichever is his fate. But should one hesitate because of a dream?"
"The real reason of my hesitation is the letter from Zhuge Liang. Wherefore I wish you to remain and guard River Fu Pass. Do you agree to that?"
Pang Tong smiled, saying, "Zhuge Liang has indeed filled your mind with doubts. The real thing is that he is unwilling to let me have the merit of accomplishing a great undertaking alone. That is why he has written this. And your doubts and hesitations have produced the dream. But I see nothing ill-omened, and I am prepared for any sacrifice and mean just what I say. Pray, my lord, say no more, but prepare to set forth."
So the order went forth that the morning meal was to be taken early and the army was to march at dawn. Huang Zhong and Wei Yan were to take the lead, one along each road. These two set out first, and in due time Liu Bei and Pang Tong mounted and followed. Suddenly Pang Tong's horse shied and stumbled, throwing him off.
Liu Bei jumped down and seized the horse by the bridle, saying, "Why do you ride this wretched beast?"
"I have ridden him a long time, and he has never done this before," was the reply.
"A shying steed risks a person's life," said Liu Bei. "Ride my horse, which is thoroughly trained and will never fail you. Give me yours."
They exchanged horses.
"I am deeply affected by your kindness," said Pang Tong. "I could never repay you if I suffered death a thousand times."
Soon their ways diverged. After his adviser had left, Liu Bei felt ill at ease and rode gloomily.
When the news of Ling Bao's capture and death reached Luocheng, Wu Yi and Liu Gui took counsel together.
Their colleague, Zhang Ren, said, "I know a by-road on the southeast which is of great importance, and I pray you let me guard it while you two hold the city."
So as soon as the news of the advancing armies came, Zhang Ren led three thousand troops to this by-road and placed them in ambush. They remained hidden while Wei Yan passed and made no attack. The main body under Pang Tong soon followed.
The soldiers in ambush saw a rider on a fine white horse and pointed him out to one another, saying, "That surely is Liu Bei on the white horse!"
Their leader Zhang Ren rejoiced too, and he gave certain orders.
Pang Tong hastened forward. By and by the mountain road narrowed to a defile with dense thickets on either hand, and as the season was when summer changes into autumn, the foliage was thick and impenetrable. His heart alarmed him, and presently he reined in his steed and asked if any knew the name of that place.
One of the soldiers of Yizhou who had joined his army said, "This is called 'The Fallen Phoenix Slope'."
Pang Tong shuddered. "An evil omen for me, since Young Phoenix is my Taoist name. There is no luck for me here."
He decided to retire. But as he gave the order, the roar of a bomb rent the air and arrows began to fly toward him thick as swarming locusts. All the hidden men were shooting at the rider of the white horse. And there, wounded by many arrows, poor Pang Tong died at the age of thirty-six.
A poem says:
A song was also written referring to Pang Tong:
|[e] Evan, a reader: "You can't underestimate the value of a good advisor, I'd say they're worth 10 tiger generals each. Imagine how different the fate of each kingdom would have been without these people, and how much more Shu and Wu might have accomplished had not several of their brilliant leaders died young. If I had to name one, I'd say that the early death of Pang Tong had the greatest impact...had he lived, Zhuge Liang might have lived longer as well, and he wouldn't have had to be everywhere at once." .....|
[e] Karl, a reader: "You're right. Yeah, he's a guy who likes his wine as well, like my favourite Cao Cao. Ai mean, why da hell not??!?! To remain sober with stupid tasks that should be delegated and all. Pang Tong ranks high in my thoughts. Open-minded guy. Even when on da piss with Liu Bei, he's VERY sober... 'Not a time to rejoice to be at war'..." .....
Not only was the leader of the expedition slain, but more than half of his soldiers fell in the narrow road that fatal day*. Some of the troops in the van escaped and ran off to tell Wei Yan of the mishap to the army, and he halted and turned back to help. However, it was difficult to march back, and he could not hack a way through, for the road was held by Zhang Ren, and archers and crossbowmen occupied all the heights.
