Dashing Toward Saber Pass, Zhang He Falls Into A Snare.
|By means of the artifice just described, Zhuge Liang withdrew his army safely into Hanzhong, while Sima Yi retreated upon Chang'an. Zhuge Liang distributed the rewards for success and then went to Capital Chengdu for audience.
"Your Majesty recalled me just as I was about to advance upon Chang'an. What is the important matter?" said the Prime Minister.
For a long time the Latter Ruler made no reply.
Presently he said, "I longed to see your face once more, that is the only reason."
Zhuge Liang replied, "I think my recall was not on your own initiative. Some slanderous persons has hinted that I cherished ulterior objects."
The Latter Ruler, who indeed felt guilty and ill at ease, made no reply.
Zhuge Liang continued, "Your late father laid me under an obligation which I am pledged to fulfill to the death. But if vile influences are permitted to work at home, how can I destroy the rebels without?"
"The fact is I recalled you because of the talk of the eunuchs. But I understand now and am unutterably sorry," said the Latter Ruler.
Zhuge Liang interrogated the eunuchs and thus found out the base rumors that had been spread abroad by Gou An. He sent to arrest this man, but Gou An had already fled and gone over to Wei. The eunuchs who had influenced the Emperor were put to death, and all the other eunuchs who were involved were expelled from the Palace.
Zhuge Liang then took leave of the Latter Ruler and returned to the army. He wrote to Li Yan to see to the necessary supplies and began preparations for a new expedition.
Yang Yi said, "The soldiers are wearied by the many expeditions, and the supplies are not regular. I think a better plan would be to send half the army to Qishan for three months, and at the end of that time exchange them for the other half, and so on alternately. For example, if you have two hundred thousand troops, let one hundred thousand go into the field and one hundred thousand remain. In this way, using ten legions and ten legions, their energies will be conserved and you can gradually work toward the Middle Land."
"I agree with you," said Zhuge Liang. "Our attack is not a matter to be achieved in haste. The suggestion for an extended campaign is excellent!"
Wherefore the army was divided, and each half went out for one hundred days' service at a time, when it was relieved by the other half. Full penalties were provided for any laxity and failure to maintain the periods of active service.
In the spring of the ninth year of Beginning Prosperity, the Shu army once more took the held against Wei. In Wei it was the fifth year of Calm Peace (AD 231).
When the Ruler of Wei heard of this new expedition, he called Sima Yi and asked his advice.
"Now that my friend Cao Zhen is no more, I am willing to do all that one man can to destroy the rebels against Your Majesty's authority," said Sima Yi.
Cao Rui was gratified by this ready offer, and honored Sima Yi with a banquet. Next day an edict was issued for the army to move. The Ruler of Wei, riding in his state chariot, escorted Sima Yi out of the city, and, after the farewells, the Commander took the road to Chang'an, where the force was gathering. There was assembled a council of war.
Zhang He offered his services, saying, "I volunteer to guard Yongcheng and Meicheng against the Shu army."
But Sima Yi said, "Our vanguard army is not strong enough to face the enemy's whole force. Moreover, to divide an army is not generally a successful scheme. The better plan will be to leave a guard in Shanggui and send all the others to Qishan. Will you undertake the Leadership of the Van?"
Zhang He consented, saying, "I have always been most loyal and will devote my energies entirely to the service of the state. So far I have not had an adequate opportunity to prove my sincerity. But now that you confer upon me a post of such responsibility, I can only say that no sacrifice can be too great for me, and I will do my utmost."
So Zhang He was appointed Van Leader, and then Guo Huai was set over the defense of the counties of West Valley Land. Other generals were distributed to other posts, and the march began toward Qishan.
The spies reported: "The main force of Shu is directed toward Qishan, and the Leaders of the Van are Wang Ping and Zhang Ni. The route chosen for their march is from Chencang across San Pass and to the Xie Valley."
Hearing this, Sima Yi said to Zhang He, "Zhuge Liang is advancing in great force and certainly intends to reap the wheat in West Valley Land for his supply. You get sufficient troops to hold Qishan, while Guo Huai and I go to Tianshui and foil the enemy's plan to gather the wheat."
So Zhang He took forty thousand troops to hold Qishan, and Sima Yi set out westwards to the West Valley Land.
