Cao Cao understood and at once prepared his army to move. Just at this moment
an imperial messenger was announced with the very command Cao Cao wanted, and Cao Cao immediately set out.
At Luoyang everything was desolate. the walls had fallen, and there were no means of rebuilding them, while rumors and reports of the coming of Li Jue and Guo Si kept up a state of constant anxiety.
the frightened Emperor spoke with Yang Feng, saying, “What can be done？ There is no answer from the East of Huashang, and our enemies are near.”
then Yang Feng and Han Xian said, “We, your ministers, will fight to the death for you.”
But Dong Cheng said, “the fortifications are weak and our military resources small, so that we cannot hope for victory, and what does defeat mean？ I see nothing better to propose than a move into the east of Huashang Mountains.”
the Emperor aGREed to this, and the journey began without further preparation. There being few horses, the officers of the court had to march afoot. Hardly a bowshot outside the gate they saw a thick cloud of dust out of which came all the clash and clamor of an advancing army. The Emperor and his Consort were dumb with fear. Then appeared a horseman； he was the messenger returning from the East of Huashang Mountains.
He rode up to the chariot, made an obeisance, and said, “General Cao Cao, as commanded, is coming with all the military force of the East of Huashang； but hearing that Li Jue and Guo Si had again approached the capital, he has sent Xiahou Dun in advance. With Xiahou Dun are many capable leaders and fifty thousand of proved soldiers. They will guard Your Majesty.”
All fear was swept away. Soon after Xiahou Dun and his staff arrived. Xiahou Dun, Xu Chu,
“He fears an ambush in the wood,” said Cao Cao. “We will set up flags there and deceive him. There is a long embankment near the camp but behind it there is no water. There we will lay an ambush to fall upon Lu Bu when he comes to burn the wood.”
So Cao Cao hid all his soldiers behind the embankment except half a hundred drummers, and he got together many peasants to loiter within the stockade as though it was not empty.
Lu Bu rode back and told Chen Gong what he had seen.
“This Cao Cao is very crafty and full of wiles,” said the adviser. “Do not act.”
“I will use fire this time and burn out his ambush,” said Lu Bu.
Next morning Lu Bu rode out, and there he saw flags flying everywhere in the wood. He ordered his troops forward to set fire on all sides. But to his surprise no one rushed out to make for the stockade. Still he heard the beating of drums and doubt filled his mind. Suddenly he saw a party of soldiers move out from the shelter of the stockade. He galloped over to see what it meant.
then the signal-bombs exploded； out rushed the troops and all their leaders dashed forward. Xiahou Dun, Xiahou Yuan, Xu Chu, Dian Wei, Li Dian, and Yue Jing all attacked at once. Lu Bu was at a loss and fled into the open country. One of his generals, Cheng Lian, was killed by an arrow of Yue Jing. Two thirds of his troops were lost, and the beaten remainder went to tell Chen Gong what had come to pass.
“We had better leave,” said Chen Gong. “An empty city cannot be held.”
So Chen Gong and Gao Shun, taking their chief’s family with them,
When Cao Cao’s soldiers got into the city,
they met with no resistance.
Zhang Chao committed suicide by burning himself. Zhang Miao fled to Yuan Shu.
Thus the whole northeast fell under the power of Cao Cao. He immediately tranquilized the people and rebuilt the cities and their defenses.
Lu Bu in his retreat fell in with his generals, and Chen Gong also rejoined him, so that he was by no means broken.
Kong Rong shouted back, “I am a servant of the GREat Hans, entrusted with the safety of their land. Think you I will feed rebels ？”
Guan Hai whipped his steed, whirled his sword around his head and rode forward. Zong Bao, one of Kong Rong’s generals, set his spear and rode out to give battle, but after a very few bouts Zong Bao was cut down. Soon the soldiers fell into panic and rushed pell-mell into the city for protection. The rebels then laid siege to the city on all sides. Kong Rong was very down-hearted； and Mi Zhu, who now saw no hope for the success of his mission, was grieved beyond words.
the sight from the city wall was exceeding sad, for the rebels were there in enormous numbers. One day standing on the wall, Kong Rong saw afar a man armed with a spear riding hard in among the Yellow Scarves and scattering them before him like chaff before the wind.
Before long the man had reached the foot of the wall and called out, “Open the gate！”
But the defenders would not open to an unknown man, and in the delay a crowd of rebels gathered round the rider along the edge of the moat. Suddenly wheeling about, the warrior dashed in among them and bowled over a dozen at which the others fell back. At this Kong Rong ordered the wardens to open the gates and let the stranger enter. As soon as he was inside, he dismounted, laid aside his spear, ascended the wall, and made humble obeisance to the Governor.
