Yuan Shao was not satisfied. He wrote to Jingzhou Region and sent the letter by a trusty hand to tell Imperial Protector Liu Biao to stop Sun Jian and take away the seal.
Just after this came the news of the defeat and misfortune of Cao Cao, and when he was coming home, Yuan Shao sent out to welcome him and conduct him into camp. They also prepared a feast to console him.shlf
During the feast Cao Cao said sadly, “My object was for the public good, and all you gentlemen nobly supported me. My plan was to get Yuan Shao with his Henei troops to approach Mengching； and my force at Qiao to keep Chenggao； while the others of you to hold Suanzao, to close the passes of Huanyuan and Daigu, and to take possession of the granaries, to control the points of vantage, and thus to secure the Capital District. I planned for Yuan Shu with his Nanyang army to occupy the counties of Danshi and Xilin and go into Wu Pass to help the three supports. All were to fortify their positions and not to fight. Advantage lay in a diverse military coalition that could show the empire a possibility of dealing with the rebellion. We could have convinced the people to side with us against Dong Zhuo. Victory would have been ours at once. But then came delays and doubts and inaction, and the confidence of the people was lost, and I am ashamed.”
[e] Liu Dai was the Imperial Protector of Yanzhou at that time.
No reply was possible and the guests dispersed. Cao Cao saw that the others mistrusted him, and in his heart knew that nothing could be accomplished. So he led off his force to Yanzhou Region*.
then Gongsun Zan said to Liu Bei, “This Yuan Shao is an incapable, and things will turns chaotic. We had better go too.”
So he broke camp and went north. At Pingyuan he left Liu Bei in command and went to strengthen his own position and refresh his troops.
the Imperial Protector of Yanzhou, Liu Dai, wished to borrow grain of the Governor of Dongjun, Qiao Mao. Being denied, Liu Dai attacked the camp, killed Qiao Mao and took over all his army. Yuan Shao seeing the confederacy breaking up also marched away and went east.
On the way home, Sun Jian was passing through Jingzhou Region. The Imperial Protector of Jingzhou, Liu Biao, was a scion of the imperial house and a native of Shanyang. As a young man he had made friends with many famous people, and he and his companions were called the Eight Wise Ones. The other seven were：
Cao Cao said, “This moment was most propitious in the utter confusion that reigned——palaces burned, the Emperor abducted, the whole world upset, and no one knowing whither to turn. The villain will soon be ended, and a single blow could exterminate Dong Zhuo. Why not pursue？”
But all the confederate lords seemed of one mind, and that mind was to postpone action. So they did nothing.
“Those unworthy people cannot discuss worthy thing！” cried Cao Cao.
then, he and his six generals——Xiahou Dun, Xiahou Yuan, Cao Ren, Cao Hong, Li Dian, and Yue Jing——and ten thousand troops started in pursuit.
the road to the new capital led through Yingyang. When Dong Zhuo reached it, Governor Xu Rong went to welcome the cavalcade.
Li Ru said, “As there is some danger of pursuit, it would be well to order the Governor of this place to lay an ambush outside the city. He is to let the pursuers pass and be ready to cut off their retreat, when our army beats them off. That will teach any others not to follow.”
then Dong Zhuo ordered Lu Bu to command the rear guard. Very soon they saw Cao Cao coming up, and Lu Bu laughed at his colleague’s foresight. He set out his troops in fighting order.
Cao Cao rode forward, crying, “Rebels, abductors, drovers of the people, where are you going？”
Lu Bu replied, “Treacherous simpleton, what mad words are these？”
then from Cao Cao army rode forth Xiahou Dun with his spear set, and Lu Bu and Xiahou Dun engaged. The combat had hardly begun when Li Ru with a cohort came in from the left. Cao Cao bade Xiahou Yuan meet this onslaught. However, on the other side appeared Guo Si and his company. Cao Cao sent Cao Ren against Guo Si. The onrush on three sides was too much to withstand, and Lu Bu’s army was overwhelming, so Xiahou Dun had to retire to the main line.
the fighting then ceased, and after their return to camp another council met.
Cao Cao said, “No one can stand against the prowess of Lu Bu. Let us call up all the lords and evolve some good plan. If only Lu Bu were taken, Dong Zhuo could easily be killed.”
While the council was in proGREss again came Lu Bu to challenge them, and again the commanders moved out against him. This time Gongsun Zan, flourishing his spear, went to meet the enemy. After a very few bouts Gongsun Zan turned and fled； Lu Bu following at the topmost speed of Red Hare. Red Hare was a five-hundred-mile-a-day horse, swift as the wind. The lords watched Red Hare gained rapidly upon the flying horseman, and Lu Bu’s halberd was poised ready to strike Gongsun Zan just behind the heart. Just then dashed in a third rider with round glaring eyes and a bristling mustache, and armed with a ten-foot serpent halberd.
