| Chapter 67 |
Cao Cao Conquers Hanzhong;
The expedition against the East River Land went out in three divisions. Xiahou Yuan and Zhang He were Leaders of the Van; Cao Cao with his commanders marched in the center; and Cao Ren brought up the rear. Xiahou Dun was in charge of the commissariat.
The spies soon carried the news into Hanzhong, and Zhang Lu called in his brother Zhang Wei to consult how to meet the attack.
Said Zhang Wei, "The strategic point to hold is Yangping Pass, and there should be ten stockades there with the forest and hills to support them. You, my brother, should make your depot of supplies at Hanning."
Thereupon two generals, Yang Ang and Yan Ren, were sent with Zhang Wei to the Pass, and they built ten stockades.
Soon Xiahou Yuan and Zhang He arrived and learned the Pass had prepared a defense. They camped at a point five miles away. The soldiers were fatigued after the long march, and all lay down to rest without placing proper guards.
Suddenly the camp was attacked in the rear by Yang Ang and Yan Ren from different points. Xiahou Yuan and Zhang He mounted quickly and tried to beat off the attackers, but the enemy poured in all round, and their army suffered great loss. They returned to the main body to tell of their defeat, and their chief abused them for their want of care.
"Old soldiers like you should have known better and taken precautions against a raid of the camp when the enemy knew your troops were exhausted by a long march."
Cao Cao even desired to put them to death as a warning, but their fellow officers interceded, and he spared them. Soon Cao Cao himself marched in the van. Then he saw the dangerous and evil nature of the place, with its thick growth of trees. As he knew nothing of the roads and was fearful of an ambush, he returned to his camp.
Calling up his two leaders, Xu Chu and Xu Huang, he said, "Had I known the dangerous nature of the place, I would never have come."
Xu Chu replied, "The soldiers are here now, my lord, and you cannot recoil before the hardships."
Next day Cao Cao with only Xu Chu and Xu Huang rode out to reconnoiter the enemy's camp.
As they rode over the hills, Cao Cao pointed out the position with his whip and said, "It will be very difficult to reduce a place as strong as this."
Just then there arose a shout in their rear, and a shower of arrows fell about them. Yang Ang and Yan Ren were attacking, and the danger became great.
"Friend Xu Huang, you look after our lord!" cried Xu Chu. "I can hold the enemy."
Xu Chu galloped out, and the two leaders could not stand Xu Chu and took to flight, while their troops scattered. In the meantime Xu Huang led his master over the hills. Soon he met an army of soldiers led by Xiahou Yuan and Zhang He, who had heard the sound of fighting and had come to the rescue, and Cao Cao got back safely to camp. The four generals were rewarded.
For fifty days the two armies held each other at bay without coming to a fight. At the end of this time, orders were given to retire in the camp of Cao Cao.
"We have not tried the strength of the enemy," said Jia Xu. "You should not retire, my lord."
"I see that they are always on the alert," said Cao Cao. "I am only retiring to put them off their guard. By and by I will send some light horse to attack their rear. I shall defeat them then."
"Ah! Your skill is unfathomable!" cried Jia Xu.
Three thousand horsemen led by Xiahou Yuan and Zhang He got round behind the Yangping Pass by unfrequented roads, while Cao Cao broke up his camp and led his main body backward.
When Yang Ang heard of the retreat, he thought it would be a good chance to attack.
But Yan Ren opposed it, saying, "Cao Cao is full of ruses. The occasion is unclear. We should not lead an attack."
Yang Ang was willful and said, "I shall go. You may come or not, as you wish."
In spite of the protestations of his colleague, Yang Ang marched, taking with him the soldiers of five camps and leaving only a few defenders. The day he set out was very foggy, so that one could hardly see his neighbor's face, and soon the force got into difficulties and could not advance. They bivouacked on the road.
Now, Xiahou Yuan was out with a reconnoitering force behind the hills when they heard the voices of troops and the neighing of horses. In the dense fog they could see nothing; but fearing an ambush, they hastened to retire. Somehow they lost their way and presently stumbled on the deserted camp of Yang Ang. The few defenders thought their comrades had returned, so they threw open the gates to let the troops of Cao Cao in. They found an empty camp, and they raised a great blaze, which frightened those few defenders in the other camps so that they fled.