“My name is Taishi Ci, and I am from the county of Laihuang. I only returned home yesterday from the north to see my mother, and then I heard that your city was in danger from a rebel attack. My mother said you had been very kind to her and told me I should try to help. So I set out all alone, and here I am.”
This was cheering. Kong Rong already knew Taishi Ci by reputation as a valiant fighting man, although they two had never met. The son being far away from his home, Kong Rong had taken his mother, who dwelt a few miles from the city, under his especial protection and saw that she did not suffer from want. This had won the old lady’s heart and she had sent her son to show her gratitude.
He called together his officials to consult.
One of them, Cao Bao, said, “Now the enemy is upon us： We cannot sit and await death with folded hands. I for one will help you to make a fight.”
Tao Qian reluctantly sent the army out. From a distance he saw Cao Cao’s army spread abroad like frost and rushed far and wide like snow. In their midst was a large white flag and on both sides was written Vengeance.
When he had ranged his troops, Cao Cao rode out dressed in mourning white and abused Tao Qian.
But Tao Qian advanced, and from beneath his ensign he bowed low and said, “I wished to make friends with you, Illustrious Sir, and so I sent Zhang Kai to escort your family. I knew not that his rebel heart was still unchanged. the fault does not lie at my door as you must see.”
“You old wretch！ You killed my father, and now you dare mumble this nonsense,” said Cao Cao.
And he asked who would go out and seize Tao Qian.
Xiahou Dun undertook this service and rode out. Tao Qian fled to the inner portion of his array； and as Xiahou Dun came on, Cao Bao went to meet him. But just as the two horses met, a hurricane burst over the spot, and the flying dust and pebbles threw both sides into the utmost confusion. Both drew off.
Tao Qian retired into the city and called his officers to council.
“the force against us is too strong,” said he. “I will give myself up as a prisoner and let him wreak his vengeance on me. I may save the people.”
But a voice was heard saying, “You have long ruled here, and the people love you. Strong as the enemy are, they are not necessarily able to break down our walls, especially when defended by you and your people. I have a scheme to suggest that I think will make Cao Cao die in a place where he will not find burial.”
these bold words startled the assembly, and they eagerly asked what the scheme was.
[hip, hip, hip] Making overtures for friendship,
At this time Chen Gong was in office in Dongjun, and he was also on friendly terms with Tao Qian. Hearing of Cao Cao’s design to destroy the whole population, Chen Gong came in haste to see his former companion*. Cao Cao, knowing Chen Gong’s errand, put him off at first and would not see him. But then Cao Cao could not forget the kindness he had formerly received from Chen Gong, and presently the visitor was called to his tent.
Chen Gong said, “they say you go to avenge your father’s death on Xuzhou, to destroy its people. I have come to say a word. Imperial Protector Tao Qian is humane and a good man. He is not looking out for his own advantage, careless of the means and of others. Your worthy father met his unhappy death at the hands of Zhang Kai. Tao Qian is guiltless. Still more innocent are the people, and to slay them would be an evil. I pray you think over it.”
Cao Cao retorted angrily, “You once abandoned me and now you have the impudence to come to see me！ Tao Qian slew my whole family, and I will tear his heart out in revenge. I swear it！ You may speak for your friend and say what you will. I shall be as if I heard not.”
Intercession had failed. Chen Gong sighed and took his leave.
He said, “Alas！ I cannot go to Tao Qian and look upon his face.”
So Chen Gong rode off to the county of Chenliu to give service to Governor Zhang Miao.
Cao Cao’s army of revenge laid waste whatever place it passed through, slaying the people and desecrating their cemeteries.
Remonstrance and appeal being vain, Ma Midi retired. But he said to his colleagues, “Is Wang Yun then careless of the future？ Worthy people are the mainstay of the state； laws are the canons of action. To destroy the mainstay and nullify the laws is to hasten destruction.”
As was just said Wang Yun was obdurate. Cai Yong whose offense was an expression of gratitude was thrown into prison and there strangled. The people of that day wept for Cai Yong, for they refused to see any offense in what he had done, and death was a harsh punishment.
