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Romance of the Three Kingdoms (三國演義)

by Luo Guanzhong (羅貫中) Translated by C.H. Brewitt-Taylor

Three Kingdoms

Chapter 76 : Xu Huang Fights At The River Mian; Guan Yu Retreats To Maicheng.

Chapter 76 : Xu Huang Fights At The River Mian; Guan Yu Retreats To Maicheng.

The fall of Jingzhou put Mi Fang in a quandary. Before he could decide upon any course, his old colleague Fu Shiren came to see him. Fu Shiren was admitted, and when asked why he had come, he blurted out his business without beating about the bush.

“I am faithful enough, but I got into difficulties and danger and could not hold on, so I have surrendered to Wu. And I advise you to do the same.”

“You and I have both fed on the bounty of the Prince of Hanzhong, and I cannot understand how you can turn against him.”

“Guan Yu went away hating both of us intensely. Even if he comes back victorious, I do not think he will forgive us. Just think it over.”

“My brother and I have followed the Prince these many years, and I do not like leaving him like this.”

Mi Fang hesitated.

Before he could make up his mind, there came a messenger, saying, “The army in Fancheng is short of grain, and I was sent to demand white rice for the soldiers. Nanjun and Gongan are to send ten thousand carts at once. Delay will be most severely punished.”

This sudden demand was a shock to Mi Fang.

“Where am I to get the rice?” said he despairingly to his friend and tempter. “Jingzhou is now in the hands of Wu.”

“Do not dilly-dally,” said Fu Shiren. Thereupon he drew his sword and slew the messenger as he stood in the hall.

“What have you done?” cried Mi Fang.

“Guan Yu wanted to slay us two and has forced me to this. Are we to fold our hands and await death? Either you give in at once and go over to Wu, or you will be put to death by Guan Yu.”

Just then they heard that Lu Meng’s troops had actually reached the city wall. Mi Fang saw that nothing could save his life but desertion, so he went out with Fu Shiren and gave in his allegiance to Lu Meng, by whom he was led to Sun Quan. Sun Quan gave both of them presents, after which he proceeded to restore order and to reward his army for their services.

At the time that great discussion about Jingzhou was going on in Xuchang, a messenger arrived with a letter from Sun Quan. It told the plan of attacking Jingzhou and begged Cao Cao to send an army to attack Guan Yu in the rear, enjoining the utmost secrecy.

Cao Cao summoned his advisers to a meeting for consultation.

First Secretary Dong Zhao said, “Now that Fancheng is surrounded, it would be well to shoot letter into the city to let the besieged know, so that they may not yield to depression. Then we will inform Guan Yu of the danger from the south. If Guan Yu hears that Jingzhou is threatened by Wu, he will come back to try to defend it. Then let Xu Huang take the chance to attack, and our victory will be complete.”

Cao Cao agreed that the plan was good, and so he sent a messenger to urge Xu Huang to attack. Cao Cao himself led a large force to Yangling Slope, south of Luoyang, to rescue Cao Ren.

Xu Huang was sitting in his tent when they told him that a messenger from the Prince of Wei had arrived.

The messenger was called in and said, “The Prince has led an army to Luoyang, and he wishes you to hasten to attack Guan Yu in order to relieve Fancheng.”

Just then the scouts came to report: “Guan Ping has encamped at Yencheng and Liao Hua at Sizhong. The enemy have built a line of twelve stockades.”

Xu Huang ordered two of his generals —-Lu Qian and Xu Shang —-to Yencheng to masquerade as if he himself was in command, by showing his ensigns. Xu Huang himself, at the head of five hundred veterans, went along River Mian to attack Yencheng in the rear.

When Guan Ping heard of the approach of Xu Huang, he prepared his own division to meet him. When both sides were arrayed, Guan Ping rode out and engaged Xu Shang. After three encounters Xu Shang had the worst of it and fled. Then the other general, Lu Qian, went out. He fought half a dozen bouts and also ran away. Thereupon Guan Ping went in pursuit and smote the flying enemy for seven miles. But then there was an alarm of fire within Yencheng, and Guan Ping knew that he had been inveigled into the pursuit and was a victim. So he turned and set out for the city again. On his way he met a body of troops, and standing under the great standard was Xu Huang.

Xu Huang shouted out, “Guan Ping, my worthy nephew, it is strange that you do not recognize death when it stares you in the face. Your Jingzhou has fallen into the hands of Wu, and yet you act so madly.”

