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Tsʻao lived in constant fear of assassination, and said to his attendants, “Let none of you come near me when I am sleeping, for I am like to slay people in my dreams."
One day he was enjoying a siesta, and his quilt fell off. One of the attendants saw it and hastened to cover him again. Ts'ao Ts'ao suddenly leaped from the couch, cut down the intruder with his sword and lay down again to sleep. Some time after he awoke, simulated surprise and asked who had killed his attendant. When they told him, he wept aloud for the dead man and had him buried in a fine grave. Most people thought that Ts'ao Ts'ao had slain the man while asleep, but Yang Hsiu knew better, and at the funeral of the victim he remarked, "The minister was in no dream, but the gentleman in him was asleep."
This only increased the hatred.
Ts'ao Ts'ao's third son, Chih, took great delight in Yang Hsiu's cleverness and often invited him, when they would talk the whole night.
When Ts'ao Ts'ao was considering the nomination of his heir and desired to name Chih, Ts'ao P'ei got to hear of the proposal to set him aside in favour of his younger brother, so he secretly requested the Master of the Court Singers, Wu Chih, to come and discuss this matter. Then fearing that someone might see his visitor, he got a large basket made, in which his friend was smuggled into the palace. He gave out that the basket contained rolls of silk. Yang Hsiu heard the truth and informed Ts'ao Ts'ao, who sent men to watch at the gates. Ts'ao P'ei, in alarm, told Wu Chih, who told him not to be afraid but to fill a basket actually with rolls of silk on the morrow and have it carried in as before. The searchers peeped into the basket and found the rolls of silk. They told Ts'ao Ts'ao the result of their search, and he began to think Yang Hsiu was plotting against his son. This also added to his hatred.
Another time Ts'ao, wishing to compare the abilities of his two sons P'ei and Chih, told them both to go out of the city, at the same time ordering the gate wardens to forbid their exit. Ts'ao P'ei first came to the gate, was stopped by the wardens and returned to his palace. But his brother Chih consulted Yang Hsiu, who said, “You have received orders from the prince to go out; simply cut down any who may try to prevent you."
When Ts'ao Chih went to the gate and was stopped, he shouted out to the wardens, "I have the prince's order to go out; dare you stop me?"
He slew the man who would have prevented him. Wherefore Ts'ao Ts'ao considered his younger son the more able. But when some other person told him that the device came from Yang Hsiu, he was angry and took a dislike to his son Chih.
Yang Hsiu also used to coach Chih in preparing replies to likely questions, which were learned by heart and quoted when necessary. Ts'ao Ts'ao was always asking this son his opinion on military matters, and Chih always had a fluent reply ready. His father was not without suspicions, which were turned into certainties when the eldest son gave his father the written replies which he had bribed a servant to filch from his brother's apartments. Ts'ao Ts'ao was quite angry.
“How dare he throw dust in my eyes like this?" said Ts'ao Ts'ao.
Yang Hsiu very nearly lost his life for his share in that business. Now sending him to execution on the charge of destroying the morale of the soldiers was only a subterfuge. Yang Hsiu was but thirty-four when he met his end.
Talented was Yang Hsiu,
And not because he foretold retreat. Ts'ao Ts'ao thus put to death the prime mover and simulated anger against Hsiahou Tun. He threatened to execute him, but listened to those who begged him to show mercy.
"Get out of this !” said he.
Next he issued an order to advance on the morrow. The army moved out of the valley and came face
to face with the men of Shu led by Wei Yen. He summoned Wei to surrender, but received abuse and contumely in return.
P'ang Tê went out to fight Wei Yen, but while the combat was in progress fires broke out in Ts'ao Ts'ao's camp and a soldier came flying to say that the rear and centre camps had been seized by Ma Ch'ao. Fearing lest this should lead to a rout, he drew his sword and stood before the army crying out, “Death for any officer who flinches !"
Wherefore they pressed forward valiantly, and Wei Yen, pretending defeat, retreated. Having driven back this army, Ts'ao Ts'ao gave the signal to turn toward camp and fight with Ma Ch'ao. He took up his station on the top of a hill whence he could survey the field. Suddenly a cohort appeared just below him, and the leader cried, "Wei Yen is here!" Wei fitted an arrow to his bow, shot and wounded Ts'ao Ts'ao just in the raphe of his lip. He turned and fell. Wei Yen threw aside his bow, seized his sword and came charging up the hill to finish his enemy. But with a shout P'ang Tê flashed in.
"Spare my lord !" cried he.
He rushed up and drove Wei Yen backward. Then they took Ts'ao Ts'ao away. Ma Ch'ao also retired, and the wounded prince slowly returned to his own camp.
As has been said, Ts'ao Ts'ao was wounded full in the face, and the arrow knocked out two of his front teeth. When in the hands of the physicians he lay thinking over Yang Hsiu's words. In a repentant mood he had the remains decently interred.