Then one of the renegades proposed that they should try to return along the high road, and they started for Luocheng this way. But in front of them arose a great cloud of dust, betraying the approach of an enemy. Wu Lan and Lei Tong, the defenders of the city, were moving toward them, and Wei Yan was between the two armies closed in like the kernel of a nut. Wei Yan fought hard to get through. When his case seemed most desperate and hopeless, he observed signs of confusion in the army that lay between him and the city. Soon that army turned and faced the other way. He pressed forward and presently saw troops of his own side, led by the veteran Huang Zhong.
"I will rescue you, Wei Yan!" shouted Huang Zhong, as he came near.
Now the defenders of Luocheng found themselves between two enemies, and they were smitten heavily. They could not check Wei Yan and Huang Zhong, who got close to the very walls of Luocheng. Seeing them near, Liu Gui, who had been left to defend the city, poured out against them. Thereupon Huang Zhong and Wei Yan, in spite of the nearness of the army of Liu Bei, refused battle and turned sway from the city.
Liu Bei's army made a dash for two stockades, but when Zhang Ren came along the by-road, and the other three defenders of the city came on, the stockades could not be held, and Liu Bei's army had to retire. Now fighting and now marching, the army of Liu Bei strove hard to reach River Fu Pass, but Zhang Ren pressed close. However, Liu Feng and Guan Ping came up, and not only drove back the pursuers but chased them some seven miles. Finally, Liu Bei and his troops reached the Pass, weary and dispirited. His son and nephew returned from the pursuit with many horses they had captured from the flying enemy. However, nothing had been gained and the victory lay rather with the army of the West River Land.
Liu Bei sent to inquire about Pang Tong. One of the fugitives from the army finally reached River Fu Pass and told Liu Bei of the sad news---man and horse wounded to death. Liu Bei turned his face to the west and mourned bitterly.
Although the body of the slain leader lay far away, they instituted sacrifice to call the spirit, and all the generals keened for him.
Then said Huang Zhong, "Now that our leader is no more, certainly the enemy will return to attack the Pass. What is to be done? I think we had better send to Jingzhou for Zhuge Liang and get him to lay plans for getting possession of the West River Land."
And even then came in one to say that the enemy under Zhang Ren had come and were now offering a challenge at the rampart.
Huang Zhong and Wei Yan wished to go forth to fight, but Liu Bei disapproved, saying, "We have suffered a severe check, and the soldiers are low-spirited. Let us rather remain on the defensive until the Directing Instructor can arrive."
Huang Zhong and Wei Yan made no objection, but set themselves to guard the Pass most vigilantly, while a letter was written to Zhuge Liang and sent by the hand of Guan Ping. He set forth at once, and Liu Bei gave himself up to holding the Pass.
In Jingzhou, it was the seventh day of the seventh moon, and in the evening Zhuge Liang invited his officers to a banquet. Conversation turned toward the enterprise in the West River Land. Suddenly a large and brilliant meteor appeared falling in the west, illuminating the whole sky. It so disturbed the host that he dashed his wine cup to the ground, covered his face, and burst into tears.
The guests eagerly asked him why he wept.
Zhuge Liang replied, "I knew by my calculations that the bowl of the Dipper would be in the west at this season and that the auspices would be unfavorable to leaders of armies, and lo! the Heavens have gone against our army. When Venus was about to stand over Luocheng, I wrote to our lord warning him to be very cautious. I never contemplated the falling of the star this evening. Now Pang Tong is no more."
Again he fell to weeping. "My lord has lost an arm!" moaned he.
The guests were rather disturbed, but they only half believed that such a misfortune had happened.
"We shall hear the sad news in a very few days," said Zhuge Liang.
The banquet ended sadly enough, and the guests went their ways. A few days later, while Zhuge Liang was sitting with Guan Yu and a few others, they reported the arrival of Guan Ping with letters from the west. When the letters were opened, they knew that Pang Tong had fallen the same evening that the meteor had appeared.
Zhuge Liang wailed, and the others wept with him.