Guan Ping, whirling his sword, just rode hard at Xu Huang, and they engaged. But after the third bout there was a tremendous shouting among the soldiers, for the flames within the city burst up higher than before. Guan Ping could not follow up his desire to continue the fight, but cut his way out and made a dash for Sizhong, where Liao Hua received him with the news of the disaster to Jingzhou.

“People say that Jingzhou has fallen to Lu Meng, and the news has frightened the whole army. What is to be done?” said Liao Hua.

“It is only a malicious rumor. Do not let it spread. If anyone repeats it, put him to death.”

Just then a man came running in to say that Xu Huang was attacking the first stockade on the north.

“If that goes,” said Guan Ping, “the remainder will follow. But as we have River Mian at our back, they will not dare attack this. Let us go to the rescue.”

So Liao Hua summoned his subordinate leaders and gave them orders to hold the camp and make a signal if the enemy came.

“There is no danger here,” said they. “The camp is defended by a tenfold line of thorny barriers. Even a bird could not get in.”

Guan Ping and Liao Hua mustered all the veterans they had and went away to the first stockade.

Seeing the Wei soldiers camped on a low hill, Guan Ping said to his colleague, “Those soldiers are stationed in an unsafe place. Let us raid their camp tonight.”

“You take half the force, General, and I will remain to keep the camp,” said Liao Hua.

When night fell, the attacking force went out. But on reaching the camp not a man opposed them. The camp was empty. Then Guan Ping knew he had been deceived, and turned to retreat. He was at once attacked on two sides by Xu Shang and Lu Qian from left and right. Unable to stand, his troops ran for the camp. The soldiers of Wei followed, and presently the camp was surrounded. They were compelled to abandon the position and set off for Sizhong. As they drew near they saw torches, and presently knew by the ensigns displayed that the camp had also fallen to the enemy. Retiring, they hastened along the high road toward Fancheng, but presently their way was barred by a force under Xu Huang himself. By dint of hard fighting they got away and returned to their main camp, and Guan Ping went to his father.

Said he, “Xu Huang has got possession of Yencheng. Cao Cao’s main army is on the way in three divisions. And many say that Jingzhou is in the enemy’s hands.”

Guan Yu bade him be silent.

“This is a fabrication of the enemy,” said Guan Yu, “but it may dishearten the soldiers. We know Lu Meng is ill, and they have appointed that impractical fellow Lu Xun to succeed him at Lukou. There is nothing to fear.”

Then news came that Xu Huang had arrived . At once Guan Yu bade them saddle his charger.

“Father, you are not strong enough to go into the battle,” said Guan Ping.

“Xu Huang and I were once friends, and I know what he can do and not do. I will give him the chance to retire. If he does not take it, then I shall just slay him as a warning to the others.”

Mounting his charger, Guan Yu rode out as impetuously as of yore, and the sight of the old warrior made to quake the hearts of the troops of Wei.

When he came close enough to his enemy, Guan Yu checked his steed and said, “Where is my friend Xu Huang?”

As a reply, the gate of the battle opened, and Xu Huang appeared under the standard.

With a low bow Xu Huang said, “Some years have passed since I met you, Most Excellent Marquis, but I had not expected to see you so gray. I have not forgotten the old brave days, when we were together and you taught me so much, and I am very grateful. Your new fame has spread throughout the whole empire, and your old friends cannot but praise you. I am indeed glad that I have the happiness to see you.”

Guan Yu replied, “We have been excellent friends, Xu Huang —-better than most. But why have you pressed my son so hardly of late?”

Xu Huang suddenly turned to the officers about him and cried fiercely, “I would give a thousand ounces of gold for this Guan Yu’s head.”

Guan Yu, greatly shocked, said, “What did you say that for?”

“Because today I am on state business, and I have no inclination to let private friendship override my public duty.”

As he said this, he whirled his battle-ax and rode at Guan Yu, who, greatly enraged, threw up his great saber to strike. They fought a half score bouts, but although his skill lacked nothing of its pristine vigor and excelled all the world, the veteran warrior’s right arm was still weak from the wound. Guan Ping saw that his father failed somewhat, and so hastily beat the gong for retreat. Guan Yu rode back.

Suddenly the noise of a great shouting was heard. It came from the troops in Fancheng, for Cao Ren, having heard of the arrival of troops of his own side, had made a sortie and was about to attack to help Xu Huang. His army fell on, and the army of Jingzhou were routed. Guan Yu, with as many of his officers as could, fled away along the banks of River Xiang, hotly pursued by the army of Wei. Crossing the river, he made for Xiangyang.

