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Kuan Yü wrote his letter, which Liao Hua concealed next his skin, and having eaten a full meal, he rode out at the gate. A certain leader of the enemy, Ting Fêng, tried to check him, but Kuan P‘ing fought vigorously and drove him away. So Liao reached the city, while Kuan P‘ing returned. Then they barred the gates and went not forth again.
Now, having captured Shangyung, Liu Fêng and Mêng Ta had remained to guard it, and the Prefect had surrendered. Liu Fêng had been created an assistant general with Mêng Ta to aid him. When they heard of the defeat of Kuan Yü they took counsel what to do. When Liao Hua came, he was admitted into the city. He told the tale of Kuan Yü's straits, and asked for help.
“Kuan Yü is closely besieged in Maich'êng. Help from the west will be a long time in coming, so I have been sent to beg your assistance. I hope you will march the Shangyung troops thither as quickly as possible, for any delay will be fatal.”
Liu Fêng replied, “Sir, go to the rest-house for a time till we can decide."
So he went, and the two leaders talked over the matter. Liu Fêng said, “This is bad news; what is to be done?”
"Wu is very powerful,” replied his colleague. “Now they have control over the whole district save this small clod of earth called Maich'êng. Ts'ao Ts'ao is at hand with half a hundred legions, and we cannot stand against the two mighty houses. I say we must not move."
“I know all this. But Kuan Yü is my uncle, and I cannot bear to sit still and not try to save him.'
“So you hold him as an uncle!" said Mêng Ta with a smile. "Yet I do not think he holds you much as a nephew. When the Prince of Hanchung created him a generalissimo he was greatly annoyed. And after the prince had accepted his new dignity and was nominating his heir, I hear he consulted K‘ung-ming, who said the affair was one to be decided within the family and declined to advise. Then the prince sent to ask Kuan Yü's advice. Did he name you? Not at all. You were only a son by adoption and could have no place in the succession. Further, he advised that you be sent to a distance lest you might cause trouble. This is common knowledge, and I am surprised that you are ignorant of it. Yet to-day you make capital out of the relationship and are willing to run a great risk to support it."
“Granted that what you say is true, still what reply can we give ?"
"Simply say that this city is still unsettled and you dare not move lest it be lost."
Liu Fêng took his colleague's view, sent for the messenger and told him. Liao Hua was greatly disappointed. He threw
himself on the ground and knocked his head, imploring assistance.
“If you act thus, there is an end of Kuan Yü," cried he.
"Will a cup of water extinguish a waggon load of blazing wood ?" said Mêng Ta. “Hasten back and await patiently for the coming of help from the west."
Liao Hua renewed his entreaties. The two commanders simply rose, shook out their sleeves and left him. Liao Hua saw that things had gone against him and thought his best course would be to go at once to Ch'êngtu. He rode out of the city cursing its defenders and went away west.
Kuan Yü from his fortress looked anxiously, but vainly, for the coming of the expected aid. He was in a sorry plight. His men numbered but a few hundred, many wounded; there was no food.
The someone came to the foot of the wall and, calling out to the men on the wall not to shoot, said he had a message for the commander. He was allowed to enter; it was Chuko Chin. When he had made his salutations and taken tea, he began his harangue.
"I come at the command of my master, Marquis Wu, to persuade you to a wise course. From of old it has always been recognised that the hero must bow to circumstances. The districts that you ruled have come under another, with the exception of this single city. Within, there is no food, without, no help, so that it must fall quickly. Wherefore, O General, why not hear me and join your fortunes to those of Wu? You shall be restored to your governorship and you will preserve your family. If haply, Sir, you would reflect thereon.'
Kuan Yü replied, quite calmly, "I am a simple soldier of Chiehliang. I am the hands and feet of my lord, his brother. How can I betray him? The city may fall, and then I can but die. Jade may be shattered, but its whiteness remains; bamboo may be burned, but its joints stand out. My body may be broken, but my fame shall live in history. Say no more, but leave the city, I beg. I will fight Sun Ch'üan to the death."
“My master desires to enter into such a league with you as did Ts'in and Chin in former days, that you may mutually assist to destroy Ts'ao Ts'ao and restore the Hans. That is his idea, and why do you persist in this wrong course ?"
As he finished this speech, Kuan P‘ing, who was by, drew his sword to slay him. But his father checked him.
“Remember his brother is in Shu, helping your uncle. If you hurt him you will injure the principle of fraternity."
He then bade his servants lead Chuko Chin away. He went, his face covered with shame, and left the city. When he reached his master he told of Kuan Yü's obduracy and rejection of all argument.
"He is indeed a loyal servant!” said Sun Ch'uan. "Still, what is to be done next?”
"Take the sortes," said Lü Fan.