As soon as the fog cleared, Yan Ren came to the rescue. But as Yan Ren and Xiahou Yuan were fighting, Zhang He suddenly appeared and attacked from the rear. Between two armies, Yan Ren forced his way through and quickly fled toward Nanzheng.
By and by, when Yang Ang returned, he found his camp in the possession of Cao Cao's troops. Soon Cao Cao's main army came up, and Yang Ang was between two forces. There seemed no other way but to make a dash for it. Falling in with Zhang He, the two engaged, and Yang Ang fell. Those who escaped carried the news of the disaster to Zhang Wei, who abandoned Yangping Pass and fled.
So the invaders took possession of the Pass, and its late defenders, Zhang Wei and Yan Ren, had to go back and report failure.
Zhang Wei laid the blame on his generals, saying, "The Pass could not be held after its supporting positions had been lost."
Zhang Lu threatened to behead Yan Ren for his failure.
But Yan Ren said, "Yang Ang did not listen to my advice, and the defeat followed. Now I volunteer to make another attack. If I fail to take Cao Cao's head, I will abide by the consequences without protest."
Zhang Lu took his formal pledge to succeed, gave him twenty thousand troops, and sent him away. Yan Ren marched to Nanzheng and made a stockade.
Before Cao Cao made any further advance, he sent Xiahou Yuan, with five thousand troops, to reconnoiter the road, and they fell in with the force led by Yan Ren. Both sides drew up their battle array. From Yan Ren's side went out one general named Chang Qi to engage Xiahou Yuan. Before the fourth bout was fought, Xiahou Yuan disposed of Chang Qi. Then Yan Ren set his spear and rode to the front. They two fought near forty bouts and neither could claim victory. Then Xiahou Yuan pretended defeat and fled. The other rushed in pursuit. The fugitive suddenly employed the "swinging-horse stab" and killed his pursuer. Yan Ren's troops ran away.
As soon as Cao Cao knew of the death of Yan Ren, he brought up his army, marched straightway to Nanzheng and camped.
Zhang Lu became alarmed and called a council.
"I can propose a man able to stand against the best leader of the enemy," said Yan Pu.
"Who is he?" asked Zhang Lu.
"Pang De of Nanan. Pang De surrendered at the same time as Ma Chao, but could not go with Ma Chao into Yizhou as he was ill. You have treated him generously. He will save you."
Pang De was summoned. He came, and Zhang Lu loaded him with gifts and gave him a force of ten thousand troops, with which he marched and camped three miles from the city, near the besieging force. His camp made, Pang De rode out and challenged.
Now Cao Cao, remembering Pang De's boldness at the battle of River Wei Bridge, was desirous of winning the warrior for himself.
So Cao Cao told his generals, saying, "Pang De is a bold general of Xiliang formerly serving under Ma Chao. Though he is now under Zhang Lu, that is not his real wish. I want to win him over. So you should try to weary him by prolonging the fights, and so make him captive."
Wherefore first rode out Zhang He to answer the challenger. He fought a few bouts and returned. Then Xiahou Yuan did the same thing. So did Xu Huang. Lastly went Xu Chu, who kept up the fight to half a hundred bouts before he retired. Still Pang De showed no signs of fatigue nor of fear, and all those who had fought with him praised his prowess and skill.
"If only I could win him over to my side!" said Cao Cao longingly.
Said Jia Xu, "I know one of Zhang Lu's subordinates, Yang Song. He is avaricious and open to bribes. You might send him secret presents and get him to slander Pang De to his master so as to weaken Pang De's position."
"But how can one get at this man? He is in Nanzheng."
"In the next battle, pretend defeat, flee, and let Pang De take possession of this camp. Return in the night in force and drive him out, and he must retreat into the city. Let one of our own people with a persuasive tongue mingle with his troops, disguised as one of his soldiers, and so gain entrance into the city."
A subtle agent was found, and goodly gifts were his in advance, and he was entrusted with a golden breastplate as a bribe. He put it on and over it put on the dress of an ordinary soldier of Hanzhong. And he made his way quietly to a point on the road along which the soldiers of Hanzhong would retreat into the city. There he waited.