Then Zhuge Liang said, "I must go to help our lord. He is hemmed in at the Pass and cannot move."
"If you go away, who will guard this region?" asked Guan Yu. "It is of very great importance."
"Our lord has not written plainly, but I know what was in his mind." Then he showed the letter to the others and said, "Provision for the defense of this region is laid upon me, and I am to find one equal to the task. I read the letter to mean that he desires Guan Yu to undertake the defense, and I know that Guan Yu will do it for the sake of the pledge taken long ago in the Peach Garden. The task is no light one."
Guan Yu accepted without hesitation or thought of excuse. A special banquet was prepared at which the seal was to be handed over to him.
"All the future rests with you, General," said Zhuge Liang as he raised the symbol of office to place it in the hands of the commander.
"When a person of honor accepts such a task, he is only released by death," replied Guan Yu.
But that ill-omened word "death" displeased Zhuge Liang, and even then he would have retracted but that Guan Yu's word had gone forth. Zhuge Liang went on.
"Now if Cao Cao attack what is to be done?" said Zhuge Liang.
"Repel him with all my strength."
"But if Cao Cao and Sun Quan attack you together, what then?"
"Fight both; half my force against each."
Zhuge Liang said, "In that case, Jingzhou would be in danger. I will give you my advice in a few words, and if you remember them the region is safe."
"What are these few words?" asked Guan Yu.
"North, fight Cao Cao; south, ally with Sun Quan."
"These words, O Commander, are engraved on my heart."
Thereupon the seal was placed in his hands. Zhuge Liang also appointed tried and worthy people to assist the new commander. Guan Yu's civil staff included Ma Liang, Mi Zhu, and Yi Ji; and on military side, he was assisted by Mi Fang, Liao Hua, Guan Ping, and Zhou Cang.
This done, Zhuge Liang began to prepare for his march to the River Lands. Zhang Fei, with ten thousand troops, was sent to fight his way into the country west of Bazhou and Luocheng, and he was to go with all speed. The earlier he got through, the greater merit would be his. Zhao Yun was to lead a force up the Great River and make a junction at Luocheng. Zhuge Liang, with his own body of fifteen thousand troops, would follow.
Among those who followed Zhuge Liang were Jian Yong and one Jiang Wan. Jiang Wan was a noted scholar from Lingling, and he held the office of Secretary.
Zhuge Liang and Zhang Fei set out the same day.
Just before leaving, the Directing Instructor said to Zhang Fei, "Do not think lightly of the soldiers of Yizhou, for there are many mighty warriors among them. On the march restrain your soldiers from plunder and license lest the ordinary people be against us. Wherever you halt, be compassionate and kindly and do not give way to anger and flog your soldiers. I shall expect you to reach Luocheng very soon."
Zhang Fei joyously mounted and left. He marched rapidly, and on the way all places that surrendered suffered nothing whatever.
When they drew near the county of Bazhou, the scouts of West River Land sent out by the Governor of that place informed their master, Yan Yan. This Yan Yan was one of the famous generals of Yizhou, and even then, although he was rather old, he had lost none of his boldness and could still pull the stiffest bow and wield the heaviest sword.
Being so famous, Yan Yan was not the man to surrender at the first approach of an enemy. So when Zhang Fei came near, he cautiously encamped about three miles from the city. Thence he sent a messenger to summon the Governor to surrender.
Zhang Fei said, "Tell the old fool to give in, or I will trample down his walls and leave no soul alive."
Yan Yan had never favored inviting Liu Bei into Yizhou.
When he had first heard of the Imperial Protector's intention, he said, "This is like calling a tiger to protect a person when that person is alone on a bare hill side."
When he heard of the seizure of River Fu Pass, he was very angry and offered again and again to lead an army and drive out the aggressors. He had feared that his city would be attacked along this very road, so he had prepared his army, and when Zhang Fei's message came, he mustered them, five thousand or so, to oppose him.