[hip, hip, hip] Dong Zhuo, the dictator, Tyrannized the state, Fell and his sole mourner Shared his direful fate. Zhuge Liang in seclusion Was content to dream, Felt his worth and never Helped a traitor’s scheme. [yip, yip, yip]
Those generals——Li Jue, Guo Si, Fan Chou, and Zhang Ji——whom Dong Zhuo had left to guard Meiwo fled when their master was slain and went into the county of Shanxi in Liangzhou Region. Thence they sent in a memorial entreating amnesty. But Wang Yun would not hear of it.
“Four of them were the chief instruments of Dong Zhuo’s agGREssions. Now though a general amnesty were proclaimed, these men should be excluded from its benefit,” said Wang Yun.
the messenger returned and told the four there was no hope of pardon and they could only flee.
then their adviser, Jia Xu, said, “If we throw away our arms and flee singly, then we shall fall easy victims to any village beadle who may seize us. Rather let us cajole the Shanxi people to throw in their lot with us and make a sudden onslaught on the capital and so avenge Dong Zhuo. If we succeed, we control the court and the empire. There will be enough time to run away if we fail.”
the plan was adopted, and they spread abroad the story that Wang Yun intended to massacre the county.
Having thus thrown the people into a state of terror, they went a step farther and said, “There is no advantage in dying for nothing. Revolt and join us！”
So they cajoled the people into joining them and gathered a host equal to one hundred thousand. This horde was divided into four parts, and they all set out to raid Capital Changan. On the way they fell in with a son-in-law of their late chief,
Wang Yun took into his confidence two colleagues, Minister Shisun Rui and Imperial Commander Huang Wan.
Shisun Rui said, “the moment is favorable. The Emperor has just recovered from his illness, and we can dispatch an able talker to Meiwo to persuade Dong Zhuo to come here to discuss affairs. Meanwhile we will obtain a secret decree as authority for Lu Bu to lay an ambush just inside the Palace gates to kill Dong Zhuo as he enters. This is the best plan to adopt.”
“But who would dare to go？” said Huang Wan.
“Li Su, General of the Imperial Tiger Army, would go. He belongs to the same region as Lu Bu and is very angry with the Prime Minister for not advancing him. His going would assure us the plan would be completed.”
“Good,” said Wang Yun. “Let us see what Lu Bu thinks of it.”
When Lu Bu was consulted, he told them that this Li Su’s persuasion had led him to kill Ding Yuan, his former benefactor.
“If Li Su refuses this mission, I will kill him,” said Lu Bu.
So they sent for Li Su.
When Li Su arrived, Lu Bu said, “Formerly you talked me into killing Ding Yuan and going over to Dong Zhuo. Now we find Dong Zhuo means evil for the Emperor and is an oppressor of the people. His iniquities are many, and he is hated by gods and humans. You go to Meiwo, say you have a command from the Emperor to summon the Prime Minister to the Palace. He will come, and he will be put to death. You will have the credit of being loyal and restoring the Hans. Will you undertake this？”
“I also wish to slay him,” was the reply. “But I could not find anyone to assist me. How can I hesitate？ Your intervention is directly from Heaven.”
And Li Su snapped an arrow in twain as register of his oath.
“If this succeeds, what glorious rank will be yours！” said Wang Yun.
Next day Li Su, with a small escort, set out for Meiwo and announced himself as bearer of a decree. He was conducted into Dong Zhuo’s presence. After he had made his obeisance, Dong Zhuo asked what the decree was.
“His Majesty has recovered and wishes his ministers to meet him in the Palace to consider the question of his abdication in your favor. That is what this summons means.”
“What does Wang Yun think of the scheme？”
“Wang Yun has already begun the construction of the Terrace of Abdication and only awaits my lord’s arrival.”
A wave of fierce wrath rolled up in Lu Bu. Banging the table he shouted and roared.
His host ostentatiously tried to calm him, saying, “I forgot myself. I should not have spoken like that. Do not be so angry, I pray！”
“I will kill the wretch, I swear it！ In no other way can I wash away my shame.”
“No, no！ Do not say such a thing,” said Wang Yun, putting his hand over the other’s mouth. “You will bring trouble on poor me and my family.”
“When one is born GREat, one cannot be patient for long under another person’s domination,” said Lu Bu.
“It needs someone GREater than the Prime Minister to limit the scope of such talents as yours.”
Lu Bu said, “I would not mind killing the old wretch were it not for the relation in which we stand. I fear to provoke the hostile criticism of posterity.”
Wang Yun shook his head, saying, “Your name is Lu Bu； his is Dong Zhuo. Where was the paternal feeling when he threw the halberd at you？”
“I had been misled if you had not said that,” said Lu Bu hotly.
