Romance of the Three Kingdoms (三国演义)

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(Original Online Novel)
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Attributed to
Luo Guanzhong
(Circa 1300–1400)
Translated by
C.H. Brewitt-Taylor
Edited by
Snow N. Snow

Chapter 52

Zhuge Liang Negotiates With Lu Su
Zhao Yun Captures Guiyang

Zhou Yu’s anger at seeing that his rival, Zhuge Liang, had surprised Nanjun, and at hearing the same news of Jingzhou and Xiangyang, was but natural. And this sudden fit of rage caused his wound to reopen. However, he soon recovered. All his officers besought him to accept the situation.

But he said, “What but the death of that bumpkin Zhuge Liang will assuage my anger? If Cheng Pu can but aid me in an attack on Nanjun, I can certainly restore it to the South Land.”

Soon Lu Su came in, to whom Zhou Yu said, “I simply must fight Liu Bei and Zhuge Liang till it is decided which shall have the upper hand. I must also recapture the cities. Perhaps you can assist me.”

“It cannot be done,” replied Lu Su. “We are now at grips with Cao Cao, and victory or defeat is undecided. Our lord has not been successful in overcoming Hefei. Do not fight near home, or it will be like people of the same household destroying each other. Should Cao Cao take advantage of this position to make a sudden descent, we should be in a parlous condition. Further, you must remember that Liu Bei and Cao Cao are united by the bonds of old friendship. If the pressure becomes too great, Liu Bei may relinquish these cities, offer them to Cao Cao, and join forces with him to attack the south. That would be a real misfortune.”

“I cannot help being angry,” said Zhou Yu, “to think that we should have used our resources for their benefit. They get all the advantage.”

“Well, let me go and see Liu Bei and talk reason to him. If I can arrive at no understanding, then attack at once.”

“Excellent proposal!” cried all present.

So Lu Su, with his escort, went away to Nanjun to carry out his proposal and try to arrange matters. He reached the city wall and summoned the gate, whereat Zhao Yun came out to speak with him.

“I have something to say to Liu Bei,” said he. “I wish to see him.”

“My lord and Zhuge Liang are in Jingzhou,” was the reply.

Lu Su turned away and hasted to Jingzhou. He found the walls bedecked with flags and everything in excellent order. In his heart he admired the sight, and thought what an able person was the commander of that army.

The guards reported his arrival, and Zhuge Liang ordered them to throw wide the gate. Lu Su was led to the government house and, after the usual exchange of salutes, Zhuge Liang and his visitor took their respective seats.

Having finished the tea, Lu Su said, “My master, Marquis Sun Quan, and the commander of his army, Zhou Yu, have sent me to lay before the Liu Bei their views. When Cao Cao led his huge host southward, he gave out that it was for the conquest of the South Land. But really his intention was to destroy Liu Bei. Happily our army was able to repulse that mighty host and so saved him. Wherefore Jingzhou with its nine territories of forty-two counties ought to belong to us. But by a treacherous move, your master has occupied Jingzhou and Xiangyang, so that we have spent our treasure in vain and our armies have fought to no purpose. The Liu Bei has reaped the benefits to the full. This is not as it should be.”

Zhuge Liang replied, “Lu Su, you are a man of high intelligence. Why do you hold such language? You know the saying that all things return to their owner. These places have never belonged to the South Land, but were of the patrimony of Liu Biao, and though he is dead, his son remains. Should not the uncle assist the nephew to recover his own? Could my master have refrained?”

“If the nephew Liu Qi, the rightful heir, had occupied these cities, there would have been something to say. But he is at Jiangxia and not here.”

“Would you like to see him?” said Zhuge Liang.

At the same time he ordered the servants to request Liu Qi to come. Thereupon Liu Qi at once appeared, supported by two attendants.

Addressing Lu Su, Liu Qi said, “I am too weak to perform the correct ceremonies. I pray you pardon me, Lu Su.”

Lu Su said not a word. He was too much taken aback. However, he recovered himself presently and said, “But if the heir had not been here, what then?”

“The heir is living but from day to day. Should he go, then—there will be something to talk about.”

“Should he die, then you ought to return these cities to us.”

“You state the exact facts,” said Zhuge Liang.

Then a banquet was prepared and, that over, Lu Su took his leave. He hastened back to his own camp and gave Zhou Yu an account of his mission.

“But what is there for us in the chance of Liu Qi’s death?” said Zhou Yu. “He is in his very first youth. When will these places fall to us?”