Then a certain person said to Yan Yan, "You must be careful how you oppose a man who by the mere sound of his voice scared the many legions of Cao Cao at Long Slope Bridge. Even Cao Cao himself was careful to keep out of his way. Your safety is in defense, lying behind your ramparts and within your deep moats till hunger shall have vanquished your enemies. This Zhang Fei has a very violent temper. If he is provoked, he vents his anger in flogging his soldiers. If you avoid battle, he will be irritated; and his cruelty to his soldiers will cause them to mutiny. Then you can attack and will succeed."
Yan Yan thought the advice good. He therefore resolved only to defend, and he set all his soldiers on the walls. When one of Zhang Fei's soldiers came up to the gate and shouted for them to open, Yan Yan gave orders to open the gate and admit the man. When the soldier had come within, he gave the submission demand as has been related before.
But the Governor was exceedingly angry and said, "Fool that you are! How dare you speak thus to me? Think you that I, General Yan Yan, will surrender to such as him. By your mouth indeed will I send a message."
Then Yan Yan bade the executioner cut off the man's ears and nose. And thus mutilated he returned to Zhang Fei. When Zhang Fei heard of it, his wrath boiled up and he cursed the defender of the city. Grinding his teeth and glaring with rage, he put on his armor, mounted his steed, and went up close to the walls with a few mounted followers, and challenged those on the ramparts to fight him. But the defenders on the walls only replied with shameful abuse, and none accepted the challenge. Zhang Fei galloped again and again to the drawbridge, only to be driven off each time with flights of arrows. But not a man came outside the walls. As the day closed in, the warrior, still fuming with wrath, returned to his own camp.
Next day Zhang Fei again led his troops to the foot of the wall and challenged. Again the challenge was refused. But Yan Yan shot an arrow from the tower that struck Zhang Fei's helmet. This angered him still more.
Pointing the finger of disdain at his enemy, Zhang Fei cried, "I will capture you yet, you old fool, and then I will devour your flesh!"
So again at eventide the troops of Jingzhou returned to camp bucking their desire. On the third day Zhang Fei and his troops made the circuit of the city along the edge of the moat, hurling insults at their enemies.
It so happened that the city was set on a hill with rugged heights all round, so that going around it the assailants were sometimes on hill tops and sometimes on the level. While standing on one of the hills, Zhang Fei noticed that he could see clear down into the city. There stood the defenders in their ranks, all ready for battle although none of them came out. And the common people went to and fro carrying bricks and bringing stones to strengthen the defenses. Then Zhang Fei ordered his horsemen to dismount and his footmen to sit down so that they could not be seen from the city. He hoped thus to cheat the defenders into thinking that there were none to attack and so induce them to come out. But this also was vain, for still the defenders declined battle, and another day was lost. The army once more returned to camp.
That night Zhang Fei sat in his tent trying to think out some means to overcome an enemy that steadily refused to come out from behind the walls. Presently, however, the brain behind the knitted brows conceived a plan. So next day, instead of sending all the troops to offer a challenge from the foot of the wall, Zhang Fei kept most of them in camp and sent only a few to howl insults and hurl abuse. He hoped by this means to inveigle Yan Yan out to attack the small number of troops. But this also failed, and he was left all day rubbing hid hands with impatience. Never a man appeared without the wall.
Foiled again, another ruse grew up behind his bushy eyebrows. He set his troops to cut firewood and seek out and explore the tracks that lay about the city. No longer did they challenge the wall. After some days of this, Yan Yan began to wonder what mischief was brewing, and he sent out spies, dressed as were the firewood cutters, to mingle with them and try to discover what was afoot.
That day, when the troops returned to camp, Zhang Fei sat in his tent stamping his foot with rage and execrating his enemy.
"The old fool! Assuredly I shall die of disappointed wrath," cried he.
Just then he noticed three or four soldiers lurking about his tent door as if they wished to speak with him.
And one of them said, "General, do not let your heart be hot within you. These last few days we have discovered a narrow road by which we can sneak past this city."
"Why did you not come and tell me before?" cried he.
"Because we have only lately discovered it," said they.
"I will lose no time then," said he. "This very night let food be ready at the second watch, and we will break camp and steal away as silently as possible. I will lead the way, and you shall go with me as guides."
