CHAPTER 71

At The Capture Of Opposite Hill, Huang Zhong Scores A Success;
On The River Han, Zhao Yun Conquers A Host.
 

"If you are really determined to undertake this expedition, I shall send Fa Zheng with you," said Zhuge Liang to the veteran leader. "You will have to discuss everything with him. I shall also dispatch supports and reinforcements."

Huang Zhong agreed, and the expedition set out.

Then Zhuge Liang explained to Liu Bei, "I purposely tried to spur on the old general that he will really exert himself, else he fears he will not do much. But he will need reinforcement."

After this, Zhuge Liang ordered Zhao Yun to march after the first army and help, if help was needed. So long as the old man was victorious, Zhao Yun was to do nothing; if he was in difficulties, then Zhao Yun was to rescue.

Also, three thousand troops under Kou Feng and Meng Da were sent out among the hills to take position at strategic points and set up many banners and make a brave show in order to spread the impression of huge forces, and so frighten and perplex the enemy. In addition, Zhuge Liang sent to Xiabian Pass to tell Ma Chao what part to play in the campaign; Yan Yan was to hold Langzhong and Baxi in place of Zhang Fei and Wei Yan, who also went in expedition in Hanzhong.

The refugees, Zhang He and Xiahou Shang, reached Xiahou Yuan' camp and told their doleful tale, "Tiandang Mountain has been captured, and Xiahou De and Han Hao have died with the loss. Liu Bei is about to invade Hanzhong. Send a swift messenger to inform the Prince of Wei and ask for help."

The news was sent to Cao Hong, who bore it quickly to Capital Xuchang.

Cao Cao lost no time in calling a council. Then High Minister Liu Ye said, "The loss of Hanzhong would shake the whole country. You, O Prince, must not shrink from toil and hardship, but must yourself go to lead the army."

"This state of things comes of my not heeding your words before, gentle Sir," said Cao Cao, then repentant.

However, Cao Cao hastily prepared and issued an edict to raise an army of four hundred thousand troops which he would lead.

The army was ready in the seventh month, the early autumn, in the twenty-third year (AD 218), and marched in three divisions. The leading division was under Xiahou Dun, Cao Cao commanded the center, and Cao Xiu was the rear guard.

Cao Cao rode a white horse, beautifully caparisoned. His guards were clad in embroidered silk. They carried the huge red parasol woven of silk and gold threads. Beside him in two lines were the symbols of kingly dignity, the golden melons, silver axes, stirrups, clubs, spears, and lances; banderoles embroidered with the sun and moon, dragon and phoenix, all were borne aloft. His escort of twenty-five thousand stout warriors led by bold officers, marched in five columns of five thousand each, under banners of the five colors, blue, yellow, red, white, and black. The five companies made a brave show as they marched, each column under its own flag with soldiers in armor and horses in caparisons all of one color and all glittering in the sun.

As they debouched through Tong Pass, Cao Cao noticed in the distance a thick wood, very luxuriant, and asked those near him what it was called.

"This place is the Indigo Field," they replied. "And in that wood is the estate of the late Minister Cai Yong. His daughter, Cai Yan, and her present husband, Dong Si, live there."

Now Cao Cao and Cai Yong had been excellent friends at one time. Cai Yong's daughter had been first married to Wei Zhongdao. Then she was abducted by the frontier tribes and taken away to the north, where she had borne two sons. She had composed a ballad called "Eighteen Stanzas for the Mongol Flageolet," which was widespread to the empire. Cao Cao had been moved by pity for her sorrows and sent a messenger with a thousand ounces of gold to ransom her. The Prince of the frontier Xiongnu State, Ce Xian the Khan, overawed by Cao Cao's strength, had restored her to Cai Yong.

Ordering his escort to march on, Cao Cao went up to the gate with only a few attendants, dismounted and inquired after the lady of the house. At this time Dong Si was absent at his post, and the lady was alone. As soon as she heard who her visitor was, she hastened to welcome him and led him into the reception room. When Cao Cao was seated and she had performed the proper salutations, she stood respectfully at his side. Glancing round the room, Cao Cao saw a rubbing of a tablet hanging on the wall. So he got up to read it, and asked his hostess about it.

