That day, just about noon, the city gates opened, and two bodies of soldiers appeared as if to fight. Gao Shun was the front commander, and Hou Cheng the rear commander. Cao Cao told off his general, Dian Wei, to oppose them. Neither body, however, came on to full engagement but fell back into the city. By this move Dian Wei and his troops had been drawn close up to the drawbridge. From within the city several soldiers were seen taking any chance of confusion to escape and come outside.
To Cao Cao they said, “We are clients of the Tian family,” and they gave him secret letters stating：
“the signal will be given about the first watch setting by beating a gong. That will be the time to attack. The gates will be opened.”
So Cao Cao ordered Xiahou Dun to march to the left and Cao Hong to the right. Cao Cao led the main army——together with Xiahou Yuan, Li Dian, and Yue Jing——into the city.
Li Dian pressed upon his master the precaution, saying, “My lord should stay outside the city. Let us go in first.”
But Cao Cao bade him be silent, saying, “If I do not go, who will advance？”
And so at the first watch Cao Cao led the way. The moon had not yet arisen. As he drew near the west gate, they heard a crackling sound, then a loud shouting, and then torches moved hither and thither. Next the gates were thrown wide open, and Cao Cao, whipping up his steed, galloped in.
But when he reached the state residence, he noticed the streets were quite deserted, and then he knew he had been tricked. Wheeling round his horse, he shouted to his followers to retire. This was the signal for another move. An explosion of a signal bomb was heard close at hand, and it was echoed from every side in a deafening roar. Gongs and drums beat all around with a roar like rivers rushing backward to their source, and the ocean boiling up from its depths. From two sides east and west came bodies of soldiers eager to attack, led by Lu Bu’s generals Zhang Liao and Zang Ba.
Cao Cao dashed off toward the north only to find his way barred by Hao Meng and Cao Xing. Cao Cao tried for the south gate,
but met enemies led by Gao Shun and Hou Cheng.
Tao Qian Thrice Offers Xuzhou To Liu Bei;
Cao Cao Retakes Yanzhou From Lu Bu.
the last chapter closed with Cao Cao in GREat danger. However, help came. Xiahou Dun with a body of soldiers found his chief, checked the pursuit, and fought with Lu Bu till dusk. Rain fell in torrents swamping everything； and as the daylight waned, they drew off and Cao Cao reached camp. He rewarded Dian Wei generously and advanced him in rank.
When Lu Bu reached his camp, he called in his adviser Chen Gong. then Chen Gong proposed a new stratagem.
He said, “In Puyang there is a rich, leading family, Tian by name, who number thousands, enough to populate a whole county in themselves. Make one of these people go to Cao Cao’s camp with a pretended secret letter about Lu Bu’s ferocity, and the hatred of the people, and their desire to be rid of him. And by saying that only Gao Shun is left to guard the city, and they would help anyone who would come to save them. Thus our enemy Cao Cao will be inveigled into the city, and we will destroy him either by fire or ambush. His skill may be equal to encompassing the universe, but he will not escape.”
Lu Bu thought this trick might be tried, and they arranged for the Tian family letter to be sent.
Coming soon after the defeat, when Cao Cao felt uncertain what step to take next, the secret letter was read with joy. It promised interior help and said the sign should be a white flag with the word Rectitude written thereon.
“Heaven is going to give me Puyang！” said Cao Cao joyfully.
So he rewarded the messenger very liberally and began to prepare for the expedition.
then came Liu Ye, saying, “Lu Bu is no strategist, but Chen Gong is full of guile. I fear treachery in this letter, and you must be careful. If you will go, then enter with only one third your army, leaving the others outside the city as a reserve.”
Cao Cao aGREed to take this precaution. He went to Puyang,
Gao Shun, Wei Xu, and Hou Cheng pursued him, Lu Bu taking the lead. Cao Cao’s two generals, Yu Jin and Yue Jing, attacked the pursuers but could not check them. Cao Cao went away north. But from behind some hills came out Zhang Liao and Zang Ba to attack. Lu Qian and Cao Hong were sent to stop the attackers, but Lu Qian and Cao Hong were both defeated. Cao Cao sought safety in the west. Here again his retreat was met by Lu Bu’s four generals, Hao Meng, Cao Xing, Cheng Lian, and Song Xian.
the fight became desperate. Cao Cao dashed at the enemy’s array. The din was terrible. Arrows fell like pelting rain upon them, and they could make no headway.