[e] Yan was a state in the Warring States period. Located in the northeast, and north of Qi. ……
“Stay, O twice bastard！” roared he, “I, Zhang Fei of Yan*, await you！”
Seeing this opponent, Lu Bu left the pursuit of Gongsun Zan and engaged the new adversary. Zhang Fei was elated, and he rode forth with all his energies. They two were worthily matched, and they exchanged half a hundred bouts with no advantage to either side. Then Guan Yu, impatient, rode out with his huge and weighty GREen-dragon saber and attacked Lu Bu on the other flank. The three steeds formed a triangle and their riders battered away at each other for thirty bouts, yet still Lu Bu stood firm.
then Liu Bei rode out to his brothers’ aid, his double swords raised ready to strike. The steed with the flowing mane was urged in at an angle, and now Lu Bu had to contend with three surrounding warriors at whom he struck one after another, and they at him, the FLASHing of the warriors’ weapons looking like the revolving lamps suspended at the new year. And the warriors of the eight armies gazed rapt with amazement at such a battle.
But Lu Bu’s guard began to weaken and fatigue seized him. Looking hard in the face of Liu Bei, Lu Bu feigned a fierce thrust thus making Liu Bei suddenly draw back. Then, lowering his halberd, Lu Bu dashed through the angle thus opened and got away.
But was it likely they would allow him to escape？
They whipped their steeds and followed hard. The soldiers
“If you hold a mere magistrate in such honor, then I simply withdraw,” said Yuan Shu.
“Is a word enough to defeat a grand enterprise？” said Cao Cao.
then he told Gongsun Zan to lead the three brothers back to their own camp, and the other chiefs then dispersed. That night Cao Cao secretly sent presents of meat and wine to soothe the three after this adventure.
When Hua Xiong’s troops straggled back and told the story of defeat and death, Li Ru was GREatly distressed. He wrote urgent letters to his master who called in his trusted advisers to a council.
Li Ru summed up the situation, saying, “We have lost our best leader, and the rebel power has thereby become very GREat. Yuan Shao is at the head of this confederacy, and his uncle, Yuan Wei, is holder of the office of Imperial Guardianship. If those in the capital combine with those in the country, we may suffer. Therefore we must remove them. So I request you, Sir Prime Minister, to place yourself at the head of your army and break this confederation.”
Dong Zhuo aGREed and at once ordered his two generals, Li Jue and Guo Si, to take five hundred troops and surround the residence of Imperial Guardian Yuan Wei, slay every soul regardless of age, and hang the head of Yuan Wei outside the gate as trophy. And Dong Zhuo commanded two hundred thousand troops to advance in two armies. The first fifty thousand were under Li Jue and Guo Si, and they were to hold River Si Pass. They should not necessarily fight. The other one hundred fifty thousand under Dong Zhuo himself went to Tiger Trap Pass. His counselors and commanders——Li Ru, Lu Bu, Fan Chou, Zhang Ji, and others——marched with the main army.
Tiger Trap Pass is fifteen miles from Capital Luoyang. As soon as they arrived, Dong Zhuo bade Lu Bu take thirty thousand soldiers and make a strong stockade on the outside of the Pass. The main body with Dong Zhuo would occupy the Pass.
News of this movement reaching the confederate lords. Yuan Shao summoned a council.
Said Cao Cao, “the occupation of the Pass would cut our armies in two； therefore, we must oppose Dong Zhuo’s army on the way.”
So eight of the commanders——Wang Kuang, Qiao Mao, Bao Xin, Yuan Yi, Kong Rong, Zhang Yang, Tao Qian, and Gongsun Zan——were ordered to go in the direction of the Tiger Trap Pass to oppose their enemy. Cao Cao and his troops moved among them as reserve to render help where needed.
Of the eight, Wang Kuang, the Governor of Henei,
When all were seated in the tent Yuan Shao said,
“The brother of General Bao Xin, disobeying the rules we made for our guidance, rashly went to attack the enemy： He was slain and with him many of our soldiers. Now Sun Jian has been defeated. Thus our fighting spirit has suffered and what is to be done？”
Everyone was silent. Lifting his eyes, Yuan Shao looked round from one to another till he came to Gongsun Zan, and then he remarked three men who stood behind Gongsun Zan’s seat. They were of striking appearance as they stood there, all three smiling cynically.
“Who are those men behind you？” said Yuan Shao.
Gongsun Zan told Liu Bei to come forward, and said, “This is Liu Bei, Magistrate of Pingyuan and a brother of mine who shared my humble cottage when we were students.”
“It must be the Liu Bei who broke up the Yellow Scarves rebellion,” said Cao Cao.
