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CHAPTER LXXXI.

CHANG FEI IS ASSASSINATED;

THE FIRST RULER GOES TO WAR. Chao Yün was opposed to the attempt to fight Wu, and spoke against the plan.

"The real rebel was not Sun Ch'üan, but Ts'ao Ts'ao; and now it is his son who has usurped the Imperial Throne and called forth the anger of gods and men. You should first aim at the inside by camping on the River Wei, from which to attack the rebel. After that the right-thinking sort on the east of the Passes will do their utmost to help you. If you leave Wei out of consideration in order to fight Wu, your military force will be engaged, and could you disengage it quickly in case of necessity? It is worth reflection."

The First Ruler replied, “Sun Ch'üan slew my brother. Many of my officers hate him so that they could eat his flesh with gusto and devour his relatives, whereby I should have my vengeance. Why, Noble Sir, do you obstruct me?”

"Because the enmity against Ts'ao is a public matter; vengeance for the manner of your brother's end is private. The empire should be placed first."

"What care I for myriads of li of territory as long as my brother is unavenged ?”

So Chao Yün's remonstrance was disregarded, and orders went forth to prepare an army against Wu. The king also sent into The Five Valleys to borrow the aid of five legions of barbarians. He sent a messenger to Langchung conferring on Chang Fei the rank of General of Cavalry and the titles of Hsiao-" and "Marquis." He became also Governor of Langchung.

When Chang Fei heard the tidings of his brother's death at the hands of Sun Ch'uan he wept very bitterly day and night, so that his raiment was soaked with his tears. His subordinates tried to cheer him with wine, but he over-drank and this increased his ill-humour, which he vented on any offender in his camp. Some of his men even died under the lash. Every day he gazed southward, grinding his teeth with rage and glaring. He wept and groaned without ceasing.

Then a messenger was announced. He was summoned immediately, and Chang Fei at once tore open and read his despatches. When he read the edict he accepted his new rank in all humility, bowing northward toward the imperial mandate. Then he gave a banquet to the messenger.

He said, "My enmity for the death of my brother is deep as the sea. Why do not the officers at the court propose an avenging expedition ?"

The messenger replied, “Most of them favour first the destruction of Wei; Wu is to follow."

"What sort of talk is this?" cried Chang angrily. "When we three swore brotherhood in the Peach Garden we pledged ourselves to die together. Now, alas! my brother has perished by the way, and can we enjoy wealth or honours without him? I must see the Son of Heaven and pray to be allowed to lead the van. I will wear mourning, and in that garb I will smite Wu and capture the bandit that rules there. He shall be sacrificed to my brother's manes in virtue of our oath."

He accompanied the messenger on his return. In the meantime the First Ruler had been training his armies.

Day after day he went to the drill ground, and he decided upon a day to start, and he would accompany the expedition. Thereupon a number of courtiers went to the palace of the Prime Minister to try to get this intention modified.

They said, “It is not in accordance with the importance due to the Emperor's position that he should go in personal command of this army, particularly as he has but lately assumed his throne. You, Sir, hold the weighty post of adviser in such a matter, and why do you not dissuade him?"

“I have done so, most sincerely and repeatedly, but he will not listen. But now you all come with me to the drill ground, and we will try once more.

So they proceeded thither, with Kʻung-ming at their head, and he said, "Your Majesty has but lately taken the imperial seat. If the expedition was one to march northward to destroy the rebels against Han and in the interest of rectitude, it would be perfectly correct for the Emperor to lead the army, but an officer of high rank should more properly be sent against Wu. Why should Your Majesty expose yourself to such fatigues ?

The First Ruler was touched by the depth of his minister's concern and the sincerity of his counsel, and was on the point of yielding when the arrival of Chang Fei was announced. Fei was immediately summoned and came to the pavilion on the drill ground, where he threw himself on the ground and clasped the king's feet, weeping bitterly. The king joined in the lamentation.

Your Majesty is now ruler and too quickly forgets the oath in the Peach Garden; why is our brother's death not avenged ?"

The king replied, "Many officers dissuade me from such a course; I cannot act rashly.

“What do others know of our oath? If Your Majesty will not go, then let me sacrifice myself to avenge our brother. If I cannot, then would I rather die and see your face no more."

“Then will I go with you,” said the king. “Bring your own troops from Langchou and I will bring my veterans to meet you at Chiangchou. We will both attack Wu and wipe out the reproach.”

As Fei rose to take leave, the king said to him, "I know that your weakness for wine leads you astray, and you become very cruel in your cups and flog your men and the beaten men are kept near you. They may be dangerous, and it is certainly the road to misfortune. Now you must be more kindly and not give way to passion as before."

Thus admonished, Chang Fei said farewell and left. Soon after, when the king was preparing to march out, Ch'in Mi, a high officer, memorialised, saying, “That Your Majesty, the Lord of a Myriad Chariots, should risk his person in what is not the way of perfect rectitude is not what the ancients would have done. I pray that this may be reflected upon.”

But the king replied, “Yüan-chang and I were as one body, and the way of perfect rectitude is here. Have you forgotten?"

But the officer remained at his feet and said, “I fear disaster if Your Majesty disregards your servant's words."

The king replied angrily, "Why do you use such bad words when I desire to march?

He bade the executioners thrust forth and put to death the bold speaker. Still Ch'in's face showed no sign of fear. He only smiled, saying, “I die without regret. It is a pity that this newly established state should be overturned ere it be well begun."