When Zhuge Liang reached Qishan and had settled his army in camp, he saw that the bank of River Wei had been fortified by his enemy.
"That must be the work of Sima Yi," remarked Zhuge Liang to his generals. "But we have not enough food in camp. I have written to Li Yan to send grain, but it has not yet arrived. The wheat in West Valley Land is now just ripe, and we will go and reap it."
Leaving Wang Ping, Zhang Ni, Hu Ban, and Wu Yi to guard for the camps, Zhuge Liang, with Wei Yan, Jiang Wei, and several other generals, went over to Lucheng. The Governor of that city knew he could not offer any real defense, so he opened the gates and yielded.
After calming the people, Zhuge Liang asked, "Where is the ripe wheat to be found?"
The Governor replied, "Longshang is the place."
But soon the leading body returned to say, "Sima Yi has already occupied that city."
"He guessed what I intended to do!" said Zhuge Liang, taken aback.
Zhuge Liang then retired, bathed and put on another dress. Next he bade them bring out three four-wheeled chariots, all exactly alike, that were among the impedimenta of the army. They had been built in Shu some time before.
Jiang Wei was told off to lead a thousand troops as escort for one chariot, and five hundred drummers were appointed to accompany it. The chariot with its escort and drummers was sent away behind the city. In like manner two other chariots were equipped and sent east and west of the city under Ma Dai and Wei Yan. Each chariot was propelled by a team of twenty-four men, all dressed in black, barefooted and with loosened hair. Each one of the team also had in hand a sword and a black seven-starred flag.
While the chariots were taking up their positions, thirty thousand soldiers were ordered to prepare wagons and sickles to cut and carry away the grain.
Next Zhuge Liang selected twenty-four good soldiers, whom he dressed and armed like those sent away with the three chariots. These were to push his own chariot. Guan Xing was told to dress up as the God of Clouds and to walk in front of Zhuge Liang's chariot holding a black seven-starred flag. These preparations complete, Zhuge Liang mounted, and the chariot took the road toward the Wei camp.
The appearance of a chariot with such attendants more than startled the enemy's scouts, who did not know whether the apparition was that of a human or a demon. They hastened to their Commander and told him.
Sima Yi came out himself and saw the cavalcade, and its central figure being Zhuge Liang, dressed as a Daoist mystic, with headdress, white robe, and a feather fan. Around the chariot were twenty-four hair-loosened beings, each with a sword in hand; and leading was a being as a heaven-sent god with the seven-starred flag.
"Some of Zhuge Liang's odd doings," said he.
And Sima Yi ordered two thousand troops, saying, "Chase as fast as you can, and bring in the chariot, escort, and the seated figure."
The soldiers went out to do their bidding. But as soon as they appeared, the chariot retired and took a road leading to the Shu camp. Although the Wei soldiers were mounted, they could not come up with the cavalcade. What they did meet with was a chilly breeze and a cold mist that rolled about them.
They found it uncanny and halted, saying one to another, "How extraordinary it is that we have been pressing on and yet we got no nearer. What does it mean?"
When Zhuge Liang saw that the pursuit had ceased, he had his chariot pushed out again to the front and passed within sight of the halted troops. At first they hesitated, but presently took up the pursuit once more. Whereupon the chariot again retired, proceeding slowly, but always keeping out of reach. And thus more than seven miles were covered and the chariot was still not captured.
Again the soldiers halted, puzzled and perplexed at this incomprehensible chase. But as soon as they stopped, the chariot came again toward them and they retook pursuit.
Sima Yi now came up with a strong force. But he also halted, and said to his generals, "This Zhuge Liang is a master in the arts of necromancy and juggling and Eight Gates and knows how to call up the Deities of Six Layers to his aid. I know this trick of his: It is the 'Ground Rolling' in the 'Book of Six Layers Deities', and it is vain to pursue."
So they ceased following. But then a roll of drums came from the left side as if a body of troops were approaching. Sima Yi told off some companies to repel them, but there only came into view a small force, and in their midst was a party of men dressed in black, the exact counterpart of the cavalcade he had first sent to pursue. In the chariot sat another Zhuge Liang just like the one that had just disappeared.