"It is a tablet of Cao E, or the fair Lady Cao. In the time of the Emperor He (AD 100), in the Xiongnu State there was a certain magician named Cao Xu, who could dance and sing like the very Spirit of Music. On the fifth of the fifth month he was out in a boat, and being intoxicated, fell overboard and was drowned. He had a daughter, Cao E, then fourteen years of age. She was greatly distressed and sought the body of her father for seven days and nights, weeping all the while. Then she threw herself into the waves, and five days later she floated to the surface with her father's body in her arms. The villagers buried them on the bank, and the magistrate reported the occurrence to the Emperor as a worthy instance of daughterly affection and remarkable piety.

"A later magistrate had the story inscribed by Handan Chun in memory of the event. At that time Handan Chun was only thirteen, but the composition of the inscription was so perfect that neither jot nor tittle could be added, and yet he had written it impromptu without revision. The stone was set up beside the grave, and both inscription and story were the admiration of all the people of that day. My father went to see it. It was evening, but in the obscurity he felt out the inscription with his fingers. He got hold of a pencil and wrote eight large characters on the reverse of the stone and, later, some person recutting the stone engraved these eight words as well."

Cao Cao then read the eight words; they formed an enigma. Literally they read, "yellow silk, young wife, a daughter's child, pestle and mortar."

"Can you explain?" asked Cao Cao of his hostess.

"No; although it is a writing of my father's, thy handmaid cannot interpret it," she replied.

Turning to the strategists of his staff, Cao Cao said, "Can any one of you explain it?"

But no one made any reply. Suddenly, they heard one voice, "I have grasped the meaning of it."

The man who said he had fathomed the meaning was First Secretary Yang Xiu.

"Do not tell me yet; let me think it out," said Cao Cao.

Soon after they took leave of the lady, went out of the farm, and rode on. About one mile from the farm, the meaning suddenly dawned upon Cao Cao, and he laughingly turned to Yang Xiu, saying, "Now, you may try."

"This is the solution of the enigma," said Yang Xiu. "'Yellow silk' is silk threads of natural color, and the character for 'silk' placed beside that for 'color' forms a word meaning 'finally, decidedly;' the 'young wife' is a 'little female,' and the character for 'female' with 'little,' or 'few,' placed beside it forms a word meaning 'admirable, fine;' the 'daughter's child' is 'daughter' and 'child,' which side by side make the word 'good;' and a 'pestle and mortar' suggest pounding together the five bitter herbs in a receptacle: the character for 'receptacle' and 'bitter' form a word meaning 'to tell.' So the four words are 'Decidedly fine and well told.'"

Cao Cao was astonished at Yang Xiu's cleverness, and said, "Just what I made it."

Those around greatly wondered at Yang Xiu's ingenuity and knowledge.

In less than a day they reached Nanzheng, where Cao Hong welcomed them. He told the tale of Zhang He's misfortunes.

"To suffer defeat is no crime;" said Cao Cao, "that and victory are things that happen constantly in war."

"Liu Bei has sent Huang Zhong to take Dingjun Mountain," said Cao Hong. "Xiahou Yuan, hearing you were coming, O Prince, has been defending the position and not going out to give battle."

"But standing always on the defensive is showing weakness," said Cao Cao.

Thereupon he bade a man carry an authority flag to the Mountain Commander and so order him to attack the enemy.

"Xiahou Yuan is very stern and inflexible, and he may be carried too far and fall victim to some vile ruse," said Liu Ye.

Wherefore the Prince wrote a letter to him to accompany the authority flag. And when the messenger arrived and the letter was opened, it read:

"Every leader must exercise a combination of inflexibility and yielding. Boldness is not the only thing that counts; if he makes it so, then is he a mere creature to fight. Now I am camped at Nanzheng ready to watch the deeds of your admirable prowess and capacity, and all I have to say is, 'Do not disgrace your previous reputation.'"

The letter pleased the Commander mightily. Having sent away the bearer, Xiahou Yuan called in Zhang He to consult.

"The Prince has a great army at Nanzheng ready to destroy Liu Bei. We have been on the defense here long enough, and it is time we rendered some solid service. Tomorrow I am going out to battle, and hope to capture Huang Zhong."

"Your opponent combines ready resource with boldness and prevision," said Zhang He. "Beside, he has Fa Zheng to aid him; and you must be cautious, for the country is very difficult and dangerous. You would better keep on the defensive."