Cao Cao was desperate and cried out in fear, “Who can save me？”
then from the crush dashed out Dian Wei with his double spears, crying, “Fear not, my lord！”
Dian Wei leapt from his steed, leaned his double spears against a wall and laid hold of a handful of battle-axes. Turning to his followers he said, “When the ruffians are at ten paces, call out to me.”
then he set off with mighty strides, plunging forward, careless of the flying arrows. Lu Bu’s horsemen followed, and when they got near, Dian Wei’s followers shouted, “Ten paces！”
“Five, then call！” shouted back Dian Wei, and went on.
Presently, “Five paces！”
then Dian Wei spun round and flung the battle-axes. With every fling a man fell from the saddle and never a battle-ax missed.
Having thus slain ten or so the remainder fled, and Dian Wei quickly remounted his steed, set his twin spears and rushed again into the fight with a vigor that none could withstand. One by one his opponents yielded, and he was able to lead Cao Cao safely out of the press of battle. Cao Cao and his commanders went to their camp.
But as evening fell, the noise of pursuit fell on their ears, and soon appeared Lu Bu himself.
“Cao Cao, you rebel, do not flee！” shouted Lu Bu as he approached with his halberd ready for a thrust.
All stopped and looked in each others’ faces： The soldiers were weary, their steeds spent. Fear smote them, and they looked around for some place of refuge.
the drums began their thunderous roll, and Cao Cao,
pointing to his opponent, said, “You and I had no quarrel, why then did you invade my land？”
“the empire of Han is the possession of all. What is your special claim？” said Lu Bu.
So saying, Lu Bu ordered Zang Ba to ride forth and challenge. From Cao Cao’s side the challenge was accepted by Yue Jing. The two steeds approached each other； two spears were lifted both together, and they exchanged near thirty blows with no advantage to either. Then Xiahou Dun rode out to help his colleague and, in reply, out went Zhang Liao from Lu Bu’s side. And they four fought.
then fierce anger seized upon Lu Bu. Setting his trident halberd, he urged his Red Hare forward to where the fight was waging. Seeing him approach, Xiahou Dun and Yue Jing both fled, but Lu Bu pressed on after them, and Cao Cao’s army lost the day. Retiring ten miles, they made a new camp. Lu Bu called in and mustered his troops.
the day having gone against him, Cao Cao called a council, and Yu Jin said, “From the hill tops today I saw a camp of our enemies on the west of Puyang. They were but few men therein, and tonight after today’s victory, it will not be defended. Let us attack； and if we can take the camp, we shall strike fear into the heart of Lu Bu. This is our best plan.”
Cao Cao thought so too. He and six of his generals——Cao Hong, Li Dian, Mao Jie, Lu Qian, Yu Jin, and Dian Wei——and twenty thousand horse and foot left that night by a secret road for the camp.
In his camp Lu Bu was rejoicing for that day’s victory, when Chen Gong reminded him, saying, “the western camp is importance point, and it might be attacked.”
But Lu Bu replied, “the enemy will not dare approach after today’s defeat.”
“Cao Cao is a very able commander,” replied Chen Gong. “You must keep a good lookout for him lest he attack our weak spot.”
So arrangements were made for defense. Generals Gao Shun, Wei Xu, and Hou Cheng were ordered to march there.
At dusk Cao Cao reached the camp and began an immediate attack on all four sides. The defenders could not hold him off. They ran in all directions, and the camp was captured. Near the fourth watch, when the defending party came, Cao Cao sallied forth to meet them and met Gao Shun.
But Chen Gong, the strategist, came in hastily, saying, “General, you are going away； whither？”
“I am going to camp my troops at Puyang, that vantage point.”
“You are making a mistake,” said Chen Gong. “the two you have chosen to defend this city are unequal to the task. For this expedition remember that about sixty miles due south, on the treacherous road to the Taishan Mountains, is a very advantageous position where you should place your best men in ambush. Cao Cao will hasten homeward by double marches when he hears what has happened. If you strike when half his troops have gone past this point, you may seize him.”
Said Lu Bu, “I am going to occupy Puyang and see what develops. How can you guess my big plan？”
So Lu Bu left Xue Lan in command at Yanzhou and went away.