Suddenly the scouts reported: “Jingzhou has been taken by Lu Meng. Your family is now in the hand of enemy.”

Guan Yu was shocked. Thence he marched for Gongan.

But the scouts told him: “Fu Shiren has yielded Gongan to the hands of Wu.”

Then some of the men he had dispatched for supplies came in and reported: “Fu Shiren murdered the officer and persuade Mi Fang to surrender to Wu.”

The story filled Guan Yu with boundless rage. It was too much. The wound reopened, and he fell in a swoon.

“Wang Fu, you were right,” said he when he recovered consciousness. “How I regret that I did not heed what you said!”

“But why were the beacon fires not lighted?” continued he presently.

Said the scouts, “Lu Meng’s marines in the guise of traders came over the river. There were soldiers hidden in the ships, and they seized the beacon guards, so preventing them from kindling the fires.”

Guan Yu sighed. Beating the ground with his foot, he said, “Indeed I have fallen into their trap. How shall I look my brother in the face?”

Then outspoke Commissariat Commander Zhao Lei, saying, “We are in straits. Send to Chengdu for help, and let us take the land road to Jingzhou to try to recover it.”

So Guan Yu sent Ma Liang and Yi Ji to Shu to ask for help. The messengers rode out swiftly by different routes, while the army set out to return to Jingzhou, Guan Yu leading and Liao Hua with Guan Ping keeping the rear.

The siege of Fancheng being thus raised, Cao Ren went to see his master. With tears he acknowledged his fault and asked pardon.

“It was the will of heaven, and no fault of yours,” said Cao Cao.

And he rewarded the armies.

When he visited Sizhong and had inspected the captured stockades, he remarked on the defenses, saying, “Xu Huang was very clever to overcome these. With my thirty years of war, I should not have dared to penetrate such opposition. He is valiant and wise, and both in a high degree.”

“Aye,” said they with him, for they could not but agree.

Cao Cao’s army marched back to Mopo and there camped. When Xu Huang returned, Cao Cao went out of the stockade to meet him, and netted with joy when seeing the excellent order and discipline that his army showed. Every soldier was in his place, the ranks perfectly kept, all without a trace of disorder.

“General Xu Huang has the spirit of the old Zhou Yafu,” said Cao Cao, and on the spot conferred on his commander the title of General Who Pacifies the South. Xu Huang was sent soon after to share in the defense of Xiangyang with Xiahou Shang and to meet Guan Yu’s army.

Jingzhou being still in turmoil, Cao Cao remained at Mopo waiting for news.

Guan Yu found himself at a standstill on the road to Jingzhou with the army of Wu in front and the men of Wei coming up behind.

“What is to be done,” he discussed the position with Zhao Lei, “when we cannot advance nor retreat and the aid has not come?”

Zhao Lei proposed a halt to try to shame Lu Meng into aiding Cao Cao.

Said he, “When Lu Meng was at Lukou, he used to write to you often, and you agreed to join hands in the destruction of Cao Cao. Now he is a traitor and fighting on the other side. Send a letter and reproach him. Perhaps we may get a satisfactory reply.”

So the letter was written and sent to Jingzhou.

Meanwhile, by Lu Meng’s special command, the most complete protection was given to the families of all the officers who were serving under Guan Yu, and they were kept supplied with all they required. Even the ailing members of their households were treated by physicians free of charge. The result was that they were quite won over to the new order of things, and there was no attempt to disturb it. When Guan Yu’s letter came, the messenger was led into the city and well treated.

When Lu Meng read the letter, he said to the bearer thereof, “You must understand the different circumstances. When your general and I were leagued together, it was a personal matter between us two. Now things have changed. I am sent here with certain orders and am not my own master. I would trouble you, O messenger, to return and explain thus to your master and in good words.”

The bearer of the letter was entertained at a banquet and sent to repose himself in the guest-house, where the families of the absent officers sought him to have news of their husbands and fathers. Moreover, they brought him letters and gave him messages for the officers, and the whole tenor of these letters and messages was that they were all in good health, all their needs were supplied, and they lacked nothing. When he left the city, Lu Meng himself escorted him to the outskirts and set him on his way.

On his return to the army, he gave to Guan Yu the message of Lu Meng and told him that the families were all well and safe and well cared for. This, however, did not greatly please Guan Yu.