Next day, two parties under Xiahou Yuan and Zhang He were sent to lie in ambush, and Xu Huang was sent to challenge, but with orders to be defeated. The scheme went well, and as Pang De came on to smite, Cao Cao's army retired before Pang De till he found himself at their very camp. And therein he entered and was exceedingly pleased to find fodder and forage in great quantities.
Having sent off a messenger to his chief, Pang De spread a feast in celebration of the victory; and when night came on they slept. But about the second watch there was an alarm from three directions, and the camp was threatened by three forces: Xu Chu and Xu Huang attacking in the center, Zhang He from the left, and Xiahou Yuan from the right. It was the night attack arranged by Cao Cao, and Pang De could not make any defense. He got to horse, cut his way through, and made for the city. With the attackers in close pursuit, Pang De reached the gate, got it opened, and rushed in.
And the false soldier got in amid the confusion. He made his way quickly to Yang Song's residence and saw him.
He told Yang Song, saying, "The Great Prime Minister, Duke of Wei, knows you by reputation and holds you in great esteem. And as a token thereof he has sent you his golden breastplate and a confidential letter as well."
Yang Song took it all in, read the letter, and said, "I will reply by and by, and the Duke of Wei needs feel no anxiety for I shall find a means of proving my gratitude. You may return."
Soon after, Yang Song went to see Zhang Lu and told him, saying, "Pang De has been defeated because he has been bribed by Cao Cao."
Forthwith Zhang Lu summoned his general, abused him, and threatened to put him to death. Yan Pu, however, protested and proposed to test Pang De in another encounter.
Zhang Lu then said, "Tomorrow, if you lose, I will take your head!"
Pang De retired full of resentment.
The next day Cao Cao attacked, and Pang De went out to repel him. Cao Cao sent out Xu Chu, but bade him pretend defeat. When Pang De pursued, Cao Cao rode toward the hills, where he halted and presently got speech with Pang De.
Cao Cao called out, "Pang De! Why not surrender?"
But Pang De thought within himself that to capture Cao Cao would be a fine exploit, so he boldly faced his escort and rode up the hills. But there arose a great shouting as if heaven and earth were clashing together, and he and his followers went headlong into ditches and pits that had been dug. Out flew Cao Cao's troops with ropes and hooks, and Pang De was a prisoner.
When he was taken to Cao Cao, he was received with the greatest kindness. Cao Cao himself dismounted, loosed the captive's bonds, and asked him, "Do you surrender?"
Pang De thought of the ill-treatment he had just received at the hands of his master and of his injustice, and gave in. At once Pang De was helped to mount a horse by Cao Cao himself and led to the great camp.
Soldiers placed for the purpose on the city wall saw what happened and reported to Zhang Lu: "Pang De has ridden off on friendly terms with Cao Cao."
Whereby Zhang Lu was persuaded that Yang Song had spoken truly.
Soon after, scaling ladders were set against the city walls, and catapults threw in great stones.
The danger being imminent, Zhang Wei counseled, saying, "Set all supplies on fire and flight to the Southern Mountains, where we might be able to defend Bazhong."
On the other hand, Yang Song said, "The best course is to throw open the gates and surrender."
Zhang Lu could not decide which to do. His brother, Zhang Wei, maintained that burning everything and flight was the only course.
Zhang Lu said, "I have been always loyal at heart and desired to return to allegiance when circumstances would permit. I have been unable to attain my desire, but now fight seems the only course open to me. However, the granaries and treasures, the public offices, and the government property of all kinds must be kept safe."
So the public buildings were all carefully barred and sealed. The same night, in the late evening, Zhang Lu and his family went out through the south gate and found their way through. Cao Cao let them go unpursued. When Cao Cao entered the city and saw the proofs of Zhang Lu's care of the government property, he compassionated the Governor's misfortunes. He then sent a messenger into Bazhong to induce Zhang Lu to surrender. Zhang Lu was disposed to do so, but his brother would not hear of it. Yang Song wrote a secret letter to Cao Cao urging him to attack and promising treacherous aid.
Cao Cao presently attacked, and Zhang Wei came out to meet him. But his opponent was the mighty Xu Chu, who made short work of him. The beaten soldiers fled back into the city, which Zhang Lu then decided to defend.
As this would not give Yang Song the chance to carry out his treacherous scheme, he persuaded his master, saying, "If we stay passive, death will surely come. My lord should go out and fight the enemy to the conclusion, leaving me to defend the city."