Now when Cao Cao approached the dangerous part of the road near the Taishan Mountains, Guo Jia warned him to take care as there was doubtless an ambush.
But Cao Cao laughed, saying, “We know all Lu Bu’s dispositions. Xue Lan is keeping the city. Do you think Lu Bu has laid an ambush？ I shall tell Cao Ren to besiege Yanzhou, and I shall go to Puyang.”
In Puyang, when Chen Gong heard of the enemy’s approach, he spoke, saying, “The enemy will be fatigued with long marches, so attack quickly before they have time to recover.”
Lu Bu replied, “I, a single horseman, am afraid of none. I come and go as I will. Think you I fear this Cao Cao？ Let him settle his camp； I will take him after that.”
Now Cao Cao neared Puyang, and he made a camp. the next day he led out his commanders, and they arrayed their armies in open country. Cao Cao took up his station on horseback between the two standards, watching while his opponents arrived and formed up in a circular area.
Lu Bu was in front, followed by eight of his generals, all strong men：
Seeing he could not persuade Liu Bei, Tao Qian then said, “As you are set in determination, perhaps you will consent to encamp at Xiaopei. It is only a little town, but thence you can keep watch and ward over the region.”
they all with one voice prayed Liu Bei to consent, so he gave in. The feast of victory being now ended, the time came to say farewell. When Zhao Yun took his leave, Liu Bei held his hands alternately while dashing away the falling tears. Kong Rong and Tien Kai went home to their own places.
When Liu Bei and his brothers took up their abode in Xiaopei, they first repaired the defenses, and then they put out proclamations in order to calm the inhabitants.
In the meantime Cao Cao had marched toward his own region.
Cao Ren met and told him, “Lu Bu is very powerful, and he has Chen Gong as adviser. Yanzhou is as good as lost, with the exception of three counties which have been vigorously and desperately defended by Xun Yu and Cheng Yu.”
Cao Cao said, “I own that Lu Bu is a bold fighter but nothing more； he has no craft. So we need not fear him seriously.”
then he gave orders to make a strong camp till they could think out some victorious plan.
Lu Bu, knowing of Cao Cao’s return, called two of his subordinate generals, Xue Lan and Li Fang, to him and assigned to them the task of holding the city of Yanzhou, saying, “I have long waited for opportunity to employ your skill. Now I give you ten thousand soldiers, and you are to hold the city while I go forth to attack Cao Cao.”
At one of these, when the feasting was over, he proceeded with his wish of retirement in favor of Liu Bei.
Placing Liu Bei in the seat of highest honor, Tao Qian bowed before him and then addressed the assembly, “I am old and feeble, and my two sons lack the ability to hold so important an office as this. The noble Liu Bei is a descendant of the imperial house. He is of lofty virtue and GREat talent. Let him then take over the rule of this region, and only too willingly I shall retire to have leisure to nurse my health.”
Liu Bei replied, “I came at the request of Governor Kong Rong, because it was the right thing to do. Xuzhou is saved； but if I take it, surely the world will say I am a wicked man.”
Mi Zhu said, “You may not refuse. the House of Han is falling, their realm is crumbling, and now is the time for doughty deeds and signal services. This is a fertile region, well populated and rich, and you are the man to rule over it.”
“But I cannot accept,” said Liu Bei.
“Imperial Protector Tao Qian is a GREat sufferer,” said Chen Deng, “and cannot see to matters. You may not decline, Sir.”
Said Liu Bei, “Yuan Shu belongs to a family of rulers, who have held the highest offices of state four times in three generations. The multitude people respects him. Why not invite him to this task？”
“Because Yuan Shu is a drying skeleton in a dark tomb： Not worth talking about. This opportunity is a gift from Heaven, and you will never cease to reGREt its loss,” said Kong Rong.
So spoke Kong Rong, but still Liu Bei obstinately refused.
Tao Qian besought him with tears, saying, “I shall die if you leave me, and there will be none to close my eyes.”
About this time Pang Shu, who had been hiding and protecting Lu Bu’s
family in Changan since his disappearance, restored them to him. This deed angered Li Jue and Guo Si so that they put Pang Shu to death and wrote to Lu Bu’s protector to serve him the same. To escape this Lu Bu once again had to flee and this time joined himself to Zhang Miao, the Governor of Chenliu.
Lu Bu arrived just as Zhang Miao’s brother, Zhang Chao, was introducing Chen Gong.
