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Romance of the Three Kingdoms/chapter 111

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Chapter 111

Deng Ai Outwits Jiang Wei;
Zhuge Dan Battles Sima Zhao.

Jiang Wei camped at Zhongti. The army of Wei camped outside Didao. Wang Jing welcomed Chen Tai and Deng Ai and prepared a banquet to celebrate the raising of the siege and also rewarded the army with gifts. Then Chen Tai sent up a memorial to the Ruler of Wei, Cao Mao, eulogizing the magnificent services of Deng Ai, who was rewarded with the title General Who Pacifies the West. For the time, Deng Ai was left in the west. He and Chen Tai placed their men in cantonments in Yongzhou, Liangzhou, and the counties round about.

After Deng Ai had rendered his thanks to the Emperor, Chen Tai spread a great feast in his honor, and in congratulating his guest, said, "Jiang Wei slipped off in the night because he was broken, and he will never dare to return."

"I think he will," replied Deng Ai, smiling. "I can give five reasons why he should."

"What are they?"

"First, although the soldiers of Shu have retired, they have the self-possessed and confident look of holding the victory; our soldiers are really weak and broken. Second, the soldiers of Shu were trained and inspirited by Zhuge Liang and are easy to mobilize; our generals are all of different periods of service, and our army indifferently trained. Third, the Shu soldiers often use boats for traveling, and so they move at leisure and the troops arrive fresh; ours do all their journeys on land, and they arrive fatigued with marching. Fourth, again, Didao, Longxi, Nanan, and Qishan are all places suitable for defense or use as battle fields, and thus the army of Shu can conceal their intentions and strike where they will; we have to remain on guard at many points, thus dividing our forces; when they concentrate, they have only to reckon with a part of our force. And fifth, if they come out by way of Longxi and Nanan, they have the grain of the Qiangs to depend upon; and if they choose Qishan, they have the wheat there. These are the five reasons why they should make another expedition."

Chen Tai was overcome with the clear vision of his new colleague.

"Sir, your foresight is godlike. I think we need feel no anxiety about what the enemy can achieve."

The two leaders became the best of friends in spite of the difference of age. Deng Ai spent his time in training the army, and garrisons were placed at all points where surprise attacks seemed possible.

There was feasting also at Zhongti, and the occasion was taken to discuss a new attack on Wei.

But Assistant Fan Jian opposed. "General, your expeditions have partly failed many times; you have never scored a complete victory. But now on River Yao the army of Wei recognize your superiority, and why should you try again? There is small chance of success, and you risk all you have gained."

Jiang Wei replied, "You all regard only the largeness and population of Wei and the time necessary for conquest, but you do not see five reasons for victory."

The assembly asked what these were.

"First, the fighting spirit of the soldiers of Wei has been badly broken on River Yao, while that of our soldiers, although we retired, is unimpaired. If we attack, we shall certainly succeed. Second, our soldiers can travel in boats and so will not be wearied with marching; their soldiers have to march to meet us. Third, our soldiers are thoroughly trained; theirs are recruits, a mere flock of crows, quite undisciplined. Fourth, when we go out by Qishan, we can seize upon the autumn wheat for food. Finally, they are scattered, having to defend various points, while we can concentrate on any point we wish, and they will find it difficult to bring up reinforcements. If we miss this chance, can we hope for a better?"

Xiahou Ba said, "Deng Ai is young, but he is deep and crafty. He has certainly taken great pains to secure the regions under his charge as General Who Pacifies the West. Victory will not be so easy as it was before."

"Why should I fear him?" cried Jiang Wei, angrily. "You should not laud the spirit of the enemy and belittle that of our own soldiers. But in any case I have made up my mind and shall take West Valley Land."

No one dared to offer any further opposition. Jiang Wei himself led the first army; the others followed in due order; and thus the soldiers of Shu marched out of Zhongti to Qishan.

Before they could reach Qishan, the scouts reported the hills already occupied by the armies of Wei. Jiang Wei rode forward to verify this, and, surely enough, he saw the Wei camps, nine in number, stretching over the hills like a huge serpent, and all arranged to give each other support.

"Xiahou Ba spoke only too well," said he. "The plan of those camps is excellent and only our Zhuge Liang could have laid them out with equal skill."

Returning to his own army, he said to his officers, "They must have known of my coming, and I think Deng Ai is here too. Now from this as base you are to send out daily small reconnoitering parties showing my banner, but different flags and uniforms, blue, yellow, red, white, and black, in turns. While you are thus distracting attention, I will lead the main army by Dongting to attack Nanan."

Bao Su was sent to camp at the mouth of the Qishan Mountains Valley while the main army marched.