Zhang Lu took this advice, although it was opposed by Yan Pu, and went out. But before his van got near the enemy, his rear ranks began to desert, and Zhang Lu retreated. Cao Cao pursued him to the city walls, where Zhang Lu found the gates shut against him.
"Surrender, O Zhang Lu!" cried Cao Cao.
There being now no way open, Zhang Lu dismounted, prostrated himself, and gave in. Because of this and his care of the public property, Cao Cao treated him with great kindness and consoled him with the title of General Who Guards the South. Yan Pu and many others also were enrolled among the nobles. To each county was appointed a Military Commander, in addition to the Governor. All the soldiers were feasted and rewarded.
Then Yang Song, who had sold his master, came and sued for honors. He was condemned to public execution and exposure.
When the East River Land was quite subdued, First Secretary Sima Yi said, "The people of Shu are not loyal to Liu Bei because of his uprooting the late ruler, Liu Zhang. If on the strength of your present success you press forward, Liu Bei will become as a shattered tile. The wise person takes the occasion when it serves, and this should not be missed."
Cao Cao sighed, "There is no end---as human want has no limit: Now that I have Hanzhong, I am forced into taking Yizhou."
Liu Ye supported his colleague, saying, "Sima Yi spoke well. If you delay, Zhuge Liang will have become top minister, while Guan Yu, Zhang Fei, and the other bold warriors will be at the head of the army. If the people of Shu once settle down, and the points of vantage are held, you will not be able to overcome them."
Cao Cao replied, "My soldiers have marched far and suffered much. Beside we must show pity."
Wherefore he rested his army for a time.
Meanwhile the populace of Yizhou, having heard of Cao Cao's success in the East River Land, concluded that the West River Land would suffer next, and fear spread among them. Whereupon Liu Bei called in the Directing Instructor and asked his advice.
Zhuge Liang replied, "I can make Cao Cao retreat of his own accord."
"What is that plan?"
"A part of Cao Cao's army is camped at Hefei because of the fear of Sun Quan. If now we restore three territories of Jingzhou---Changsha, Jiangxia, and Guiyang---, and send a specious person to talk, we can make Sun Quan attack Hefei, which will lead to Cao Cao going southward and not looking to the west."
"Who is a fit person for the messenger?" said Liu Bei.
And Yi Ji replied, "I will go."
Liu Bei, well-satisfied, wrote letters and prepared gifts, with which Yi Ji went, calling in at Jingzhou City on the way to tell Guan Yu. Then he went on to the capital city of Jianye and saw Sun Quan.
After the greetings, Sun Quan asked, "On what business do you come?"
Yi Ji replied, "On a former occasion Zhuge Jin would have had the three territories of Changsha, Lingling, and Guiyang, but for the absence of the Directing Instructor, which prevented the actual transfer. Now I am the bearer of letters giving Changsha, Guiyang, and Jiangxia back to you. Liu Bei and Zhuge Liang wanted to restore all the territories of Jingzhou, including those of Xiangyang, Nanjun, and Lingling. But now that Cao Cao has got possession of East River Land, there is no place for General Guan Yu. Hefei is weak, and we hope you will attack it so as to make Cao Cao withdraw to the south and let my master take the East River Land, when he will restore the whole of the Jingzhou Region."
"Go back to the guest-house, and let me take counsel in this matter," said Sun Quan.
As soon as Yi Ji had gone, the Marquis of Wu turned to his officers and asked what should be done.
Zhang Zhao said, "All this is because Liu Bei fears that Cao Cao will attack him. However, since Cao Cao is absent in Hanzhong, it would be well to seize the opportunity and attack Hefei."
Sun Quan accepted the advice. After he had sent the messenger away, he began to prepare for the expedition. He left Lu Su in command over the three territories of Changsha, Jiangxia, and Guiyang. Then Sun Quan encamped at Lukou, withdrew Generals Lu Meng and Gan Ning, and sent to Yuhang for General Ling Tong.
In a few days, Lu Meng and Gan Ning returned.
Lu Meng suggested a plan, saying, "Cao Cao has sent Zhu Guang, Governor of Lujiang, to camp at the city of Huancheng and plant grain for the supply of Hefei. Let us first take Huancheng first, and then attack Hefei."