“Rest content, General. Let me guarantee the return of these places.”

“But how can you?” asked Zhou Yu.

Liu Qi has indulged too freely in wine and women. He is a wreck and rotten to the core, miserably emaciated and panting for breath. I will not give him half a year’s life. Then I will go to Liu Bei, and he will be unable to deny the request.”

But Zhou Yu was still unmollified.

Suddenly came a messenger from Sun Quan, who said, “Our lord is laying siege to Hefei but in several battles has had no victory. He now orders you to withdraw from here and go to Hefei to help him.”

Thereupon Zhou Yu marched back to Chaisang. Having reached home, he began to give attention to the recovery of his health. He sent Cheng Pu with the marine and land forces to Hefei ready for Sun Quan’s call.

Liu Bei was exceedingly well satisfied with the possession of his new region, and his thoughts turned to more ambitious schemes. Then a certain man came to him to suggest a plan. This man was Yin Ji and, remembering the kindly feeling of other days, Liu Bei received him most graciously.

When Yin Ji was seated, and his host had asked what he proposed, he said, “You wish for a plan to accomplish yet greater deeds. Why not seek wise people and ask them?”

“Where are these wise people to be found?” asked Liu Bei.

Yin Ji replied, “In this region there is a certain family named Ma, five brothers, all of whom are known as men of ability. The youngest is called Ma Su. The ablest is Ma Liang, who has white hairs in his eyebrows, and the villagers have a little rhyming couplet that means ‘There are five sons in the family Ma, but white eyebrows is the best of them.’ You should get this man to draw up a plan for you.”

So Liu Bei told them to request his presence. Ma Liang came and was received with great respect.

He was asked to suggest a plan for the security of the newly acquired region, and he said, “Attacked as it is on all sides, this region is not one in which one is permanently secure. You should let Liu Qi remain here till he is recovered from his present illness, but the actual protection of the place is to be placed in the hands of trusty friends. Obtain an edict appointing him Imperial Protector of Jingzhou, and the people will be content. Then conquer Wuling, Changsha, Guiyang, and Lingling. And with the resources you will thus acquire, you will have the means for further plans. That should be your policy.”

“Which of the four territories should be first taken?” asked Liu Bei.

“The nearest, Lingling, which lies in the west of River Xiang. The next is Wuling, and after these the other two.”

Ma Liang was given an appointment as Imperial Protector Assistant, with Yin Ji as his second. Then Liu Bei consulted Zhuge Liang about sending Liu Qi to Xiangyang, so that Guan Yu could be free to return. Next they made preparations to attack Lingling, and Zhang Fei was to lead the van. Zhao Yun was to guard the rear, while Liu Bei and Zhuge Liang were to command the main body. A fifteen thousand troops were left to hold Jingzhou. Mi Zhu and Liu Feng were left to guard Jiangling.

The Governor of Lingling was Liu Du. When danger thus threatened, he called in his son Liu Xian, and they discussed the case.

The son was very self-confident and said to his father, “Have no anxiety. They may have the known and famous warriors, Zhang Fei and Zhao Yun, but we have our leader, Xing Daorong, who is match for any number of men. He can withstand them.”

So Liu Xian, with the famous leader, was entrusted with the defense. At the head of a full ten thousand troops, they made a camp about ten miles from the city, with the shelter of hills and a river. Their scouts brought news that Zhuge Liang was close at hand with one army. Xing Daorong decided to check his advance and went forth to oppose him. When both sides were arrayed, Xing Daorong rode to the front. In his hand he held a battle-ax called Cleaver of Mountains.

In a mighty voice he cried, “Rebels, how comes it that you have dared to enter our territory?”

From the center of the opposing army, where appeared a cluster of yellow flags, there came out a small four-wheeled carriage in which sat, very erect, a certain man dressed in white, with a turban on his head. In one hand he held a feather fan, with which he signed to the warrior to approach.

At the same time he said, “I am Zhuge Liang of Nanyang, whose plans broke up the countless legions of Cao Cao so that nothing of them returned whence they started. How then can you hope to oppose me? I now offer you peace, and it will be well for you to surrender.”

Xing Daorong laughed derisively, saying, “Their defeat was owing to the plan of Zhou Yu. You had nothing to do with it. How dare you try to deceive me?”