As soon as Deng Ai had heard that the enemy would come out at Qishan, he had camped there with his colleague Chen Tai. But when days had passed without anyone coming to fling a challenge, he sent out spies to find out where the Shu army was lurking. They could find nothing, and so Deng Ai went to the summit of a hill to look around.

He came to the conclusion, saying, "Jiang Wei must not be in this camp. He must be on his way to capture Nanan. Those soldiers in the Shu camp were nothing but a feint, accentuated by the daily change of uniform. Going to and fro for days, the horses look tired, and their leaders are certainly none of the ablest. Therefore, General, I advise an attack here. If that succeeds, the Dongting road can be occupied, and Jiang Wei will be unable to retreat. I think I ought to try to relieve Nanan. I will go by the Wucheng Mountain, and if I occupy that, the enemy will try to take Shanggui. Near that place is a narrow and precipitous valley called Block Valley, just the place for an ambush, where I shall lie in wait till Jiang Wei comes to take the Wucheng Mountain."

Chen Tai replied, "I have been here over twenty years and have never known so much of the military possibilities of the place. You are very wonderful and must carry out your plan."

So Deng Ai marched toward Nanan by double marches. Soon they came to the Wucheng Mountain, where they camped without opposition. He sent his son Deng Zhong and Shi Zuan, each leading five thousand troops, to lie in wait in the Block Valley and not to betray their presence.

In the meantime Jiang Wei was marching between Dongting and Nanan.

Near the Wucheng Mountain, he turned to Xiahou Ba and said, "That hill is our point, and Nanan is close. I fear lest the artful Deng Ai may seize and fortify it."

They hastened, anxious to reach the hill before the enemy. But it was not to be. Presently they heard the roar of bombs and the beating of drums, and then flags and banners appeared, all of Wei. And among them fluttered the leader's standard, bearing two words Deng Ai.

This was a sad disappointment. The army of Shu halted, and veteran soldiers of Wei came rushing down from various points on the hill, too many for the troops of Shu to drive back. So the advance guard was defeated. Jiang Wei went to their help with his central body, but when he got near, the soldiers of Wei had retreated up to the hill.

Jiang Wei went on to the foot of the hill and challenged, but no one came out to accept. The soldiers of Shu began to shout abuse, and kept it up till late in the day, but they failed to provoke a fight. As the army of Shu began to retire, the Wei drums beat furiously, yet no one appeared. Jiang Wei turned about to ascend the hill, but its defenders prevented that by stones thrown from above. He hung on till the third watch, when he tried again. But he failed. Thereupon he went down the hill and halted, bidding his soldiers build a barricade of wood and boulders. The troops of Wei came on again, and the Shu troops scrambled to run to the old camp.

Next day Jiang Wei brought up many transport wagons and placed them on the slope as the nucleus of a camp. But in the night a number of Wei troops came down with torches and set fire to them. A fight ensued, which lasted till dawn.

Seeing that a camp could not be made there, Jiang Wei retired to consider new plans with Xiahou Ba.

"Since we cannot take Nanan, our next best plan is to try for Shanggui, which is the storehouse of Nanan."

Leaving Xiahou Ba on the hill, Jiang Wei led a force of veteran soldiers and bold officers along the road toward Shanggui. They marched all night, and dawn found them in a deep valley, which the guides said was Block Valley.

"That sounds too much like 'Cut-off Valley'," said Jiang Wei. "And if a force held the mouth, we should be in sorry straits."

While hesitating whether to advance farther or not, the leading troops came back to say: "We have seen a cloud of dust beyond the hills, which seems to indicate a body of soldiers in hiding."

So the order was given to retire. At that moment the armies under Shi Zuan and Deng Zhong came out and attacked. Jiang Wei, alternately fighting and retreating, tried to get away. Then Deng Ai himself appeared, and the Shu army had enemies on three sides. They were in grave danger, but Xiahou Ba came to their rescue, and so Jiang Wei escaped.

Jiang Wei proposed to return to Qishan, but Xiahou Ba said, "We cannot go thither, for Chen Tai has destroyed the force under Bao Su, and he himself was killed. All that was left of that army has gone back into Hanzhong."

It was no longer a question of taking the Dongting road. Jiang Wei sought out by-roads to march along. Deng Ai came in pursuit, and as he pressed hard on the rear, Jiang Wei sent the others on ahead while he covered the retreat.