"This scheme is just after my own heart," said Sun Quan.
So Sun Quan appointed Lu Meng and Gan Ning as Van Leaders; Jiang Qin and Pan Zhang as Rear Guards; he himself with Zhou Tai, Chen Wu, Dong Xi, and Xu Sheng commanded the center. But the Commanders Cheng Pu, Huang Gai, and Han Dang were not called to take part in this expedition as they were guarding certain especial places.
The army crossed the river and captured Hezhou on the way. Governor Zhu Guang sent an urgent message to Hefei for help and set himself to strengthen his fortifications for a siege. Sun Quan went very near the city walls of Huancheng to observe its defense, and a flight of arrows greeted him, some striking his great official parasol. He went back to camp and asked his officers to offer plans of attack.
Then Dong Xi said, "Pile up great hills of earth and attack from the summits."
Said Xu Sheng, "Set up long ladders and construct platforms whence you can look over the city walls and thus attack."
But Lu Meng said, "All such plans need a long time to prepare, and in the meantime the soldiers of Cao Cao will arrive from Hefei. Do not try such long-drawn-out schemes, but take advantage of the fine, fresh spirit of our newly arrived troops and attack impetuously. Their elan will carry the wall. If you attack tomorrow at dawn, the city will fall before noon."
So the early meal was taken at the fifth watch, and the army went to the attack. The defenders sent down showers of arrows and stones. Gan Ning took an iron chain in his hand and climbed up the wall. They shot at him with bows and crossbows, but he turned aside the arrows and bolts, and he threw the chain round Governor Zhu Guang to pull him down. Lu Meng beat the drum for the attack. The soldiers made a rush forward to climb the wall, and they slew Zhu Guang. His officers and soldiers gave in, and so Huancheng fell to Sun Quan. It was still a long time to noon.
In the meantime Zhang Liao was marching to the aid of the city. Half-way he heard that the city had fallen, and so he returned to Hefei.
Soon after the conqueror's entry into Huancheng, Ling Tong came there with his army. The next few days were devoted to feasting the army. Special rewards were given to the two generals who had done such good work at the capture; and at the banquet to the officers, Gan Ning was seated in the seat of honor, which his colleague, Lu Meng, readily yielded to him for his late prowess.
But as the cup of felicitation was passing round, Ling Tong's thoughts turned to the enmity he bore Gan Ning for having slain his father, and the praises which Lu Meng now heaped upon Gan Ning filled Ling Tong's heart with bitterness. For some time he glared savagely at Gan Ning, and then he determined on revenge.
Drawing his sword, Ling Tong suddenly rose to his feet and cried, "There is nothing to amuse the assembly. I will give them a display of swordsmanship!"
Gan Ning quickly saw his real intention. He pushed back his table and laid hold of a halberd in each hand, crying, "And you may also watch an adept in the use of this weapon!"
Lu Meng saw the evil meaning of both, and assuming his sword and shield, he hastily stepped between the two warriors, saying, "Neither of you gentlemen is so dexterous as I."
So he forced the two combatants asunder, while someone ran to tell Sun Quan. The Marquis hastily jumped into the saddle and rode to the banquet hall. At sight of their lord, they all three lowered their weapons.
"I have bidden you two to forget this old enmity," said Sun Quan. "Why do you revive it today?"
Ling Tong prostrated himself in tears. Sun Quan exhorted him to forget his quarrel, and once again there was peace.
The next day the army set out for Hefei.
Because of the loss of Huancheng, Zhang Liao grieved greatly. Cao Cao had sent by the hands of Xue Ti a small casket sealed with his own seal and bearing outside the words, "If rebels come, open this."
So when he received the news of the coming of a powerful army, Zhang Liao opened the casket and read the letter therein:
"If Sun Quan comes to attack Hefei, the two Generals Li Dian and Zhang Liao are to go out to oppose him, and Yue Jing is to be left to guard the walls."
Zhang Liao sent the letter to the two men named therein.
"What do you think to do?" said Yue Jing.
Zhang Liao replied, "Our lord is away, and Wu is coming to attack for certain. We must go out to repel them and exert ourselves to the utmost to inflict defeat upon their advanced guard. Thus we shall appease the fears of the populace, and then we can hold as best we may."