So saying he swung up his battle-ax and came running toward Zhuge Liang. But Zhuge Liang turned his carriage and retired within the lines which closed up behind him. Xing Daorong came rushing on. As he reached the array, the troops fell away on both sides and let him enter. Well within he looked round for his chief opponent. Seeing a yellow flag moving along quietly, he concluded that Zhuge Liang was with it and so followed it. When the flag had gone over the shoulder of a hill it stopped. Then suddenly as if the earth had opened and swallowed it up, the four-wheeled carriage disappeared, while in its place came a ferocious warrior, with a long serpent halberd in his hand and mounted on a curvetting steed. It was Zhang Fei, who dashed at Xing Daorong with a tremendous roar.

Nothing daunted, Xing Daorong whirled up his battle-ax and went to meet Zhang Fei. But after four or five bouts, Xing Daorong saw that there was no chance of victory for him, so he turned his horse and ran. Zhang Fei pursued, the air shaking with the thunder of his voice. Then the ambushing troops appeared. Xing Daorong, nothing daunted, rushed into their midst.

But in front appeared another warrior barring the way, who called out, “Do you know me? I am Zhao Yun of Changshan.”

Xing Daorong knew that all was over. He could neither fight nor fly. So he dismounted and gave in. He was fettered and taken to camp, where were Liu Bei and Zhuge Liang. Liu Bei ordered him out to execution, but Zhuge Liang hastily checked him.

“We will accept your submission if you capture Liu Xian for us,” said Zhuge Liang.

The captive accepted the offer without the least hesitation.

When Zhuge Liang asked how he intended to do it, he replied, “If you will set me free, I shall be cunning of speech. If you raid the camp this evening, you will find me your helper on the inside. I will make Liu Xian a prisoner and will hand him over to you. He being captured, his father will surrender at once.”

Liu Bei doubted the good faith of the man, but Zhuge Liang said, “Xing Daorong is not deceiving.”

Wherefore Xing Daorong was set free and went back to camp, where he related all that had occurred.

“What can we do?” asked Liu Xian.

“We can meet trick with trick. Put soldiers in ambush tonight outside our camp while within everything will appear as usual. When Zhuge Liang comes we shall capture him.”

The ambush was prepared. At the second watch an army came out of the darkness and appeared in the gate. Each carried a torch and they began to set fire to all about them. Out dashed Liu Xian and Xing Daorong, and the incendiaries forthwith fled. The two warriors pursued them, but the fugitives ran and then suddenly disappeared at about three miles from the camp.

Much surprised the two turned to wend their way back to their own camp. It was still burning for no one had extinguished the flames. Soon from behind them came out Zhang Fei.

Liu Xian called out to his companion, saying, “Do not enter the burning camp, but to go to attack Zhuge Liang’s stockade.”

Thereupon they turned again, but at a distance of three miles Zhao Yun and an army suddenly debouched upon their road. Zhao Yun attacked and slew Xing Daorong by a spear thrust. Liu Xian turned to flee, but Zhang Fei was close upon him and made him prisoner. He was thrown across a horse, bound, and taken to camp.

When he saw Zhuge Liang, Liu Xian said, “The ruse was Xing Daorong’s evil counsel. I was forced to follow.”

Zhuge Liang ordered them to loose his bonds, had him properly dressed, and gave him wine to cheer him and help him forget his troubles. When he was recovered, he was told to go to his father and persuade him to yield.

“And if he does not, the city shall be destroyed and everyone put to death,” said Zhuge Liang as Liu Xian left.

The son returned to the city and told his father these things. Liu Du at once decided to yield and forthwith hoisted the flag of surrender, opened the gates, and went out taking his seal of office with him. He was reappointed to his governorship, but his son was sent to Jingzhou for service with the army.

The people of Lingling all rejoiced greatly at the change of rulers. Liu Bei entered the city, calmed and reassured the people, and rewarded his army.

But he at once began to think of the next move and asked for an officer to volunteer to take Guiyang. Zhao Yun offered, but Zhang Fei vehemently proposed himself for the command of the expedition. So they wrangled and contended.

Then said Zhuge Liang, “Undoubtedly Zhao Yun was first to volunteer, wherefore he is to go.”

Still Zhang Fei opposed and insisted on going. They were told to decide the dispute by drawing lots, and Zhao Yun drew the winning lot.

Zhang Fei was still very angry and grumbled, “I would not have wanted any helpers: Just three thousand soldiers and I would have done it.”

“I also only want three thousand soldiers,” said Zhao Yun. “And if I fail, I am willing to suffer the penalties.”