"How shall we be able to look our prince in the face when other leaders render good services? However, you just keep the hill, and I will go out to battle."

Then an order was issued asking who would go out to reconnoiter and provoke a battle. Xiahou Shang volunteered.

Xiahou Yuan said to him, "You are not to make a real stand, but merely to begin the fight. You are to lose and not win, for a grand ruse is ready for the enemy."

He explained his plans, and Xiahou Shang went away with a small column.

Now Huang Zhong and his helper Fa Zheng were camped quite close to the Dingjun Mountain. They had endeavored to entice Xiahou Yuan out into the field to fight, but failed to attack him as he stood in that difficult, mountainous country. So thus far no advance had been made. But as soon as Xiahou Shang' troops appeared and seemed to offer battle, Huang Zhong was ready to march out to meet them at once. But General Chen Shi, offered his services.

"Do not trouble yourself to move, O General," said Chen Shi, "for I will go out to fight them."

Huang Zhong consented, and placed three thousand troops under Chen Shi, who went out of the valley and set his army in array. And when Xiahou Shang came up and, as arranged, merely fought a few bouts and ran away. Chen Shi followed to take advantage of his success. But he was soon brought to a standstill by the rolling of logs and hurling of stones on the part of his opponents. As he turned to retire, Xiahou Yuan brought out his troops and attacked. Chen Shi had no chance against them and was quickly made prisoner. Many of his soldiers joined the enemy, but a few escaped to their own side and told Huang Zhong of the misfortune.

Huang Zhong at once asked advice from Fa Zheng, who said, "This Xiahou Yuan is easily provoked to anger, and being angry he is bold without discretion. Your way now is to work up the enthusiasm of your soldiers, then break camp and advance. Do this in a series of marches, and you will excite him up to the point of giving battle, when you can capture him. They call this the 'Ruse of the Interchange of Host and Guest.'"

So Huang Zhong collected all the things his soldiers liked, and made them presents, till the sound of rejoicing filled the whole valley and the men were hot to fight. Then camp was broken, and the army marched forward a certain distance. Then they encamped. After some days' rest the march was repeated; and then again.

When tidings of the advance reached Xiahou Yuan, he proposed to go out and fight.

"No, no," said the prudent Zhang He. "This is a well known ruse, and you should remain on the defensive. You will lose if you fight."

Xiahou Yuan was not the man to stomach this moderate advice, so he sent out Xiahou Shang to give battle. As soon as this force reached the camp of Huang Zhong, the Veteran General mounted and rode out to fight. In the very first bout he captured Xiahou Shang. Those who escaped told how their leader had been captured, and Xiahou Yuan at once sent to offer an exchange of prisoners. This was agreed to, to be effected the following day in front of both armies.

So next day both sides were arrayed in a spot where the valley widened, the two leaders on horseback beneath their respective standards. Beside each stood his prisoner. Neither was encumbered with robe or helmet, but each wore thin, simple dress. At the first beat of the drum each started to race over to his own side. Just as Xiahou Shang reached the ranks of his own side, Huang Zhong shot an arrow and wounded him in the back. The wounded man did not fall, but went on.

But Xiahou Yuan, mad with rage, could contain himself no longer. He galloped straight at Huang Zhong, which was exactly what the latter wanted to irritate him into doing. The fight that then ensued went on for twenty bouts, when suddenly the gongs clanged out from Xiahou Yuan' side and he drew off. Huang Zhong pressed on and shattered the army of Wei.

When Xiahou Yuan reached his own side, he asked why the gong had sounded.

"Because we saw the banners of Shu through openings in the mountains in several places, and we feared an ambush," said Zhang He.

Xiahou Yuan believed him and did not return to the battlefield; he simply remained defensive.

Before long, Huang Zhong had got quite near to Xiahou Yuan' camp, and then he asked further advice from his colleague.

Fa Zheng pointed over to the hills and said, "There rises a steep hill on the west of Dingjun Mountain, difficult of access, but from its summit one has a complete view of the defenses of the enemy. If you can take this hill, the mountain lies in the hollow of your hand."

Huang Zhong looked up and saw the top of the hill was a small tableland and there were very few defenders there. So that evening he left his camp, dashed up the hill, drove out the small host of one hundred under Xiahou Yuan' General Du Xi and took it. It was just opposite to Dingjun Mountain.