But Li Dian was silent, for he was ever unfriendly to Zhang Liao.
Then seeing his colleague inclined to hold off, Yue Jing said, "I am for remaining on the defensive, since the enemy is so much more numerous than we."
"Gentlemen, it seems you are selfish and not devoted to the common weal," said Zhang Liao. "You may have your private reasons for what you do, but I intend to go out and try to repel the enemy. I will fight them to the death."
Thereupon Zhang Liao bade his servants saddle his steed.
At this, Li Dian's better feelings were aroused, and he rose, saying, "How can I be careless of the common weal and indulge my private feelings? I am ready to follow you and do as you command."
Zhang Liao was elated at this moral victory, and said, "Since I can depend upon your help, my friend, then I would ask you to lie in ambush on the north of Xiaoyao Ford in order to destroy the Xiaoshi Bridge there as soon as the army of Wu has crossed. I, with my friend Yue Jing, will smite the enemy."
Li Dian went away to muster his troops and prepare the ambush.
As has been recorded, the leaders of the advance guard of the southern army were the veterans Lu Meng and Gan Ning. Sun Quan and Ling Tong were in the center; the other generals followed them. The leaders of the van met Yue Jing first, and Gan Ning rode out and challenged him. After a few bouts, Yue Jing pretended to be defeated and fled. Gan Ning called to his colleague to join in the pursuit.
When Sun Quan heard that this advance guard had been successful, he hastened his army to Xiaoyao Ford. But then there came a series of explosions, and up came Zhang Liao and Li Dian, one on each flank. Sun Quan was unprepared for this and sent messengers to call off the pursuit and ask for help from Lu Meng and Gan Ning. Before it could arrived, Zhang Liao had come up. Manifestly, Ling Tong, who had with him only a small troop of three hundred horse, could not long withstand the army of Cao Cao, but he faced them and fought bravely.
Presently Ling Tong cried to his lord, "Cross the Xiaoshi Bridge and run back, my lord!"
Sun Quan galloped for the bridge, but the southern end had been already broken down and there was a wide breach between the end of the bridge and the shore. Not a single plank was there by which to cross. What could be done? Sun Quan was in a quandary, and helpless.
"Go back and jump for it!" yelled one of the generals, Gu Li by name.
Sun Quan did so. Backing his horse some thirty spans or so, he then gave it its head and lashed it with his whip.
The good beast leaped, cleared the chasm and his master wee safe on the southern shore.
Having reached the farther shore, Sun Quan embarked on one of the boats of Xu Sheng and Dong Xi and was rowed to a place of safety, while Ling Tong and Gu Li were still fighting with Zhang Liao's army. Gan Ning and Lu Meng, coming to their aid, were pursued by Yue Jing, and Li Dian also stayed their progress. But the soldiers of the South Land fought bravely; half of their force fell, and Ling Tong's troop of three hundred horse perished all, while Ling Tong himself was wounded, but found his way to the bridge. Finding it destroyed, he fled along the stream. Presently he was seen by Sun Quan from the boat and taken on board by Dong Xi. Gan Ning and Lu Meng also cut their ways back to the southern shore.
The terrible slaughter at this battle put such fear into the minds of the people of the South Land that the name of Zhang Liao kept the very children quiet at night.
When Sun Quan reached his camp, he richly rewarded Ling Tong and Gu Li. Then he led his army back to Ruxu and began to put his ships in order so that the army and navy might act in unison. He also sent home for reinforcements.
Zhang Liao reflected that he had insufficient force to meet another attack if it should be supported by the navy of the South Land, so he sent Xue Ti through the night to carry an urgent message to his master in Hanzhong. When the messenger arrived, Cao Cao saw that his western expedition would have to yield to the urgency of home defense. However, he called in his counselors and put a direct question to them.
"Can we take West River Land now, or not?"
"Shu is too well prepared; we cannot," replied Liu Ye. "It is better to go to the succor of Hefei, and then go down the river to take the South Land."
Wherefore, leaving Xiahou Yuan to station at the Dingjun Mountain to guard Hanzhong, and Zhang He to keep Mount Mengtou Pass, Cao Cao broke up his camp and went toward Ruxu with all his commanders.
The subsequent course of the war will be unfolded in later chapters.
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