Zhuge Liang was pleased that Zhao Yun recognized his responsibility so fully, and with the commission he gave Zhao Yun three thousand of veterans.

Though the matter was thus settled, Zhang Fei was discontented and pressed his claim till Liu Bei bade him desist and retire.

With his three thousand troops, Zhao Yun took the road to Guiyang. The Governor, Zhao Fan, soon heard of his approach and hastily called his officers to take counsel. Two of them, Chen Ying and Bao Long, offered to meet the invaders and turn them back.

These two warriors belonged to Guiyang and had made themselves famous as hunters. Chen Ying used a “Flying Fork,” and Bao Long could draw a bow with such force that he had been known to send an arrow through two tigers. So strong were they, as well as bold.

They stood before Zhao Fan and said, “We will lead the way against Liu Bei.”

The Governor replied, “I know that Liu Bei is of the imperial family, and Zhuge Liang is exceedingly resourceful. Guan Yu and Zhang Fei are very bold. But the commander of this force is Zhao Yun who, on one occasion, faced a hundred legions of Cao Cao and never blenched. Our small force here cannot stand against such people. We shall have to yield.”

“Let me go out to fight,” said Chen Ying. “If I cannot capture Zhao Yun, then you can yield.”

The Governor could not resist him and gave his consent. Then Chen Ying, with three thousand troops, went forth. Soon the two armies came within sight of each other. When Chen Ying’s army was drawn up, he girded on his flying fork and rode to the front. Zhao Yun gripped his spear and rode to meet him.

Zhao Yun began to rail at Chen Ying, saying, “My master is the brother of Liu Biao to whom belonged this land. Now he is supporting his nephew, the heir and son of Liu Biao. Having taken Jingzhou, I am come to soothe and comfort the people here. Why then do you oppose me?”

“We are supporters of the Prime Minister Cao Cao and are no followers of your master,” was the reply.

Zhao Yun, waxing angry, firmly grasped his spear and rode forward. His opponent twirled the flying fork and advanced. The horses met, but after four or five encounters Chen Ying, realizing that there was no hope of victory, turned and fled. Zhao Yun followed. Suddenly turning, Chen Ying got close to Zhao Yun and flung the fork. Zhao Yun deftly caught it and threw it back. Chen Ying dodged away, but Zhao Yun soon caught him up, seized, dragged him out of the saddle, and threw him to the ground. Then Zhao Yun called up his soldiers, and they bound the prisoner. Chen Ying was taken to the camp, while his troops scattered and fled.

“I thought you would not dare a combat with me,” said Zhao Yun to the prisoner when they had returned to camp. “However, I am not going to put you to death. You are free. But persuade your master to yield.”

Chen Ying asked pardon, put his hands over his head, and fled like a frightened rat. When he reached his city, he told the Governor all these things.

“My original desire was to yield, but you insisted on fighting, and this is what it has brought you to.”

So spoke the Governor. He bade Chen Ying begone and then prepared his letter of submission and put up his seal. With a small party, Zhao Fan went out of the city and wended his way to Zhao Yun’s camp. Zhao Yun received him graciously, offered him wine, and then accepted the seal of office.

After the wine had gone round several times, Zhao Fan became talkative, saying, “General, your surname is the same as mine, and five centuries ago we were one family. You are from Changshan, and so am I. Moreover we are from the same village. If you do not mind, we might swear brotherhood. I should be very happy.”

Zhao Yun was pleased and they compared ages. They were of the same year. However, Zhao Yun was the elder by four months, and so Zhao Fan made his bow as younger brother. The two men, having so many things in common, were very pleased with each other and seemed fitted to be close friends.

At eventide the feast broke up, and the late Governor returned to his dwelling. Next day Zhao Fan requested Zhao Yun to enter the city, where, after Zhao Yun had assured the people of their safety, he went to a banquet at the state residence. When they had become mellow with wine, the Governor invited Zhao Yun into the inner quarters, where wine was again served. When Zhao Yun was a little intoxicated, his host bade a woman come forth and offer a cup of wine to the guest.

The woman was dressed entirely in white silk, and her beauty was such as to overthrow cities and ruin states.

“Who is she?” asked Zhao Yun.

“My sister-in-law. She is of the Fan family.”

Zhao Yun at once changed his look and treated her with deference. When she had offered the cup, the host told her to be seated and join the party, but Zhao Yun declined this addition to the evening, and the lady withdrew.

“Why did you trouble your sister-in-law to present wine to me, brother?” asked Zhao Yun.