Then said Fa Zheng, "Now take up position half way up the hill, while I go to the top. When the enemy appears, I will show a white flag. But you will remain quiet till the enemy become tired and remiss, when I will hoist a red flag. That will be the signal for attack."

Huang Zhong cheerfully prepared to act on this plan. In the meantime Du Xi, who had been driven from the hill-top, had run back and reported the loss of the hill to Xiahou Yuan.

"With Huang Zhong in occupation of that hill, I simply must give battle," said he.

Zhang He strongly dissuaded him, saying, "The whole thing is but a ruse of Fa Zheng. General, you would better defend our position."

But Xiahou Yuan was obstinate.

"From the top of that hill the whole of our position is visible, our strength and our weakness; I must fight."

In vain were the remonstrances repeated. Xiahou Yuan set out his troops to surround the opposite hill and then began to vent his rage at his enemy so as to incite Huang Zhong to give battle.

Then the white flag was hoisted. However, Xiahou Yuan was allowed to fume and rage in vain. He tried every form of insult, but no one appeared. In the afternoon the soldiers became weary and dispirited. Plainly their eagerness had gone; and Fa Zheng unfurled the red flag.

Then the drums rolled out, and the men of Shu shouted till the earth seemed to shake as the hoary old leader rode out and led his force down the slope with a roar as of an earthquake. Xiahou Yuan was too surprised to defend himself. His chief enemy rushed straight to his standard; and with a thundering shout, Huang Zhong raised his sword and cleft Xiahou Yuan through between the head and shoulders so that he fell in two pieces.

At the death of their general, the soldiers of Wei fled for their lives, and Huang Zhong attacked Dingjun Mountain. Zhang He came out to oppose the army of Shu, but, attacked at two points by Huang Zhong and Chen Shi, he could not stand. He lost the day and fled. However, before he had gone far, another cohort flashed out from the hills and barred his way. And the leader cried out, "Zhao Yun of Changshan is here!"

Confused and uncertain what to do, Zhang He led his troops toward Dingjun Mountain. But a body of soldiers came out to stop him. The leader was Du Xi, who said, "The mountain is in the hands of Kou Feng and Meng Da."

So Zhang He and Du Xi joined their forces and went to River Han, where they camped.

Thence they sent to tell Cao Cao of their defeat. At the news of the death of Xiahou Yuan, Cao Cao uttered a great cry and then he understood the prediction of the soothsayer, Guan Lu, that the cast showed opposition: It was the twenty-fourth year of Rebuilt Tranquillity (three and eight cross); the yellow boar (the month Xiahou Yuan died) had met the tiger; the expedition had suffered a loss indeed by the death of a general, and the death had taken place at the mount known as "Army Halt" (Dingjun). The affection between Cao Cao and his general had been very close, for he considered Xiahou Yuan as his limb.

Cao Cao sent to inquire the whereabouts of Guan Lu, but no one knew.

Cao Cao nourished feelings of resentment against the slayer of his friend, and he led his army out against Dingjun Mountain to avenge Xiahou Yuan' death. Xu Huang led the van. When the army reached River Han, Zhang He and Du Xi joined them.

They said to Cao Cao, "Dingjun Mountain is lost. Before marching farther, the stores in Micang Mountain should be moved to the Northern Mountain."

And Cao Cao agreed.

Huang Zhong cut off the head of Xiahou Yuan and took it to Liu Bei when he reported his victory. For these services, Liu Bei conferred upon him the title General Who Conquers the West, and great banquets were given in his honor.

While these were going on, General Zhang Zhu brought the news: "Cao Cao's army of two hundred thousand troops is on the way to avenge Xiahou Yuan' loss; and the supplies on Micang Mountain are being moved to the Northern Mountain."

Then said Zhuge Liang, "Cao Cao is certainly short of supplies. If we can burn what he has and destroy his baggage train, he will have but little spirit left to fight."

"I am willing to undertake the task," said Huang Zhong.

"Remember Cao Cao is a different sort of man from Xiahou Yuan."

Liu Bei said, "Though Xiahou Yuan was the Mountain Commander, after all he was but a bold warrior. It would have been ten times better to have killed Zhang He."