"But just now he was sitting in that other chariot, which we chased for fifteen miles. How can he be here?" said Sima Yi.
Shortly after they heard another roll of the drums, and as the sound died away there appeared another body of men, with a chariot in the midst, exactly like the last and also carrying a sitting figure of Zhuge Liang.
"They must be heaven-sent soldiers," said Sima Yi.
The soldiers were now feeling the strain of these weird appearances and began to get out of hand. They dared not stay to fight such beings, and some ran away. But before they had gone far, lo! another roll of drums, another cohort and another chariot with a similar figure seated therein.
The soldiers of Wei were now thoroughly frightened, and even Sima Yi himself began to feel doubtful whether these appearances should be ascribed to humans or devils. He realized, however, that he was in the midst of dangers as he did not know the number of the Shu soldiers, and he and his troops ran away helter-skelter, never stopping till they reached Shanggui. They entered the city and closed the gates.
Having thus driven off the Wei soldiers, Zhuge Liang proceeded to reap and gather the wheat in Longshang, which was carried into Lucheng and laid out to dry.
Sima Yi remained shut up within the walls for three days. Then, as he saw his enemies retiring, he sent out some scouts, who presently returned with a Shu soldier they had captured. The prisoner was questioned.
"I was of the reaping party," said the man. "They caught me when I was looking for some horses that had strayed."
"What wonderful soldiers were they of yours that one saw here lately?" asked Sima Yi.
The man replied, "Zhuge Liang was with one party of them, the others were led by Jiang Wei, Ma Dai, and Wei Yan. There was a thousand of fighting soldiers with each chariot and five hundred drummers. Zhuge Liang was with the first party."
"His comings and goings are not human," said Sima Yi sadly.
Then Guo Huai came, and he was called to a council.
Said Guo Huai, "I hear the soldiers of Shu in Lucheng are very few, and they are occupied with gathering the grain. Why not smite them?"
Sima Yi told him his last experience of his opponent's wiles.
"He threw dust in your eyes that time," said Guo Huai with a smile. "However, now you know. What is the good of more talk? Let me attack the rear, while you lead against the front, and we shall take the city and Zhuge Liang too."
An attack was decided upon.
In Lucheng, while the soldiers were still busy with the wheat, Zhuge Liang called up his generals, and said, "The enemy will attack tonight. There is a suitable place for an ambush in the newly reaped fields, but who will lead for me?"
Four generals---Jiang Wei, Wei Yan, Ma Dai, and Ma Zhong---offered themselves, and he posted them, each with two thousand troops, outside the four corners of the city. They were to await the signal and then converge. When these had gone, Zhuge Liang led out a small party of one hundred soldiers and hid in the newly reaped fields.
In the meantime Sima Yi was drawing near. It was dusk when he stood beneath the walls of Lucheng.
Said he to his officers, "If we attacked by daylight, we should find the city well prepared. So we will take advantage of the darkness. The moat is shallow here, and there shall be no difficulty in crossing it."
The troops bivouacked till the time should come to attack. About the middle of the first watch Guo Huai arrived, and his force joined up with the others. This done, the drums began to beat, and the city was quickly surrounded. However, the defenders maintained such a heavy discharge of arrows, bolts and stones from the walls that the besiegers dared not close in.
Suddenly from the midst of the Wei army came the roar of a bomb, soon followed by others from different places. The soldiers were startled, but no one could say whence the sounds had proceeded. Guo Huai went to search the wheat fields, and then the four armies from the corners of the city converged upon the Wei army. At the same time the defenders burst out of the city gates, and a great battle began. Wei lost many troops.
After heavy fighting Sima Yi extricated his army from the battle and made his way to a hill, which he set about holding and fortifying, while Guo Huai got round to the rear of the city and called a halt.
Zhuge Liang entered the city and sent his troops to camp again at the four corners of the walls.
Guo Huai went to see his chief, and said, "We have long been at grips with these soldiers and are unable to drive them off. We have now lost another fight. Unless something is done, we shall not get away at all."
"What can we do?" asked Sima Yi.
"You might write to Yongzhou and Liangzhou to send their forces to our help. I will try my fortune against Saber Pass and cut off Zhuge Liang's retreat and supplies. That should bring about discontent and mutiny, and we can attack when we see the enemy in confusion."