“There is a reason,” said the host smiling. “I pray you let me tell you. My brother died three years ago and left her a widow. But this cannot be regarded as the end of the story. I have often advised her to marry again, but she said she would only do so if three conditions were satisfied in one man’s person. The suitor must be famous for literary grace and warlike exploits, secondly, handsome and highly esteemed and, thirdly, of the same name as our own. Now where in all the world was such a combination likely to be found? Yet here are you, brother, dignified, handsome, and prepossessing, a man whose name is known all over the wide world and of the desired name. You exactly fulfill my sister’s ambitions. If you do not find her too plain, I should like her to marry you and I will provide a dowry. What think you of such an alliance, such a bond of relationship?”

But Zhao Yun rose in anger, shouting, “As I have just sworn brotherhood with you, is not your sister-in-law my sister-in-law? How could you think of bringing such confusion into the relationship?”

Shame suffused Zhao Fan’s face, and he said, “I only thought of being kind to you. Why are you so very rude to me?”

Zhao Fan looked right and left to his attendants with murder in his eye. Zhao Yun raised his fist and knocked him down.

Then he strode out of the place, mounted, and rode out of the city.

Zhao Fan at once called in his two generals.

Chen Ying said, “He has gone away in a rage, which means that we shall have to fight him.”

“I greatly fear you will lose,” said Zhao Fan.

“We will pretend to be deserters,” said Bao Long, “and so get among his soldiers. When you challenge him, we will suddenly catch him.”

“We shall have to take some others with us,” said Chen Ying.

“Five hundred troops will be ample,” said Bao Long.

So in the night the two men and their followers ran over to Zhao Yun’s camp to desert.

Zhao Yun understood the trick they would play, but he called them in, and they said, “When Zhao Fan tempted you with that fair lady, he wanted to make you drunk and get you into the private apartments so that he might murder you and send your head to Cao Cao. Yes, he was as wicked as that even. We saw you go away in anger, and we thought that would mean grave trouble for us, and so we have deserted.”

Zhao Yun listened with simulated joy, and he had wine served to the two men, and pressed them to drink so that they were quite overcome. When this was done, he had both bound with cords, called up their followers, and asked them whether this was real or pretended desertion, and they told him the truth.

Then he gave the soldiers wine and said, “Those who wanted to harm me are your leaders and not you. If you do as I tell you, you shall be well rewarded.”

The soldiers threw themselves to the ground and promised obedience. Thereupon the two leaders—Chen Ying and Bao Long—were beheaded. Their five hundred troops were made to lead the way and act as screen for a whole thousand of horsemen, and the party set out at full speed for Guiyang. When they got there, they summoned the gate and said that they had slain Zhao Yun and had got back. And they wished to speak with the Governor.

Those on the wall lighted flares and inspected those at the gate. Surely enough they wore the uniforms of their own people, and Zhao Fan went out to them. He was immediately seized and made prisoner. Then Zhao Yun entered the city, restored order, and sent off swift messengers to Liu Bei who at once, with his adviser, came to Guiyang.

When they had taken their seats, the late Governor was brought in and placed at the foot of the steps. In response to Zhuge Liang’s questions, Zhao Fan related the story of the proposed marriage.

Said Zhuge Liang to Zhao Yun, “But this seems a fine project. Why did you receive the proposal so roughly?”

Zhao Yun said, “Zhao Fan and I had just sworn brotherhood, and so marriage with his sister-in-law would have called down on my head universal blame. That is one reason. Another is that I should have made his sister fail to keep her dutiful chastity. And thirdly, I did not know whether I might trust such a proposal from one who had just yielded to force. My lord, your position as a recent victor was one of danger, and could I risk the failure of your plans for my sake?”

Liu Bei said, “But now that the plan has been carried out, and we are victors, would you care to marry her?”

“All my fear is for the building of a reputation. Family can come later.”

“You are indeed right honorable,” said Liu Bei.

Zhao Fan was released and restored to the governorship. Zhao Yun was conspicuously rewarded.

But Zhang Fei was angry and disappointed.

“So Zhao Yun gets all the praise, and I am worth nothing,” cried he. “Just give me three thousand soldiers, and I will take Wuling and bring you the Governor.”

This pleased Zhuge Liang, who said, “There is no reason why you should not go, but I will only require one condition of you.”

Wondrous, the plans of the general, so doth he conquer in battle;
Soldiers keenly competing gain renown in the fighting.

The condition that Zhuge Liang made will appear in the next chapter.