"I will go and kill him," said the aged general, firing up.

"Then go with Zhao Yun;" said Zhuge Liang, "act in concert and see who can do best."

Huang Zhong agreed to this condition, and Zhang Zhu was sent with him as Marching General.

Soon after the army had marched out, Zhao Yun asked of his colleague, "What plan have you prepared against Cao Cao's army of two hundred thousand in their ten camps, and how are the stores of grain and forage to be destroyed?"

"I am going to lead," said Huang Zhong.

"No wait; I am going first," said Zhao Yun.

"But I am the senior leader; you are only my second," said Huang Zhong.

"No; you and I are equal in responsibility and both anxious to render good service. We are no rivals. Let us cast lots for who is to lead the way."

They did so, and the Veteran General gained precedence.

"Since you have won the right to make the first attempt, you must let me help you," said Zhao Yun. "Now let us decide upon a fixed time, and if you have returned by that time, I shall not need to stir. But if at that time you have not come back, then I shall come to reinforce you."

"That suits me admirably," said Huang Zhong.

So they decided upon noon as the time; and Zhao Yun went back to his own camp, where he called in his Deputy General, Zhang Yi, and said, "My friend Huang Zhong is going to try to burn the stores tomorrow. If he has not returned at noon, I am to go to aid him. You are to guard our camp, which is in a dangerous place by the river, but you are not to move out unless compelled."

Huang Zhong went back to his camp and said to his general, Zhang Zhu, "I have slain Xiahou Yuan and cowed Zhang He. I am going to destroy the enemy's store of grain tomorrow, taking with me most of the troops. You are to come and assist me. A meal for the men is to be ready about midnight tonight, and we shall move at the fourth watch. We shall march to the foot of their hill, capture Zhang He, and then start the fire."

All being ready, they set out---Huang Zhong leading---and stole across River Han to the foot of the hills. As the sun got up out of the east, they saw before them mountains of grain and only a few guards on watch. These fled at first sight of the army of Shu. The horsemen dismounted and began to collect brushwood and pile it round the grain heaps. Just as they were starting the fire, there appeared a cohort led by Zhang He, who at once began a fight with Huang Zhong. Then Cao Cao heard of the fight and sent Xu Huang to help. Xu Huang came up in the rear, and Huang Zhong was surrounded. Zhang Zhu with three thousand troops tried to get away to their camp, but they were intercepted by Wen Ping; and more troops of Wei coming up by the rear, Zhang Zhu also was surrounded. Both were in difficulties.

Meanwhile, time passed and noon came with no news of Huang Zhong. Wherefore Zhao Yun girded on his armor, took three thousand troops with him and went to his aid. Just as he was leaving, he again warned Zhang Yi to keep good watch.

"Guard the camp most carefully; see that you have archers and crossbowmen on both sides."

"Yes, yes," said Zhang Yi.

Zhao Yun rode off, spear in hand, and went out to give battle where he could find the enemy. Soon he fell in with one of Wen Ping's companies led by General Murong Lie. Zhao Yun plunged in, cut Murong Lie down, and disposed of the troops of Wei. Then he came to the real press. A cohort barred his way, led by General Jiao Bing.

"Where are the soldiers of Shu?" cried Zhao Yun.

"All killed," cried Jiao Bing.

Zhao Yun angrily dashed forward and thrust Jiao Bing through so that he died. The cohort scattered, and Zhao Yun went on to the foot of Northern Mountain, where he found Huang Zhong surrounded. With a yell Zhao Yun dashed at the encircling ring, thrusting this way and shoving that, so that every one shrank and recoiled before him. The mighty spear laid low his opponents as the whirlwind scatters the petals of the wild pear tree till they lie on the bosom of the earth like snowflakes. Panic seized Zhang He and Xu Huang so that they dared not stand in his way, and thus Zhao Yun fought his way through and rescued his fellow warrior. Then they fought their way out and none could withstand them.

Cao Cao had been watching the course of the fighting from a high place, and when he saw a doughty warrior forcing his way into the press and all going down before him, he asked of his officers if they knew who the hero was.

"That is Zhao Yun of Changshan," replied one who knew.

"So the hero of Dangyang is still alive," said Cao Cao, marveled.

Then Cao Cao gave general orders to his soldiers not to attack Zhao Yun without being sure of success, no matter where they met him.