The letters were sent, and soon Sun Li came leading the troops of Yongzhou and Liangzhou, foot and horse, of two hundred thousand. The new arrivals were sent to help Guo Huai in the attack on Saber Pass.
After many days had passed without sight of the enemy, Zhuge Liang thought it was time to make another move.
Calling up Jiang Wei and Ma Dai, he said, "The soldiers of Wei are well posted on the hills and refuse battle because, firstly, they think that we are short of food, and, secondly, they have sent an army against Saber Pass to cut off our supplies. Now each of you will take ten thousand troops and garrison the important points about here to show them that we are well prepared to defend ourselves. Then they will retire."
After these two had gone, Yang Yi came to see Zhuge Liang about the change of troops then due.
Yang Yi said, "O Prime Minister, you have ordered the troops to be alternated every one hundred days. Now the time is due, and the replacing troops have already left Hanzhong and that dispatches from the leading divisions have come in. Here we have eighty thousand troops, of which forty will be due for relief."
"There is the order; carry it out," replied Zhuge Liang.
So the forty thousand home-going soldiers prepared to withdraw.
Just then came the news: "Sun Li has arrived with reinforcements of two hundred thousand troops from Yongzhou and Liangzhou. Guo Huai and Sun Li have gone to attack Saber Pass, and Sima Yi is leading an army against Lucheng."
In the face of such important news, Yang Yi went to discuss with Zhuge Liang.
Said Yang Yi, "The Wei army are advancing against our critical points. Should you, O Prime Minister, postpone for a time the withdrawal of the field troops in order to strengthen our defense? You can wait for the new troops to arrive first."
Zhuge Liang replied, "I must keep faith with the soldiers. Since the order for the periodical exchange of troops has been issued, it must be carried out. Beside, the soldiers due for relief are all prepared to start, their expectations have been roused and their relatives await them. In the face of yet greater difficulties I would still let them go."
So orders were given for the time-expired soldiers to march that day. But when the legionaries heard it, a sudden movement of generosity spread among them.
And they said, "Since the Prime Minister cares for us so much, we do not wish to go, but will prefer to remain to fight the Wei army to death."
"But you are due for home. You cannot stay here," said Zhuge Liang.
They reiterated that they all wished to stay instead of going home.
Zhuge Liang was glad and said, "Since you wish to stay and fight with me, you can go out of the city and camp ready to encounter the army of Wei as soon as they arrive. Do not give them time to rest or recover breath, but attack vigorously at once. You will be fresh and fit, waiting for those fagged with a long march."
So they gripped their weapons and joyfully went out of the city to array themselves in readiness.
Now the Yongzhou and Liangzhou troops had traveled by double marches, and so were worn out and needed rest. But while they were pitching their tents, the troops of Shu fell upon them lustily, leaders full of spirit, soldiers full of energy. The weary soldiers could make no proper stand, and retired. The troops of Shu followed, pressing on them till corpses littered the whole plain and blood flowed in runnels.
It was a victory for Zhuge Liang, and he came out to welcome the victors and led them into the city and distributed rewards.
Just then arrived an urgent letter from Li Yan, then at Baidicheng, and when Zhuge Liang had torn it open he read:
"News has just come that Wu has sent an envoy to Luoyang and entered into an alliance with Wei whereby Wu is to attack us. The army of Wu has not yet set out, but I am anxiously awaiting your plans."
Doubts and fears crowded in upon Zhuge Liang's mind as he read. He summoned his officers.
"As Wu is coming to invade our land, we shall have to retire quickly," said he. "If I issue orders for the Qishan force to withdraw, Sima Yi will not dare to pursue while we are camped here."
The Qishan force broke camp and marched in two divisions under Wang Ping, Zhang Ni, Hu Ban, and Wu Yi. Zhang He watched them go, but was too fearful of the movement being some ruse to attempt to follow. He went to see Sima Yi.
"The enemy have retired, but I know not for what reason."
"Zhuge Liang is very crafty, and you will do well to remain where you are and keep a careful lookout. Do nothing till their grain has given out, when they must retire for good," said Sima Yi.