“It is he,” said Gongsun Zan, and he ordered Liu Bei to make his obeisance to the assembly, to whom Liu Bei then related his services and his origin, all in full detail.
“Since he is of the Han line, he should be seated,” said Yuan Shao, and he bade Liu Bei sit.
Liu Bei modestly thanked him, declining.
Said Yuan Shao, “This consideration is not for your fame and office. I respect you as a scion of the imperial family.”
So Liu Bei took his seat in the lowest place of the long line of lords. And his two brothers with folded arms took their stations behind him.
Even as they were at this meeting came in a scout to say
that Hua Xiong with a company of mail-clad
horsemen was coming down from the Pass.
At the close of the last chapter, Chen Gong was about to slay Cao Cao. But Chen Gong reflected, “I joined him to do righteous things. Now if I killed him, I would only do unrighteousness, and the people would condemn me. I rather leave in silence.”
Rising from his bed before the sunrise, Chen Gong mounted his horse and rode away eastward to his home county of Dongjun.
Cao Cao awoke with the day and missed his companion. Thought he, “Chen Gong thinks me brutal because of a couple of egoistic phrases I used, and so he has gone. I ought to push on too and not linger here.”
So Cao Cao traveled as quickly as possible toward Qiao. When he saw his father, he related what had happened and said he wanted to dispose of all the family property and enlist soldiers with the money.
“Our possessions are but small,” said his father, “and not enough to do anything with. However, there is a graduate here, one Wei Hong, careless of wealth but careful of virtue, whose family is very rich. With his help we might hope for success.”
A feast was prepared, and Wei Hong was invited.
Cao Cao made him a speech： “the Hans have lost their lordship, and Dong Zhuo is really a tyrant. He flouts his prince and is cruel to the people, who gnash their teeth with rage. I would restore the Hans, but my means are insufficient. Sir, I appeal to your loyalty and public spirit.”
Wei Hong replied, “I have long desired this but, so far, have not found a person fit to undertake the task. Since you, Cao Cao, have so noble a desire, I willingly devote all my property to the cause.”
This was joyful news, and the call to arms was forthwith prepared and sent far and near. So they established a corps of volunteers and set up a large white recruiting banner with the words Loyalty and Honor inscribed thereon. The response was rapid, and volunteers came in like rain drops in number.
[e] Xiahou Ying （？-173） a major general of Liu Bang. Ennobled as the Marquis of Ruyin and commonly called the Lord of Tang. ……
One day came a certain Yue Jing from Yangping and another Li Dian from Julu. These two were appointed to Cao Cao’s personal staff. Another was one Xiahou Dun from Qiao. He was descended from Xiahou Ying* of old. Xiahou Dun had been trained from his early boyhood to use the spear and the club. When only fourteen he had been attached to a certain master-in-arms. One day one person spoke disrespectfully of his master, and Xiahou Dun killed that person. For this deed, however, he had to flee and had been an exile for some time. Now he came to offer his services, accompanied by his cousin Xiahou Yuan. Each brought a thousand trained soldiers. Really these two were brothers of Cao Cao by birth,
Cao Cao paid no heed, urging his horse forward.
But he suddenly drew his sword and rode back after Lu Boshe.
“Who is that coming along？” called Cao Cao.
Lu Boshe turned and looked back, and Cao Cao at the same instant cut Lu Boshe down.
Chen Gong was frightened.
“We were wrong enough before,” cried Chen Gong. “What now is this？”
“When he got home and saw his family killed, think you he would bear it patiently？ If he had raised an alarm and followed us, we should have been killed.”
“To kill deliberately is very wrong,” said Chen Gong.
[e] Karl, a reader： “True, true…… [Cao Cao] has to do what he can to preserve the life of his saviour [Chen Gong], and continue the grand task, which is much more important than the lives of a few friends of his father. More lives will be lost in affairs of the state. Cao Cao is realistic, logical. Throughout the story, he just demonstrates the most appropriate path, for the grander purposes.” ……
[e] Matteo, a reader： “I think that Cao Cao is the Machiavelli’s Prince…… We cannot say he was cruel or evil…… He is, and Luo Guanzhong said the same in the first chapter of the book, the man for this moment of war and revolt…… that’s all.” ……
“Rather we let down the world than the world let us down！” was the reply.*
Chen Gong only thought. they rode on some distance by moonlight and presently knocked up an inn for shelter. Having first fed their horses, Cao Cao was soon asleep, but Chen Gong lay thinking.
the Magistrate ordered Cao Cao to the prison till the morrow when
he could send Cao Cao to the capital and claim the reward. He gave the soldiers wine and food as a reward.
About midnight the Magistrate sent a trusty servant to bring the prisoner into his private rooms for interrogation.
“they say the Prime Minister treated you well. Why did you try to harm him？” said Magistrate.