The requisite orders were given.
Having made sure that the preparations for the march were really being made, the spies of the Governor returned into the city.
"I guessed right then," said Yan Yan gleefully when the spies reported their success. "I cannot bear the fool. He will now try to sneak past with his commissariat following, and I will cut off his rear. How can he get through? He is very stupid to fall thus into my trap. All are to prepare for battle. The food is to be ready at the second watch, and the army is to move out at the third. We will hide in the woods and thickets, till the greater part of the enemy's army has passed and Zhang Fei has arrived in the very throat of the road. Then the blow will be struck."
They waited till night had fallen. In due time the late meal was taken, the soldiers donned their armor, stole silently out of the city, and hid as they had been told. The Governor himself. with a few of his generals, went out also, dismounted and hid in a wood. They waited till after the third watch. Then Zhang Fei came along, urging his troops to the top of their speed. His spear lay ready to thrust. He looked very handsome as he rode at the head of his army. The carts were one or two miles in the rear.
When the soldiers had got well past, Yan Yan gave the signal. The drums rolled out, up sprang the hidden troops and fell on the baggage train.
The western troops began to plunder. But suddenly a gong clanged and along came a company of soldiers Yan Yan had not seen.
At the same time a voice was heard shouting, "Old rebel, do not flee! I have been waiting for this chance a long time!"
Yan Yan turned his head. The leader of this band was a tall man with a leopard-like bullet head, round eyes, a sharp chin, and bristling tiger mustache. He was armed with a long serpent halberd and rode a black steed. In a word, it was Zhang Fei.
All around the gongs were clanging, and many troops of Jingzhou were rushing toward Yan Yan, already too frightened to be able to defend himself. However, the two leaders engaged. Very soon Zhang Fei purposely gave his opponent an opening, and Yan Yan rushed in to cut down his enemy with his sword. But Zhang Fei evaded the blow, made a sudden rush, seized Yan Yan by the lace of his armor, and flung him on the ground. Yan Yan was a prisoner, and in a moment was fast bound with cords.
The handsome leader who had passed first had not been Zhang Fei at all, but someone dressed and made up to resemble him. To add to the confusion, Zhang Fei had exchanged the signals, making the gong the signal for his troops to fall on instead of the usual drum.
As the gongs clanged, more and more of the troops of Jingzhou came into the fray. The troops of Yizhou could make no fight, and most of them dropped their weapons and surrendered. To reach the walls of the city was now easy. After entering the gates, the leader ordered his soldiers not to hurt the people, and he put out proclamations to pacify the citizens.
By and by a party of executioners brought in the prisoner.
Zhang Fei took his seat in the great hall, and the late commander of the city was brought before him by a party of executioners. Yan Yan refused to kneel before his captor.
"Why did you not surrender at first?" cried Zhang Fei, angrily grinding his teeth. "How dared you try to oppose me?"
"Because you are a lot of unrighteous and lawless invaders!" replied Yan Yan without the least sign of fear. "You may behead me as you will, but I will not surrender to you."
Zhang Fei angrily gave the order for his execution.
"Strike, if you want to, fool. Why so angry?" said Yan Yan.
This bold defiance was not lost upon Zhang Fei. Rising from his seat, he went down the steps, put aside the lictors, and began to loosen the prisoner's bonds. Then he dressed Yan Yan in new garments and led him to the high place.
When Yan Yan was seated, Zhang Fei made a low bow, saying, "I have always known you were a hero. Now I pray you not remember against me the roughness of my speech."
Yan Yan was overcome with this kindness and forthwith surrendered.
A poet has also written concerning Zhang Fei:
Then Zhang Fei asked Yan Yan to suggest the means of overcoming the West River Land.
Yan Yan replied, "I am but the defeated leader of a defeated force, indebted to the victor for my life. I have nothing but my humble services to offer, but I can tell you how to get possession of Chengdu without drawing a bow or shooting an arrow."
The proposal will be unfolded in the next chapter.
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