Here General Wei Ping stepped forward, saying, "But they are retreating from Qishan. We should seize the occasion of their retreat to smite them. Are they tigers that you fear to move? How the world will laugh at us?"
But Sima Yi was obstinate and ignored the protest.
When Zhuge Liang knew that the Qishan troops had got away safely, he called Yang Yi and Ma Zhong and gave them secret orders to lead ten thousand of bowmen and crossbowmen out by the Wooden Path of Saber Pass and place them in ambush on both sides of the road.
Said he, "If the soldiers of Wei pursue, wait till you hear a bomb. When you hear the bomb, at once barricade the road with timber and stones so as to impede them. When they halt, shoot at them with the bows and the crossbows."
Wei Yan and Guan Xing were told to attack the rear of the enemy.
These orders given, the walls of Lucheng were decorated lavishly with flags, and at various points within the city were piled straw and kindling wood ready to make some smoke as though there were cooking activities in the city. The soldiers were sent out along the road toward Saber Pass.
The spies of Wei returned to headquarters to report: "A large number of Shu soldiers have left, but we do not know how many remain within the city."
In doubt, Sima Yi went himself to look, and when he saw the smoke rising from within the walls and the fluttering flags, he said, "The city is deserted!"
He sent men in to confirm this, and they said the place was empty.
"Then Zhuge Liang is really gone. Who will pursue?"
"Let me," replied Zhang He.
"You are too impulsive," said Sima Yi.
"I have been Leader of the Van from the first day of this expedition. Why not use me today, when there is work to be done and glory to be gained?"
"Because the utmost caution is necessary. They are retreating, and they will leave an ambush at every possible point."
"I know that, and you need not be afraid."
"Well; you wish to go and may, but whatever happens you must be prepared for."
"A really noble man is prepared to sacrifice self for country. Never mind what happens."
"Then take five thousand troops and start. Wei Ping shall follow with twenty thousand of horse and foot to deal with any ambush that may discover itself. I will follow later with three thousand to help where need be."So Zhang He set out and advanced quickly.
Ten miles out he heard a roll of drums, and suddenly appeared from a wood a cohort led by Wei Yan, who galloped to the front, crying, "Whither would you go, O rebel leader?"
Zhang He swiftly turned and engaged Wei Yan, but after some ten passes Wei Yan fled. Zhang He rode after Wei Yan along the road for ten miles and then stopped to observe. As he saw no ambush, he turned again and resumed the pursuit. All went well till he came to a slope, when there arose shouts and yells and another body of soldiers came out.
"Zhang He, do not run away!" cried this leader, who was Guan Xing.
Guan Xing galloped close, and Zhang He did not flee. They fought, and after half a score of passes Guan Xing seemed to have the worst of the encounter and fled. Zhang He followed. Presently they neared a dense wood. Zhang He was fearful of entering in, so he sent forward scouts to search the thickets. They could find no danger, and Zhang He again pursued.
But quite unexpectedly Wei Yan, who had formerly fled, got round ahead of Zhang He and now appeared again. The two fought a half score bouts and again Wei Yan ran. Zhang He followed, but Guan Xing also got round to the front by a side road and so stopped the pursuit of Zhang He. Zhang He attacked furiously as soon as he was checked, this time so successfully that the troops of Shu threw away their war-gear and ran. The road was thus littered with spoil, and the Wei soldiers could not resist the temptation to gather it. They slipped from their horses and began to collect the arms.
The maneuvers just described continued, Wei Yan and Guan Xing one after the other engaging Zhang He, and Zhang He pressing on after each one, but achieving nothing. And as evening fell the running fight had led both sides close to the Wooden Path.
Then suddenly Wei Yan made a real stand, and he rode to the front, yelling, "Rebel! I have despised fighting you, but you have kept pursuing me. Now we will fight to the death!"
Zhang He was furious and nothing loath, so he came on with his spear to meet Wei Yan, who was flourishing his sword. They met; yet again, after some ten bouts, Wei Yan threw aside weapons, armor, helmet and all his gear, and led his defeated company sway along the Wooden Path.
Zhang He was filled with the lust to kill, and he could not let Wei Yan escape. So he set out after Wei Yan, although it was already dark. But suddenly lights appeared, and the sky became aglow, and at the same time huge boulders and great bulks of timber came rolling down the slopes and blocked the way.
