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So when Wang P'ing sent news of the retreat of the enemy the messenger carried back the order not to pursue.
It is only lost labour to cover retreat
When your enemy does not pursue. By what means Kʻung-ming intended to defeat Wei will be told in the next chapter.
THE HAN SOLDIERS RAID A CAMP AND DEFEAT TSʻAO CHEN;
CHUKO, IN FRONT OF THE ARRAY, SHAMES SSÚMA. When the officers got to know that the Wei army had gone but they were not to pursue, they were inclined to discontent and went in a body to the general's tent and said, “The rain has driven the enemy away; surely it is the moment to pursue.
K‘ung-ming replied, "Ssůma I is an able leader who would not retreat without leaving an ambush to cover it. If we pursue we shall fall victims. Let him go in peace, and I shall then get through Hsieh Valley and take Ch‘ishan, making use of the enemy's lack of defence."
“But there are other ways of taking Ch‘angan," said they; "why only take this one?”
“Because Ch‘ishan is the first step to Ch‘angan, and I want to gain the advantage of position. Any attack on Shênsi must come this way. It rests on the rivers Wei and Pin in front and is backed by Hsieh Valley. It gives the greatest freedom of movement and is a natural manœuvring ground. That is why I want it."
They bowed to his wisdom. Then he despatched four captains for Chi Valley and four others for Hsieh Valley, all to meet at Ch‘ishan. He led the main army himself, with Kuan Hsing and Miao Hua in the van.
When the Wei army retreated, the Commander-in-chief and his second remained in the rear superintending the movement. They sent a reconnoitring party along the old road to Ch'êntsʻang, and they returned saying no enemy was to be seen. Ten days later the leaders, who had commanded in the ambush, joined the main body saying that they had seen no sign of the enemy.
Ts'ao Chên said, “This continuous autumn rain has rendered all the ways impassable; how could the men of Shu know of our retreat?”
“They will appear later,” said Ssŭma. “How can you know ?”
“These late five days they have not pursued because they think we shall have left a rear-guard in ambush. Therefore they have let us get well away. But after we have gone they will occupy Ch‘ishan."
Ts'ao Chên was not convinced.
“Why do you doubt ?" asked Ssŭma. “I think K‘ung-ming will certainly advance by way of the two valleys, and you and I should guard the entrances. I give them ten days, and if they do not appear, I will come to your camp painted and powdered and dressed as a woman to own my mistake.'
"If the men of Shu do appear I will give you the girdle and the steed that the king gave me,” replied Ts'ao.
But they split their force, Ts'ao Chên taking up his station on the west of Ch‘ishan in the Hsieh Valley, and Ssúma going to the east in the Chi Valley.
As soon as the camp was settled, Ssúma I led a cohort into hiding in the valley. The remainder of the force was placed in detachments on the chief roads.
Ssúma disguised himself and went among the soldiers to get a private survey of all the camps. In one of them he happened upon a junior officer who was complaining, saying, “The rain has drenched us for days and they would not retire. Now they have camped here for a wager. They have no pity for us or the men.'
Ssúma returned to his tent and assembled his officers. Hauling out the grumbler, he said to him, angrily, "The state maintains soldiers a thousand days for one hour's service. How dare you give vent to your spleen to the detriment of discipline?”
The man would not confess, so his comrades were called to bear witness. Still he would not own up.
"I am not here for a wager, but to overcome Shu,” said Ssŭma. “Now you all have done well and are going home, but only this fellow complains and is guilty of mutinous conduct."
He ordered the lictors to put him to death, and in a short time they produced his head. The others were terrified, but Ssóma said, “All you must do your utmost to guard against the enemy. When you hear a bomb explode rush out on all sides and attack.”
With this order they retired.
Now Wei Yen and his three comrades, with two legions, entered the Chi Valley. As they were marching, the Assistant Adviser Têng Chih came.
“I bear an order from the minister. As you go out of the valley beware of the enemy,” said he.
Ch'ên Shih said, "Why is the minister so full of doubts? We know the men of Wei have suffered severely from the rain and must hasten home. They will not lay any ambush. We are doing double marches and shall gain a great victory. Why are we to delay ?”
Têng Chih replied, “You know the minister's plans always succeed. How dare you disobey his orders ?”
Ch'ên Shih smiled, saying, “If he was really so resourceful we should not have lost Chieht'ing."
Wei Yen, recalling that K‘ung-ming had rejected his plan, also laughed, and said, "If he had listened to me and gone out through Tzŭwu Valley, not only Ch‘angan but Loyang too would be ours. Now he is bent on taking Ch‘ishan; what is the good of it? He gave us the order to advance and now he stops us. Truly the orders are confusing."