Having rescued his colleague and got clear of the battle, Zhao Yun was told Zhang Zhu hemmed in on a hill not far off. Wherefore Zhao Yun went to his relief before going back to his own camp. He had little need to fight, for Cao Cao's soldiers no sooner saw the name emblazoned on the banners than they fled without more ado.

But it filled Cao Cao with rage to see his troops falling away before Zhao Yun, who marched on as though no one would think of standing in his way, and he went in pursuit himself with his officers.

Zhao Yun reached his own camp, where he was welcomed by Zhang Yi. But a cloud of dust was seen in the distance, and they knew Cao Cao was in that cloud and coming upon them.

"Let us bar the gates while we make preparation," said Zhang Yi.

"Do not bar the gates," said Zhao Yun. "Have you never heard of my exploit at Dangyang, when I laughed at Cao Cao's many legions? Now that I have an army at my back and generals to help, what is there to fear?"

Then Zhao Yun placed the archers and the bowmen in a covered position outside, while he threw down all the weapons and flags within. And no drums beat. But he himself, alone, stood outside the gate of the camp.

It was dusk when Zhang He and Xu Huang neared the camp of the army of Shu. They saw that the ensigns and weapons had been overthrown, and no drums beat at their approach. They also saw the one figure of the doughty warrior at the gate, and then they halted and dared advance no farther. While they hesitated, Cao Cao arrived and urged his army to march quicker. They answered with a shout and made a dash forward, but they saw the one figure at the gate, and every man halted. And before long, one by one they turned about and went away.

Then Zhao Yun gave a signal to his troops to come out of the moat, and the archers and bowmen began to shoot. The soldiers of Cao Cao knew not in the dusk how many their enemies were, but terror seized upon them and they ran, each trying to be first. And as they ran, the drums rolled, and the soldiers of Shu shouted and pursued, till the flight became a perfect rout and a confused mass of troops reached the banks of River Han. The press continuing, many soldiers of Cao Cao were forced into the river and were drowned.

Zhao Yun, Huang Zhong, and Zhang Zhu followed close on the heels of the routed army; and while Cao Cao was making off with all speed, two other generals of Shu, Kou Feng and Meng Da, came from Micang Mountain and set fire to all the army stores of food and forage in Northern Mountain. Then Cao Cao abandoned the stores in Northern Mountain and set out hastily for Nanzheng. Zhang He and Xu Huang could make no stand, and they also abandoned their camps, which Zhao Yun at once occupied. Beside the stores of food, the victors collected countless weapons along the banks of the river.

They sent news of the victory to Liu Bei, who came with Zhuge Liang to the scene of the victory, and there they heard the full story of Zhao Yun's prowess. Liu Bei was glad, and when he had seen the steepness and difficulties of the surrounding hills and understood the fine deeds of valor that had been done, he turned to Zhuge Liang and said, "Truly, the man is brave all through!"

For his services Liu Bei gave Zhao Yun the title of General Who Possesses Tiger Prowess. And the soldiers of his army were rewarded, and there was banqueting to a late hour.

Soon it was reported: "Cao Cao is coming again down through the Xie Valley to try to capture River Han."

But Liu Bei laughed, saying, "He will not succeed, for I think that we shall gain command of the river."

Then Liu Bei led his army west of the river to oppose Cao Cao. When Cao Cao drew near, he sent out Xu Huang to lead the van and open the battle.

A General named Wang Ping said, "I know the country well, and I wish to help General Xu Huang to destroy the army of Shu."

Wang Ping was sent as second in command.

Cao Cao camped on the north of Dingjun Mountain, and his advanced guard marched away making for River Han. And when they reached the bank, Xu Huang gave orders to cross to the other side.

"To cross the river is well," said Wang Ping, "but what if you have to retreat?"

"Of old, when Han Xin made his array with a river in his rear, he said that out of the place of death one could return to life."

"You are mistaken now. The cases are not the same, for then Han Xin knew his opponents were unskillful. Have you reckoned upon the skill of our opponents, Zhao Yun and Huang Zhong?"

"You may lead the footmen to hold the enemy while I destroy them with the horsemen," said Xu Huang.

Then bridges were built and the army crossed.

Who won the victory will next be revealed.

 

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