Fear gripped Zhang He, and he cried, "I have blundered into an ambush!"
The road was blocked in front and behind and bordered by craggy precipices. Then, rat-tat-tat! came the sound of a rattle, and therewith flew clouds of arrows and showers of bolts. Zhang He, his more than one hundred generals, and his whole pursuing army perished in the Wooden Path.
The road was littered with brave soldiers killed;
The force to Saber Pass faring perished here;
The tale of valor grows from year to year.
Soon the second army of Wei under Wei Ping came up, but too late to help. From the signs they knew that their comrades had been victims of a cruel trick, and they turned back.
But as they faced about, a shout was heard, and from the hilltops came, "I, Zhuge Liang, am here!"
Looking up they saw his figure silhouetted against a fire.
Pointing to the slain, Zhuge Liang cried, "I have gone hunting in this wood. Only instead of slaying a horse, I have killed a deer. But you may go in peace, and when you see your Commander, tell him that he will be my quarry one day!"
The soldiers told this to Sima Yi when they returned.
Sima Yi was deeply mortified, saying, "Letting friend Zhang He die is my fault!"
And when he returned to Luoyang, the Ruler of Wei wept at the death of his brave leader and had his body searched and honorably buried.
Zhuge Liang had no sooner reached Hanzhong than he prepared to go on to Capital Chengdu and see his lord.
But Li Yan, who was in the capital, said to the Latter Ruler, "Why does the Prime Minister return, for I have kept him fully supplied with all things needed for the army?"
Then the Latter Ruler sent Fei Yi into Hanzhong to inquire why the army had retired.
When Fei Yi had arrived and showed the cause of his coming, Zhuge Liang was greatly surprised.
Zhuge Liang showed the letter from Li Yan, saying, "Li Yan wrote to warn that East Wu was about to invade the country."
Fei Yi said, "Li Yan memorialized to the Throne, saying he had sent you supplies and knew not why Your Excellency returned."
So Zhuge Liang inquired carefully, and then it came out that Li Yan had failed to find sufficient grain to keep the army supplied, and so had sent the first lying letter to the army that it might retire before the shortage showed itself. His memorial to the Throne was designed to cover the former fault.
"The fool has ruined the great design of the state just to save his own skin!" cried Zhuge Liang bitterly.
He summoned the offender and sentenced him to death.
But Fei Yi interceded, saying, "O Prime Minister, the First Ruler had loved and trusted Li Yan with his son. Please forgive him this time."
And so Li Yan's life was spared.
However, when Fei Yi made his report in Chengdu, the Latter Ruler was wroth and ordered Li Yan to suffer death.
But this time Jiang Wan intervened, saying, "Your late father named Li Yan as one of the guardians of your youth."
And the Latter Ruler relented. However, Li Yan was stripped of all ranks and relegated to Zitong.
Zhuge Liang went to Chengdu and appointed Li Teng, Li Yan's son, as High Counselor.
Preparations then began for another expedition. Plans were discussed, provisions were accumulated, weapons put in order, and officers and soldiers kept fit and trained. By his kindness to the people, Zhuge Liang waited for three years before beginning marching, and in the two River Lands people's hearts filled with joys.
And the time passed quickly.
In the second month of the twelfth year (AD 234), Zhuge Liang presented a memorial, saying, "I have been training the army for three years. Supplies are ample, and all is in order for an expedition. We may now attack Wei. If I cannot destroy these rebels, sweep away the evil hordes, and bring about a glorious entry into the capital, then may I never again enter Your Majesty's presence."
The Latter Ruler replied, "The empire has settled on a tripod, and Wu and Wei trouble us not at all. Why not enjoy the present tranquillity, O Father Minister?"
"Because of the mission left me by your father. I am ever scheming to destroy Wei, even in my dreams. I must strive my best and do my utmost to regain you the Middle Land and restore the glory of the Hans."
As Zhuge Liang said this, a voice cried, "An army may not go forth, O Prime Minister!"
Qiao Zhou had raised a last protest.
Himself he would not spare;
But Qiao Zhou had watched the starry sky,
And read misfortune there.
The next chapter will give the arguments against fighting.