Soon Chen Tai came out from the hills, and Jiang Wei was surrounded by a shouting body of the enemy. He fought all directions, but could not clear the way. He and his horse were very weary when Zhang Ni, who had heard of his straits, came to his rescue with a body of cavalry. Zhang Ni cut his way in, and Jiang Wei immediately broke the siege and got out. Zhang Ni saved his general, but lost his own life in the melee. Finally Jiang Wei got back into Hanzhong.

From Hanzhong the death of Zhang Ni in battle was reported to the Latter Ruler, who bestowed suitable honors upon his family.

The Shu people blamed Jiang Wei for the serious loss of life of their relatives in the military operations that had just failed, and Jiang Wei, following the precedent in Jieting of the late Lord of Wuxiang, asked that he himself should be degraded in rank, retaining, however, the command. He was put back to General of the Rear Army.

The country being now cleared of the enemy, Chen Tai and Deng Ai prepared a banquet in honor of victory and gave rewards to the soldiers who had fought. Chen Tai sent a memorial to the capital upon the services of Deng Ai, and a special commission of Sima Zhao brought Deng Ai higher rank; the title of lordship was given to his son, Deng Zhong.

At this time the style of the reign in Wei was changed from Right Origin, the third year, to Gentle Dew Era, the first year (AD 256). Sima Zhao commanded all the military forces and made himself Empire Commander-in-Chief. He assumed great pomp, and whenever he moved outside his palace, he was escorted by three thousand mail-clad guards, beside squadrons of cavalry. All power lay in his hands, and he decided all questions so that the court was rather in his palace than in that of the Emperor.

Plans for taking the final step constantly occupied his thoughts. The question of mounting the throne was openly mooted by Jia Chong, a confidant, who was a son of Commander Jia Kui. Jia Chong was holding the High Counselor office in the Prime Minister's palace.

Jia Chong said, "Sir, all real authority is in your hands, and the country is not tranquil. The only remedy is for you to become actual ruler, and you should find out who are your supporters."

Sima Zhao replied, "This has been in my thoughts a long time. You might be my emissary to the east to find out the feeling there. You can pretend you go to thank the soldiers who took part in the late campaign. That would be a good pretext."

Accordingly Jia Chong traveled into the South of River Huai, where he saw Zhuge Dan, General Who Guards the East. This officer was from Nanyang and a cousin of the late Lord of Wuxiang, Zhuge Liang. Zhuge Dan had gone to Wei for employment, but had received no significant office while Zhuge Liang was the Prime minister of Shu. After Zhuge Liang's death, Zhuge Dan's promotion was rapid. He was now Lord of Gaoping and Commander of the south and east of River Huai.
Zhuge Dan - Qing ZQ-SGYY

Zhuge Dan

Jia Chong went to Zhuge Dan to ask him to convey to the army the appreciation of the soldiers' services. Jia Chong was received courteously, and at a banquet, when host and guest were both mellow with wine, Jia Chong set himself to discover Zhuge Dan's feelings.

Jia Chong said, "Lately in Luoyang there has been much talk of the weakness and lack of ability of the Emperor and his unfitness to rule. Now General Sima Zhao comes of a family noted for state service for three generations. His own services and virtues are high as the heavens, and he is the man best fitted to take the rulership of Wei. Is this not your opinion?"

But Zhuge Dan did not favor the suggestion. On the contrary, he broke out angrily, "You are a son of Jia Kui of Yuzhou, and your family have received the bounty of Wei. Yet you dare speak of rebellion!"

Jia Chong said, "I only repeat what people have said."

Zhuge Dan said, "If the state is in difficulty, then one ought to stand up for it even to the death!"

Jia Chong said no more. He soon returned and told Sima Zhao what had been said.

"The rat!" cried Sima Zhao, angrily.

"Zhuge Dan is exceedingly popular there in the South of River Huai; and if he is left too long, he will do harm." Sima Zhao began to take measures. He wrote privately to Yue Chen, Imperial Protector of Yangzhou, and sent a messenger to Zhuge Dan with an edict making him Minister of Works. This meant that Zhuge Dan had to come to the capital.

But Zhuge Dan knew that Jia Chong had done him mischief, and he interrogated the messenger, who told him that Yue Chen knew all about the matter.

"How does he know?"

"General Sima Zhao sent him a private letter."

The messenger was condemned to death. Then Zhuge Dan placed himself at the head of his personal guard and marched to Yangzhou. The city gates were closed and the drawbridge raised. He summoned the gate, but no one answered. "How dare this fellow Yue Chen treat me thus?" cried Zhuge Dan.

He ordered his troops to force the gate. Ten of his bold generals dismounted, crossed the moat, and climbed the ramparts, where they slew all who opposed them and opened the gate. The others entered, set fire to the houses, and began to fight their way toward the state residence.