Stamping his foot, Guan Yu said, “This is merely a ruse to gain favor and popularity. The brigand! If I cannot slay him while I live, I will after I am dead. My hate shall not go unappeased.”

He roughly dismissed the messenger, who went out and was at once surrounded by those whose families were in the city and who desired to have news of them. And when he gave them the letters and messages and told them all were well, there was great rejoicing among the men in the camp, and kindly feelings for Lu Meng prevailed. And therewith died down the spirit of fighting.

Guan Yu led the army to attack Jingzhou, but day by day the men deserted and ran away to the very city they were moving to attack. So day by day Guan Yu’s bitterness and anger increased, and he advanced in angry haste. One day there was a great shouting and the noise of drums, and he found his way blocked.

“Why do you not surrender, friend Guan Yu?” said the leader of this body, Jiang Qin.

“Could I give in to a rebel —-I, a servant of the Hans and a leader of their army?” roared Guan Yu in a passion.

Thereupon he whipped his horse forward and swung up his sword to strike. However, Jiang Qin would not fight. The two exchanged a few blows, and Jiang Qin fled. Guan Yu followed. When he had gone a long way, there suddenly appeared from a gully near him Han Dang, while Zhou Tai came out from the other side. Thereupon Jiang Qin wheeled round and once more came to do battle, so that three forces were opposed to Guan Yu. Unable to withstand these, he retreated.

Before he had gone very far, he saw signs of many people bivouacking among the hills, and presently made out, on a huge white banner that flapped in the breeze, the words Natives of Jingzhou, and the people about were calling out, “All the inhabitants of this place have surrendered.”

Guan Yu felt like rushing up and cutting these people to pieces, but just then two other cohorts appeared led by Ding Feng and Xu Sheng, who supported Jiang Qin. The three bodies of troops then set on with shouting and loud beating of drums that seemed to make the very earth tremble. And Guan Yu was like the kernel in a nut, quite surrounded.

This was not all. He saw the number of his followers diminishing every moment. He fought on till dusk, and looking about him he saw all the hills crowded with Jingzhou folks and heard them calling siblings for brother and children for father, till his soldiers’ hearts had melted within them. One by one they ran to their relatives, heedless of their leader and his voice. Presently he had but three hundred left, but with them he kept up the battle till the third watch. Then there was another shouting in another note, for his leaders, Guan Ping, his son, and Liao Hua, came to his help. And they rescued him.

“The soldiers’ hearts are all melted,” said Guan Ping. “We must find some place wherein to camp till help can arrive. There is Maicheng, small, but sufficient. Let us camp there.”

Guan Yu consented, and the exhausted army hurried thither as quickly as they could. The small force was divided among the four gates to guard.

Zhao Lei said, “This place is near Shangyong where Meng Da and Liu Feng station. We should send for their help. If their army marches to our relief until the grand army of Shu comes, the morale of our army will improve.”

But disappointments dogged them. Very soon the army of Wu came up and laid siege to the city.

“Who will try to break through and go away to Shangyong for assistance?” asked Guan Yu.

“I will go,” said Liao Hua.

“And I will escort you past the danger zone,” said Guan Ping.

Guan Yu wrote his letter, which Liao Hua concealed next to his skin, and having eaten a full meal, he rode out at the gate. The leader of the enemy, Ding Feng, tried to check him, but Guan Ping fought vigorously and drove him away. So Liao Hua escaped the siege and reached Shangyong, while Guan Ping returned. Then they barred the gates and hold their defense.

Now, having captured Shangyong, Liu Feng and Meng Da had remained to guard it. Liu Feng had been created Governor General, and together with Meng Da, to defend that city. When they heard of the defeat of Guan Yu, they took counsel what to do. When Liao Hua came, he was admitted into the city. He told the tale of Guan Yu’s straits, and asked for help.

Said Liao Hua, “Guan Yu is closely besieged in Maicheng. Help from the west will be a long time in coming, so I have been sent to beg your assistance. I hope you will march the Shangyong troops thither as quickly as possible, for any delay will be fatal.”

Liu Feng replied, “Sir, go to the rest-house for a time till we can decide.”

So Liao Hua went, and the two leaders talked over the matter.

Liu Feng said, “This is bad news. What is to be done?”

“Wu is very powerful,” replied his colleague. “Now they have control over the whole region of Jingzhou, save this small clod of earth called Maicheng. Cao Cao is at hand with five hundred thousand troops, and we cannot stand against the two mighty forces. I say we must not move.”