Others interceding, the death punishment was remitted, but the faithful officer was committed to prison. His fate was to be decided when the army of vengeance should return. K‘ung-ming sent up a memorial in favour of Ch‘in Mi, saying, “I, Chuko Liang, address Your Majesty in my own name and those of my colleagues; we regard as most grievous the recent events, Wu's perfidy, by which Chingchou was lost and the star of a great general was brought down, and we shall never forget. But it is to be remembered that the crime of overturning the Throne of Han rests on Ts'ao Ts'ao and the fault of driving away the Liu Family lies not on Sun Ch'üan. We venture to think that the destruction of Wei would involve the submission of Wu, wherefore we beg consideration of the valuable words of Ch'in Mi. Thus the army will be spared needless exertion and occasion given to make other plans for the prosperity of the Throne and the happiness of the people."

But the memorial was not well received. The king threw it to the floor, saying that he had decided and would listen to no remonstrances. Then he appointed the Prime Minister Regent and Guardian of his son, and the two Mas and Wei Yen were ordered to guard Hanchung. Chao Yün was to be

in reserve and to control the supplies. Many old leaders were appointed to the expedition, the veteran Huang Chung being leader of the van, and some new ones.

The whole army, including the borrowed foreign troops, numbered seventy-five legions. And the ping-wu day of the seventh month was selected as the most propitious day for the start.

As soon as Chang Fei had got back to his post he issued orders that his men should be ready to march in three days and the whole body was to be in mourning, white flags and whitened arms. Just after the order appeared, two officers named Fan Chiang and Chang Ta came to their chief saying that the time allowed was insufficient and asked for some delay.

"I am hot to avenge my brother," said Chang Fei. “My only regret is that I cannot reach the miserable wretch's country to-morrow. Do you dare to disobey my order?

He called in the lictors, had the two officers bound to trees and ordered each to receive fifty lashes, and at the close of the flogging he said, “Now you will be ready to-morrow; if you are not, I will put you to death as an example.”

The two officers returned to their place, spitting blood and hot with anger, and they said one to another, “We have been beaten to-day; what about to-morrow? This man's temper is unbearable, and if things are not ready we shall suffer death.”

"Suppose we slay him," suddenly said Chang Ta, “since if we do not he will kill us."

“But how can we get near him?"

"If we are to have a chance to live, he will get drunk and go to bed; if we are to die, he will remain sober."

They made all their arrangements for the crime. Chang Fei was greatly disturbed in his mind and restless. He told some of his subordinates that he was nervous and felt creepy and shivery and could not rest. What did it mean?"

“This is due to too much brooding over the loss of your brother," said they.

Then Chang Fei bade them bring in wine, and he drank with his officers. Presently he became quite intoxicated and lay down on a couch in his tent.

Meanwhile the two assassins had followed all his doings, and when they knew he was lying on his couch intoxicated and incapable, they went into the tent, each armed with a dagger. They got rid of the attendants by saying they had confidential matters to talk about and so got into the inner rooms.

But even then they dared do nothing, for Chang Fei slept always with open eyelids, and he lay on his couch as if still awake. However, huge snores soon convinced them that their victim really slept, and they crept to the side of the couch. Then both stabbed simultaneously deep into the body. Chang Fei uttered one cry and lay still.

So he died at the hand of assassins at the age of fifty-and-five years.

He who whipped th' inspector years agone,
Who swept vile rebels from the land of Han,
And thereby won great glory for the Lius,
Whose valour shone at Tiger Corral Pass,
Who turned the tide of victory at the bridge,
Who freed a captive and thus won a friend
That helped him and his brothers conquer Shu,
Whose wisdom to a district brought repose,
Is dead, the victim of assassins' blows.
Not his t'avenge his brother's death on Wu,

Langti will grieve him all the ages through. Having done their victim to death, the two murderers hacked off his head and made off for the country of Wu without loss of time, and when the deed was known they had got too far for capture. The assassination was reported in a memorial by a minor officer named Chang Pan, who had left Chingchou to see the king and then had been sent to serve under Chang Fei. He bade the eldest son, Chang Pao, prepare a coffin for the remains and, leaving the younger brother, Chang Shao, to hold the Langchung Pass, went to see the Emperor.

The day of departure had already come, and the First Ruler had left the capital. K‘ung-ming and many officers had escorted him out of the city for ten li and taken leave. But Kʻung-ming felt ill at ease, and he remarked to his colleagues, "If Fa Chêng had been alive he would have been able to interdict this expedition."

One night the First Ruler felt nervous and shuddered from time to time. He could not sleep so he went out of his tent and looked up at the stars. Suddenly he saw a bright meteor fall in the north-west, and began to wonder what the portent meant. He sent at once to ask K‘ung-ming to tell him. K‘ung-ming sent back the reply that it meant the loss of a great leader and there would be bad news in a few days.

So the army was halted and did not march. Then the arrival of a message from Chang Pan of Langchung was announced. The king's forebodings increased, and he stamped his foot, saying, "My other brother is gone."

Opening the letter he found it was indeed so. As he read the news of the assassination he uttered a loud cry and fell in a swoon. He was raised and presently they brought him back to life.

Next day they reported a body of horsemen coming. The king went out of the camp to look at them and presently recognised Chang Pao, dressed all in white. As soon as he reached the king's presence he dismounted and bowed to the earth, weeping, "My father has been killed by the two ruffians Fan Chiang and Chang Ta. They have gone over to Wu, taking my father's head with them."

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