Chen Gong said to Zhang Miao, “the rupture of the empire has begun, and warriors are seizing what they can. It is strange that you, with all the advantages of population and provisions you enjoy, do not strike for independence. Cao Cao has gone on an expedition against the east, leaving his own territory defenseless. Lu Bu is one of the fighting people of the day. If you and he together attacked and got Yanzhou, you could then proceed to the dominion.”
Zhang Miao was pleased and resolved to try. He ordered an attack, and soon Lu Bu was in possession of Yanzhou and its neighborhood, all but three small counties of Juancheng, Fanxia, and Dongjun, which were vigorously and desperately defended by Xun Yu and Cheng Yu in concert. Cao Cao’s cousin, Cao Ren, had fought many battles but was repeatedly defeated, and the messenger with the evil tidings had come from him asking prompt help.
Cao Cao was GREatly disturbed by this and said, “If my own region be lost, I have no home to return to. I must do something at once.”
“the best thing would be to become friends with Liu Bei at any cost and return to Yanzhou,” said Guo Jia.
then Cao Cao wrote to Liu Bei,
“Since meeting you outside the pass, fate has assigned us to different quarters of the world, and I have not been able to pay my respects to you. Touching the death of your noble father, it was owing to the vicious nature of Zhang Kai and due to no fault of Tao Qian. Now while the remnant of the Yellow Scarves is disturbing the
lands, and Dong Zhuo’s partisans have the upper hand in the capital, I wish that you, Illustrious Sir, would regard the critical position of the court rather than your personal grievances, and so divert
your forces from the attack on Xuzhou to the rescue of the state. Such would be for the happiness of that city and the whole empire.”
Cao Cao gave vent to a torrent of abuse： “Who is this Liu Bei that he dares write and exhort me？ Beside, he means to be satirical.”
Cao Cao issued orders to put the bearer of the letter to death and to press on the siege.
But Guo Jia remonstrated, saying, “Liu Bei has come from afar to help Tao Qian, and he is trying the effect of politeness before resorting to arms. I pray you, my lord, reply with fair words
that his heart may be lulled with a feeling of safety. Then attack with vigor and the city will fall.”
Cao Cao found this advice good, so he spared the messenger, telling him to wait to carry back his reply. While this was going on, a horseman came with news of misfortune： “Lu Bu has invaded Yanzhou,
now holding Puyang. The three counties left——Juancheng, Fanxia, and Dongjun——are under severe attacks.”
[e] Zhang Yang was among the eighteen lords who rallied against Dong Zhou at the Tiger Trap Pass.
When Li Jue and Guo Si, the two partisans of Dong Zhuo, succeeded in their attack on the capital, Lu Bu had fled to Yuan Shu. However, Yuan Shu looked
askance at him for his instability and refused to receive him. Then Lu Bu went to try Yuan Shao, who was a brother of Yuan Shu. Yuan Shao accepted
the warrior and made use of him in an attack upon Zhang Yan in Changshan.
But his success filled him with pride, and his arrogant demeanor so annoyed the other commanders that Yuan Shao was on the
“What does this mean？” said Liu Bei.
Tao Qian said, “there is trouble on every side, and the kingly rule is no longer maintained. You, Sir, are a member of the family and eminently fitted to support them and their prerogatives. I am verging on senility, and I wish to retire in your favor. I pray you not to decline, and I will report my action to the court.”
Liu Bei started up from his seat and bowed before his host, saying, “Scion of the family I may be, but my merit is small and my virtue meager. I doubt my fitness even for my present post, and only a feeling of doing right sent me to your assistance. To hear such speech makes me doubt. Surely you think I came with GREed in my heart. May God help me no more if I cherished such a thought.”
“It is a poor old man’s real sentiment,” said Tao Qian.
Time after time Tao Qian renewed his offer to entrust the region of Xuzhou to Liu Bei, but Liu Bei kept refusing.
In the midst of this came Mi Zhu, saying, “The enemies had reached the wall, and something must be done to drive them off. The present matter could await a more tranquil time.”
Said Liu Bei, “I ought to write to Cao Cao to press him to raise the siege. If he refuses, we will attack forthwith.”
Orders were sent to the three camps outside to remain quiescent till the letter could reach Cao Cao.
It happened that Cao Cao was holding a council when a messenger with a war letter was announced.