“I know all this. But Guan Yu is my uncle, and I cannot bear to sit still and not try to save him.”

“So you hold him as an uncle!” said Meng Da with a smile. “Yet I do not think he holds you much as a nephew. When the Prince of Hanzhong adopted you, Guan Yu was greatly annoyed. And after the Prince had accepted his new dignity and was nominating his heir, I heard he consulted Zhuge Liang, who said the affair was one to be decided within the family and declined to advise. Then the Prince sent to ask Guan Yu’s advice. Did Guan Yu name you? Not at all. You were only a son by adoption and could have no place in the succession. Further, Guan Yu advised that you be sent to a distance lest you might cause trouble. This is common knowledge, and I am surprised that you are ignorant of it. Yet today you make capital out of the relationship and are willing to run a great risk to support it.”

“Granted that what you say is true, still what reply can we give?”

“Simply say that this city is still unsettled, and you dare not move lest it be lost.”

Liu Feng took his colleague’s view, sent for the messenger and told him. Liao Hua was greatly disappointed. He threw himself on the ground and knocked his head, imploring assistance.

“If you act thus, there is an end of Guan Yu!” cried Liao Hua.

“Will a cup of water extinguish a wagon load of blazing wood?” said Meng Da. “Hasten back and await patiently for the coming of help from the west.”

Liao Hua renewed his entreaties. The two commanders simply rose, shook out their sleeves, and left him. Liao Hua saw that things had gone against him and thought his best course would be to go at once to Chengdu. He rode out of the city cursing its defenders and went away west.

Guan Yu from his fortress looked anxiously, but vainly, for the coming of the expected aid. He was in a sorry plight. His army numbered but a few hundred, many wounded; there was no food.

Then someone came to the foot of the wall and, calling out to the defenders on the wall not to shoot, said he had a message for the commander. He was allowed to enter. It was Zhuge Jin. When he had made his salutations and taken tea, he began his harangue.

“I come at the command of my master, the Marquis of Wu, to persuade you to a wise course. From of old it has always been recognized that the hero must bow to circumstances. The region with its nine territories and forty-two counties that you ruled have come under another, with the exception of this single city. Within, there is no food, without, no help, so that it must fall quickly. Wherefore, O General, why not hear me and join your fortunes to those of Wu? You shall be restored to your governorship, and you will preserve your family. If haply, Sir, you would reflect thereon.”

Guan Yu replied, quite calmly, “I am a simple soldier from the village of Jieliang, yet my lord and I have become brothers. How can I betray him? If the city may fall, then I can but die. Jade may be shattered, but its whiteness remains; bamboo may be burned, but its joints stand straight. My body may be broken, but my name shall live true in history. Say no more, but leave the city, I beg. I will fight Sun Quan to the end.”

“My master desires to enter into such a league with you as did Qin and Jin in former days, that you may mutually assist to destroy Cao Cao and restore the Hans. That is his idea, and why do you persist in this wrong course?”

As Zhuge Jin finished this speech, Guan Ping, who was by, drew his sword to slay him. But his father checked him.

“Remember his brother is in Shu, helping your uncle. If you hurt him, you will injure the principle of fraternity.”

Guan Yu then bade his servants lead Zhuge Jin away. Zhuge Jin went, his face covered with shame, and left the city. When he reached his master, he told of Guan Yu’s obduracy and rejection of all argument.

“He is indeed a loyal servant!” said Sun Quan. “Still, what is to be done next?”

“Take some casts in the Book of Changes,” said Lu Fan.

So the lots were taken and explained to mean that the Marquis’ enemies should flee to a distance.

Then Sun Quan asked Lu Meng, saying, “If he flies to a distance, how can he be captured?”

“The divination exactly fits in with my schemes,” replied Lu Meng. “Even if Guan Yu had wings to soar to the skies, he would not escape my net.”

The dragon in a puddle is the sport of shrimps,

The phoenix in a cage is mocked of small birds.

The scheme of Lu Meng will be unfolded in the next chapter.



Romance of the Three Kingdoms: Chapter 76 : Xu Huang Fights At The River Mian; Guan Yu Retreats To Maicheng.
Chapter 76 : Xu Huang Fights At The River Mian; Guan Yu Retreats To Maicheng.
Chapter 76 : Xu Huang Fights At The River Mian; Guan Yu Retreats To Maicheng.
Romance of the Three Kingdoms
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