“How can swallows and sparrows understand the flight of the crane and the wild goose？ I am your prisoner and to be sent to the capital for a reward. Why so many questions？”
the Magistrate sent away the attendants and turning to the prisoner said, “Do not despise me. I am no mere hireling； only I have not yet found the lord to serve.”
Said Cao Cao, “My ancestors enjoyed the bounty of Han, and should I differ from a bird or a beast if I did not desire to repay them with gratitude？ I have bowed the knee to Dong Zhuo that thereby I might find an opportunity against him, and so remove this evil from the state. I have failed for this time. Such is the will of Heaven.”
“And where are you going？”
“Home to my county. thence I shall issue a summons calling all the bold people to come with forces to kill the tyrant. This is my desire.”
thereupon the Magistrate himself loosened the bonds of the prisoner, led him to the upper seat, and bowed, saying, “I am called Chen Gong. My aged mother and family are in the east county of Dongjun. I am deeply affected by your loyalty and uprightness, and I will abandon my office and follow you！”
Cao Cao was delighted with this turn of affairs. Chen Gong at once collected some money for the expenses of their journey and gave Cao Cao a different dress. Then each took a sword and rode away toward Qiao.
Three days later at eventide they reached Chenggao. Cao Cao pointed with his whip to a hamlet deep in the woods and said, “There lives my uncle, Lu Boshe, a sworn-brother of my father. Suppose we go and ask news of my family and seek shelter for the night？”
“Excellent！” said his companion Chen Gong, and they rode over, dismounted at the farm gate and entered.
Lu Boshe GREeted them and said to Cao Cao,
then they went out to look at the horse. Cao Cao was profuse
in his thanks and said he would like to try the horse. So Dong Zhuo bade the guards bring saddle and bridle. Cao Cao led the creature outside, leapt into the saddle, laid on his whip vigorously, and galloped away eastward.
Lu Bu said, “Just as I was coming up, it seemed to me as if that fellow was going to stab you, only a sudden panic seized him and he presented the weapon instead.”
“I suspected him too！” said Dong Zhuo.
Just then Li Ru came in and they told him.
“Cao Cao has no family here in the capital but lodges quite alone and not far away,” said Li Ru. “Send for him. If he comes forthwith, the sword was meant as a gift. But if he makes any excuses, he had bad intentions. And you can arrest him.”
they sent four prison warders to call Cao Cao.
they were absent a long time and then came back, saying, “Cao Cao had not returned to his lodging but rode in hot haste out of the eastern gate. To the gate commander’s questions he replied that he was on a special message for the Prime Minister. He went off at full speed.”
“His conscience pricked him and so he fled. there is no doubt that he meant assassination！” said Li Ru.
“And I trusted him so well！” said Dong Zhuo in a rage.
“there must be a conspiracy afoot. When we catch him, we shall know all about it,” said Li Ru.
Letters and pictures of the fugitive Cao Cao were sent everywhere with orders to catch him. A large reward in money was offered and a patent of nobility, while those who sheltered him would be held to share his guilt.
Cao Cao traveled in hot haste toward Qiao, his home county. On the road at Zhongmou, he was recognized by the guards at the gate and made prisoner. They took him to the Magistrate. Cao Cao declared he was a merchant, named Huang Fu. The Magistrate scanned his face most closely and remained in deep thought.
“We certainly will,” they cried, “and wish you long life.”
That night the tables were spread in an inner room, and his friends gathered there. When the wine had made a few rounds, the host suddenly covered his face and began to weep.
the guests were aghast.
“Sir, on your birthday too, why do you weep？” said they.
“It is not my birthday,” replied Wang Yun. “But I wished to call you together, and I feared lest Dong Zhuo should suspect, so I made that the excuse. This man insults the Emperor and does as he wishes so that the imperial prerogatives are in imminent peril. I think of the days when our illustrious founder destroyed the Qin, annihilated Chu, and obtained the empire. Who could have foreseen this day when that Dong Zhuo has subjugated all to his will？ That is why I weep.”
then they all wept with him.
Seated among the guests, however, was Cao Cao, who did not join in the weeping but clapped his hands and laughed aloud.
“If all the officers of the government weep till dawn, and from dawn weep till dark, will that slay Dong Zhuo？” said Cao Cao.
Wang Yun turned on him angrily.
“Your forbears ate the bounty of the Hans. Do you feel no gratitude？ You can laugh？”
“I laughed at the absurdity of an assembly like this being unable to compass the death of one man. Foolish and incapable as I am, I will cut off his head and hang it at the gate as an offering to the people.”
Wang Yun left his seat and went over to Cao Cao.
“these later days,” Cao Cao continued,
“I have bowed my head to Dong Zhuo
with the sole desire of finding a
chance to destroy him. Now he begins
to trust me, and so I can approach him