Then said Ch'ên Shih, "I will tell you what I will do. I shall take my men, get through the valley and camp at Ch‘ishan. Then you will see how ashamed the minister will look.”
Têng Chih argued and persuaded, but to no avail; the wilful leader hurried on to get out of the valley. Têng could only return as quickly as possible and report.
Ch'ên Shih proceeded. He had not gone far when he heard a bomb, and he was in an ambush. He tried to withdraw, but the valley was full of the enemy, and he was surrounded as in an iron cask. All his efforts to get out failed. Then there was a shout, and Wei Yen came to the rescue. He saved his comrade, but his half legion was reduced to about a half company, and these wounded. Two other divisions coming up prevented pursuit, and finally the men of Wei retired. The two who had criticised K‘ung-ming's powers of prevision no longer doubted that he saw very clearly. They regretted their own shortsightedness.
When Têng Chih told his chief of the bad behaviour of Ch'ên and Wei he only laughed. “That fellow Wei has never been quite true; he has always been disposed to disobey and is unsteady. However, he is valiant, and so I have used him, but he will do real harm some day."
Then came a messenger with news of Ch'ên's defeat and loss of men. K‘ung-ming sent Têng Chih back again to console with him and so keep him from actual mutiny. Then he called to his tent Ma Tai and Wang P‘ing, and said, "If there are any of the men of Wei in Hsieh Valley you are to go across the Yüehshan range, marching by night and concealing yourselves by day, and make for the east of Ch‘ishan. When you arrive, make a fire as a signal. Ma Chung and Chang I were told to go in similar fashion to the west and join up with the other two. Then they were to make a joint attack on Ts'ao Chên's camp. The chief would also attack in the centre. Kuan Hsing and Miao Hua received secret orders, which are not recorded here.
The armies marched rapidly. Not long after starting, two other detachments led by Wu Pan and Wu I received secret orders and left the main body.
The doubts about the coming of the Shu army made Ts'ao Chên careless, and he allowed his men to become slack and rest. He only thought of getting through the allotted ten days, when he would have the laugh against his colleague.
Seven of the days had passed, when a scout reported a few odd men of Shu in the valley. Tsʻao sent to reconnoitre and keep them at a distance. Ch'in Liang was in command, and he led his men to the entrance of the valley. As soon as he arrived the enemy retired. Ch‘in Liang went after them, but they had disappeared. He was perplexed and puzzled, and while trying to decide, he told the men to dismount and rest.
But almost immediately he heard a shout, and ambushed men appeared in front of him. He jumped on his horse to look about him, and saw a great cloud of dust rising among the hills. He disposed his men for defence, but the shouting quickly came nearer, and then Wu Pan and Wu I appeared advancing towards him. Retreat was impossible, as the hills were on both sides, and from the hill-tops came shouts of “Dismount and yield !”
More than half did surrender. Ch‘in Liang was killed. Kʻung-ming put the men who had come over to his side in one of the rear divisions. With their dress and arms he disguised half a legion of his own men so that they looked like his enemies, and then he sent this division, under four trusty leaders, to raid Ts'ao Chên's camp. Before they reached the camp they sent one of their number ahead as a galloper to tell Ts‘ao Chên that there had been only a few men of Shu and they had all been chased out of sight, and so lull him into security.
This news satisfied Ts'ao Chên. But just then a trusty messenger from Ssůma came with a message, “Our men have fallen into an ambush and many have been killed. Do not think any more about the wager: that is cancelled. But take most careful precautions."
“But there is not a single man of Shu near,” said Ts'ao Chên.
He told the messenger to go back. Just then they told him Ch'in Liang's men had returned, and he went out to meet them. Just as he got near, someone remarked that some torches had flared up in the rear of his camp. He hastened thither to see. As soon as he was out of sight the four leaders waved on their men and dashed up to the camp. At the same time Ma Tai and Wang P‘ing came up behind and two other troops came out.
The men of Wei were trapped and helpless; they scattered and fled for_life. His officers got Ts'ao Chến away to the eastward. The enemy chased them. As Ts'ao fled there arose a great shouting, and up came a troop at full speed. Ts'ao thought all was lost, and his heart sank, but it was Ssūma, who drove off the pursuers.
Though Ts'ao was saved he was almost too ashamed to show his face. Then said Ssúma, "Chuko Liang has seized Ch‘ishan, and we cannot remain here; let us go to Weipin, whence we may try to recover our lost ground."