Then he gave the order to retreat. P'ang Tê was the rear guard. Ts'ao Ts'ao set out homeward in a padded carriage, escorted by his Tiger Guard.
Before they had gone far, there was an alarm of fire and ambush. The soldiers were all fear-stricken. 'Twas something like the
danger once at T‘ung Kuan met, Or like the fight at Red Cliff which Ts'ao could n'er forget. How Ts'ao Ts'ao fared will next be told.
YÜAN-TE BECOMES PRINCE OF HANCHUNG; YÜN-CHʻANG ATTACKS AND OCCUPIES HSIANGYANG. When Ts'ao Ts'ao retired to Hsiehku, K‘ung-ming considered it to mean the abandonment of his attempt to acquire possession of Hanchung, and he sent out several parties to harass and hasten his retreat by guerilla attacks. For this reason the retreating army had to keep on the move. Beside, he was suffering from his wound, and marched as hurriedly as possible. But it was a dejected army. The leading legions once encountered fire on both flanks, which had been raised by men placed in ambush while Ma Ch'ao's main force kept driving the army before it. Every man in the Ts'ao army was dispirited, and there was no more courage in them. They pressed forward day and night alike without halting to rest. It was only after reaching Chingchao that they had some repose.
Then Yüan-tê sent Liu Fêng, Mêng Ta and Wang P'ing to take Shangyung. Shên T‘ang and his colleagues, knowing that Ts'ao Ts'ao had retreated, offered their submission. After confidence had been restored among the people, Yüan-tê rewarded his army generously, and they were all joyful.
It was after this that the general body of the officers decided to urge Yüan-tê to assume the title of "Emperor," but they dared not tell him so. However, they sent up a petition to Áʻung-ming, who replied that he had already decided on this course. So he and Fa Chêng headed a deputation that went in to see their lord.
They said, "Now that Ts'ao Ts'ao really holds the reins of authority the people are without a king. Our lord, your kindness and sense of justice have spread throughout the empire. You have restored peace over this ‘Land of Streams, and your becoming Emperor would be according to God's will and the desire of the people. Then by right and title you could destroy rebels. This matter should not be delayed and we pray you to choose the auspicious day.”
But Yüan-tê evinced great surprise, and replied, “Your words, O Commander of the Army, are wrong. Although I am of the imperial house, yet I am but a minister; and to do this thing would be rebellion against Han."
K‘ung-ming replied, “Not so. To-day the empire is riven and many of the bolder spirits have seized upon, and claim
the rule of, various portions. The talented of the empire and the virtuous among officers, who have risked death and lost their lives in serving those above them, all desire to have the opportunity of serving an Emperor and doing service for a Throne. Now, if you insist on modestly maintaining your righteous way I fear that you will lose popular support. My lord, I would that you should reflect upon this."
“But you desire me to usurp a place of great honour in the state, and I dare not. Let there be more delay and discussion.”
But with one voice they said, “Our lord, if you reject this the hearts of the people will turn from you."
"My lord,” said K‘ung-ming, “you have made rectitude your motto all your life. If you really object to the most honoured title, then, since you have Chingchou and Hsiangyang, take the title temporarily of Prince of Hanchung.'”
“Gentlemen, though you may desire to honour me by the title of Prince, yet, without an edict from the Emperor, such action would be usurpation.”
Said K'ung-ming, "The time demands recognition of the actual state of authority, and not a rigid adherence to all the rules of propriety."
And Chang Fei roared out, "All sorts of people with all sorts of names are making themselves rulers; how much more ought you, O Brother, who are of the dynastic stock? It ought not to be 'Prince of Hanchung' but 'Emperor.' What prevents it?"
"Brother, say no more," said Yüan-tê, roughly.
“My lord,” said K‘ung-ming, “it is fitting to follow political changes and suit one's conduct to circumstances. Wherefore first take the princedom and then memorialise the Throne."
As there seemed no option, Yüan-tê listened and complied. In the twenty-fourth year (219 A.D.), in the seventh month, an altar was set up at Mienyang (in Hupeh), square and nine li about, which was set around with the proper flags and banners and symbols, and thereon, in the presence of all his officers assembled according to their rank, and at the request of the two ministers Hsü Ching and Fa Chêng, Yüan-tê received the head dress and seal of a prince. Then he took his seat, facing the south as a ruler should, and received the salutes and felicitations of all his officers as Prince of Hanchung.
And his son Liu Ch'an was nominated his heir-apparent.
Hsü Ching was given the title of Royal Preceptor; Fa Chêng that of a president of a Board. Chuko Liang was reappointed Commander-in-chief of the Forces, with the additional powers of control over the whole state policy. The two brothers, with Chao Yün, Huang Chung and Ma Ch'ao, were the Five Tiger Leaders. Wei Yen was made Governor of Hanchung, and all the others who had assisted were given ranks and offices.