The Imperial Protector sought refuge in a tower, but Zhuge Dan made his way up and reproached his enemy, crying, "Your father, Yue Jin, enjoyed the bounty of Wei. Yet you have not sought to repay the kindness of the Ruling House, but you want to help the rebel Sima Zhao!"

Before Yue Chen was able to answer, Zhuge Dan slew him. Then he sent to Luoyang a memorial detailing Sima Yi's many faults, and made preparations for war. He called up all the militia of the south and east of River Huai, to the total of one hundred thousand, and took over the forty thousand troops who had surrendered on the fall of Yue Chen and gathered supplies. He also sent Adviser Wu Gang to Wu for aid, offering his son Zhuge Jing as a hostage for his good faith.

At this time Sun Ju[1] had died and his brother, Sun Chen, was Prime Minister. Sun Chen was a man of cruel and violent temper and had put many officers to death on his way to power---among them were Grand Commander Teng Yin, General Lü Ju, and Minister Wang Dun.[2] The Ruler of Wu, Sun Liang, although intelligent, was helpless in his hands. The messenger, Wu Gang, conducted Zhuge Jing to the residence of Sun Chen in Shidou, who asked what he had come for. Wu Gang explained, "Zhuge Dan is a cousin of the Lord of Wuxiang in Shu. Zhuge Dan had been in service of Wei; and seeing Sima Zhao depose the his prince and oppress good people, he wants to punish the tyrant. But his force is not enough, and he asks for your help. To show his sincerity, he sends his son Zhuge Jing as a token of good faith." Wu Gang's request was received favorably, and Sun Chen sent seventy thousand troops with a full complement of officers---Quan Yi and Quan Duan as Commanders, Yu Quan as Rear Guard, Tang Zi and Zhu Yi as Leaders of the Van, Wen Qin as Military Guide. They marched in three directions to attack Wei.

Wu Gang returned to Shouchun report success. Zhuge Dan thought all was going well and prepared the army for a general attack.

In Luoyang, Zhuge Dan's memorial angered Sima Zhao, who wished to set out to revenge the attack at once, but Jia Chong preached caution.

"My lord, you derived your power from your father and brother, and people have not had time to discover your own virtue. If you leave the court and there be a revulsion of feeling against you, you will lose all. Rather request the Empress Dowager and the Son of Heaven to go with you in the expedition, and nothing is to be feared," said Jia Chong.

"That is an excellent plan."

Sima Zhao went into the Palace and proposed it to Her Majesty, saying, "Zhuge Dan is in revolt, and my colleagues and I intend to punish him. I beg that you will accompany the expedition as the late Emperor would have done." The Empress was afraid, but dared not refuse, and the next day was requested to set out with the Ruler of Wei, Cao Mao.

Cao Mao said, "General, you command all the armies and dispose them as you will. Why do you ask me to go?" Sima Zhao replied, "Your Majesty is wrong to hesitate. Your ancestors traveled over the empire and wished to unite the whole under one ruler. Wherever there was a worthy opponent, they went to face him. Your Majesty should follow their example and sweep the land clean. Why fear?"

Cao Mao, fearing his minister's terrible power, consented, and an edict was issued for the commands to mobilize two hundred sixty thousand troops of two capitals. Wang Ji, General Who Corrects the South, was in command of the van, and Chen Qian, General Who Pacifies the East, was second in command of the van. Shi Bao, Army Inspector, and Zhou Tai,[3] Imperial Protector of Yangzhou, led the Imperial Escort. The army moved into the South of River Huai like a great flood.

Zhu Yi, the Leader of the Van of Wu, encountered them, and both sides drew up for battle. Zhu Yi rode out and took the challenge, but was overcome by Wang Ji in the third bout and he fled. Tang Zi also rode out, but was also beaten in the third encounter by Wang Ji. Then Wang Ji ordered a full attack. The troops of Wu were broken and retired fifteen miles and camped. Thence they sent tidings of their ill-success to Shouchun.

Zhuge Dan in Shouchun led out his bold and strong soldiers to join forces with Wen Qin and his two sons, Wen Yang and Wen Hu. Then they set out against Sima Zhao.

Now here is a check to the armies of Wu,
And Wei's gallant men advance.

The next chapter will tell how went victory.

NotesEdit

  1. GJCM notes: this man is called Sun Jun in a Brewitt-Taylor translation.
  2. GJCM notes: this man is called Wang Chun in the original Brewitt-Taylor translation.
  3. GJCM notes: this man is called Zhou Cai in the original Brewitt-Taylor translation, to avoid confusion with the better known Zhou Tai 周泰 of Wu.

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