Wang Yun saw the effect of his words and continued, “It would be a loyal deed to restore the House of Han, and history would hand down your name to posterity perpetually fragrant. If you lend your aid to Dong Zhuo, you will be a traitor and your name will be tainted through all ages.”
Lu Bu rose from his place and bowed to Wang Yun.
“I have decided,” said he. “You need not fear, Sir.”
“But yet you may fail and bring upon yourself misfortune,” said Wang Yun.
Lu Bu drew his dagger, pricking his arm, and swearing by the blood that flowed.
Wang Yun fell on his knees and thanked him.
Lu Bu said, “I am but a simple officer in the palace of a minister. You are an exalted officer of state. Why am I treated thus？”
“Because in the whole land there is no hero your equal. Poor Wang Yun bows not to an officer’s rank； poor Wang Yun bows to his ability ”
This gratified Lu Bu mightily, and his host continued to praise and flatter and ply him with wine and to talk of the virtues of the Prime Minister and his henchman.
Lu Bu laughed and drank huge goblets.
Presently most of the attendants were sent away, only a few kept to press the guest to drink.
When the guest was very mellow, Wang Yun suddenly said, “Let her come in！”
Soon appeared two attendants, dressed in white, leading between them the exquisite and fascinating Diao Chan.
“Who is this？” said Lu Bu startled into sobriety.
“This is my little girl, Diao Chan. You will not be annoyed at my familiarity, will you？ But you have been so very friendly, I thought you would like to see her.”
Wang Yun bade Diao Chan present a goblet of wine, and her eyes met those of the warrior.
Wang Yun feigning intoxication said, “My little child begs you, General, to take a cup or two. We all depend upon you, all our house.”
Lu Bu begged Diao Chan to sit down. She pretended to wish to retire. Her master pressed her to remain, saying that she might do so since the guest was a dear friend. So she took a seat modestly near her master.
Lu Bu kept his gaze fixed upon the maid, while he swallowed cup after cup of wine.
“I should like to present her to you as a handmaid： Would you accept？” said Wang Yun.
the guest started up.
“If that is so, you may rely upon my abject gratitude,” said Lu Bu.
“We will choose a propitious day ere long and send her to the palace.”
then spoke the Governor of Henei, Wang Kuang, “We have been moved by a noble sense of right to assemble here. Now must we first choose a chief and bind ourselves to obedience.”
then said Cao Cao, “For four generations the highest offices of state have been filled by members of the Yuan family, and their clients and supporters are everywhere. As a descendant of ancient ministers of Han, Yuan Shao is a suitable man to be our chief lord.”
Yuan Shao again and again declined this honor. But they all said, “It must be he！ There is no other！”
And then he aGREed.
So the next day a three-story altar was built, and they planted about it the banners of all parties in five directions of space. And they set up white yaks’ tails and golden axes and emblems of military authority and the seals of leadership round about.
All being ready, the chief lord was invited to ascend the altar. Clad in ceremonial robes and girded with a sword, Yuan Shao reverently ascended. There he burned incense, made obeisance and recited the oath：
“the House of Han has fallen upon evil days, the bands of imperial authority are loosened. The rebel minister, Dong Zhuo, takes advantage of the discord to work evil, and calamity falls upon honorable families. Cruelty overwhelms simple folks. We, Yuan Shao and his confederates, fearing for the safety of the imperial prerogatives, have assembled military forces to rescue the state. We now pledge ourselves to exert our whole strength and act in concord to the utmost limit of our powers. There must be no disconcerted or selfish action. Should any depart from this pledge, may he lose his life and leave no posterity. Almighty Heaven and Universal Earth and the enlightened spirits of our forebears, be ye our witnesses！”
the reading finished, Yuan Shao smeared the blood of the sacrifice upon his lips and upon the lips of those who shared the pledge. All were deeply affected by the ceremony and many shed tears.
This done, the chief lord was supported down from the high place and led to his tent, where he took the highest place and the others arranged themselves according to rank and age. Here wine was served.
Presently Cao Cao said, “It behooves us all to obey the chief we have this day set up, and support the state. There must be no feeling of rivalry or superiority based upon numbers.”
Yuan Shao replied, “Unworthy as I am, yet as elected chief I must impartially reward merit and punish offenses. Let each see to it that he obeys the national laws and the army precepts. These must not be broken.”
“Only thy commands are to be obeyed！” cried all.
then Yuan Shao said, “My brother, Yuan Shu,
is appointed Chief of the Commissariat.