So the lots were taken and explained to mean that the lord's enemies should flee to a distance.
Then Sun Ch'üan asked Lü Mêng, saying, "If he fly to a distance, how can he be captured ?”
“The divination exactly fits in with my schemes,” replied he, "and though Kuan had wings to soar to the skies he would not escape my net.”
The dragon in a puddle is the sport of shrimps,
The phonix in a cage is mocked of small birds. The scheme of Lü Mêng will be unfolded in the next chapter.
KUAN YÜ MANIFESTS HIS SACRED CHARACTER AT THE
JADE FOUNT HILL;
Ts'Ao TSAO IS POSSESSED AT LOYANG. Sun Ch'uan having asked Lü Mêng for a plan, Lü replied, “This man Kuan has very few men left, and he will not venture along the high road. North of Maich'êng is a risky path, and he will try to escape along that. Therefore you must lay an ambush for him twenty li away from the city, but do not stop him. Let him go by, and then harass his rear. Thus he will be forced into Linchü. Set another small ambush near there, and you will capture your enemy. For the present, attack the city vigorously on all sides but one, leaving the north gate for escape.”
Before carrying out this plan, Sun bade Lü Fan consult the auspices. He did so, announcing that the enemy would flee toward the northwest, but would be caught that night before midnight.
So Chu Jan was sent in command of the first ambush, five companies, and P'an Chang with a cohort was the second. The men were all veterans.
When Kuan Yü mustered his fighting men in the city, he had but three hundred, all told. The food was done. That night many men of Wu came to the city walls and called to their friends by name, and many of these slipped over the wall and deserted, reducing the small force still further. No rescue force appeared, and Kuan was at the end of his resources. Again he bewailed to Wang Fu the obstinacy that had led him to neglect his wise warning.
"I think even if Tzŭ-ya (Lü Shang) could come to life again he would be helpless in this case," replied Wang Fu, sadly.
Said Chao Lei, “Liu Fêng and Mêng Ta have surely decided not to send help from Shangyung. Let 'us abandon this miserable place and try to regain Hsich'uan. We may then tempt our fortune once more.'
"I agree with you that that is the best plan,” said Kuan Yü.
Then he ascended the walls and surveyed the country. Noting that the weakest side was the north, he called in some of the inhabitants and enquired the nature of the country on that side.
They replied, “There are only paths there, but by them one may get into Hsich‘uan.”
"We will go that way to-night," said Kuan.
Wang Fu opposed it, pointing out that they would surely fall into an ambush. The main road would be safer.
“There may be an ambush, but do I fear that?” said the old warrior.
Orders were given to be ready to march.
“At least be very cautious," said Wang Fu. “I will defend this city to the very last; I only need a few men. Never will we surrender. Only I hope, most noble Marquis, that you will send me speedy help."
The two parted in tears; Wang Fu and Chou Ts'ang remaining to guard Maich'êng. Kuan Yü, Kuan P‘ing and Chao Lei marched with their weak force out of the north gate. Kuan Yü, his great sword ready to hand, went first. About the time of watch-setting, a score of li lay between them and the city. There they saw a deep cleft in the hills wherefrom rolled the sound of beaten drums. And men were shouting.
Soon appeared a large force with Chu Jan at their head. He came dashing forward, and summoned the small party to surrender if they would save their lives. But Kuan Yü whipped his steed to a gallop and bore down on the leader with anger in his eyes. Then Chu Jan ran away. Kuan Yü followed him till there came the loud boom of a large drum, and out sprang men from all sides. Kuan Yü dared not engage such a number, and fled in the direction of Linchü. Chu Jan came up behind and attacked the flying soldiers, so that Kuan's following gradually became smaller and smaller.
Still he struggled on. A few li farther the drums rolled again, and torches lit up all round. This was P'an Chang's ambush, and he appeared flourishing his sword. Kuan Yü whirled his blade and went to meet him, but P'an ran away after a couple of bouts. However, Kuan Yü saw they were too many for him, and sought refuge among the mountains. His son followed, and when he got within speaking distance he gave him the mournful tidings that Chao Lei had fallen. Kuan Yü was very sad, and bade his son try to protect the rear while he should force his way forward.
With a half score men he reached Chüehshih, a place with mountains on both sides. At their foot was a thick mass of reeds and dried grass. The trees grew very close. then the fifth watch. Presently the small party stumbled into another ambush, and the men thrust forth hooks and threw ropes.
Entangled in these, Kuan Yü's horse fell, and Kuan Yü reeled out of the saddle. In a moment he was a prisoner. Kuan P'ing dashed to his rescue, but before he could do anything he also was surrounded and held. Father and son were both captives.
With great joy Sun Ch'üan heard of the success of his plans. He assembled all his officers in his tent to await the arrival of