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arrangements in a camp he will be unable to conclude whether the men have gone or not, and he will not pursue. Thus I shall gradually withdraw without loss.'
The order for retreat was given.
Confident of the effect that Kou An's lying report would produce, Ssúma waited for the retreat of the Shu army to begin. He was still waiting when the scouts told him the enemy's camps were empty. Wishing to make sure, he rode out himself with a small reconnoitring party and inspected the empty camps. Then he bade them count the stoves. Soon after he paid a second visit, and again the cooking stoves were counted. The count showed an increase of a tenth.
"I felt sure that K‘ung-ming would have some ruse ready. He has increased the cooking arrangements, and so, if we pursue, he will be ready for us. No; we also will retire and await another opportunity."
So there was no pursuit, and K‘ung-ming did not lose a man. By and by, men came in from Ch'uank'ou to say that the retreat was a fact and that only the cooking arrangements had been increased, not the men. Ssúma knew that he had been tricked, and once more acknowledged sadly his rival's superior guile. And he set out for Loyang.
When players of equal skill are matched,
Then victory hovers between;
So put on your lowliest mien. What happened when K‘ung-ming reached Ch'êngtu will be told next.
GOING OUT FROM SHENSI, CHUKO DRESSES AS A GOD; DASHING TOWARD CHIENKO, CHANG HO FALLS INTO A SNARE. By means of the artifice just described, Chuko withdrew his army safely into Hanchung, while Ssúma retreated upon Ch'angan. K‘ung-ming distributed the rewards for success and then went to the capital for audience.
"Your Majesty recalled me just as I was about to advance upon Ch'angan; what is the important matter?” said the minister.
For a long time the king made no reply. Presently he said, "I longed to see your face once more, that is the only reason.”
K‘ung-ming replied, “I think my recall was not on your own initiative; some slanderous person has hinted that I cherished ulterior objects."
The king, who indeed felt guilty and ill at ease, made no reply, and K'ung-ming continued, “Your late father laid me under an obligation which I am pledged to fulfil to the death. But if vile influences are permitted to work at home, how can I destroy the rebels without?"
“The fact is I recalled you because of the talk of the eunuchs. But I understand now and am unutterably sorry.”
K‘ung-ming interrogated the eunuchs and thus found out the base rumours that had been spread abroad by Kou An. He sent to arrest this man, but he had already fled and gone over to Wei. The eunuchs who had influenced the king were put to death, and all the others were expelled from the palace. The Prime Minister also upbraided Chiang Wan and Fei I for not having looked into the matter and set the king right.
K‘ung-ming then took leave of the king and returned to the army. He wrote to Li Yen to see to the necessary supplies and began preparations for a new expedition.
Yang I said, “The soldiers are wearied by the many expeditions, and the supplies are not regular. I think a better plan would be to send half the army to Ch‘ishan for three months, and at the end of that time exchange them for the other half; and so on alternately. For example, if you have twenty legions, let ten legions go into the field and ten remain. In this way, using ten and ten, their energies will be conserved and you can gradually work toward the metropolis."
“I agree with you,” said K‘ung-ming. “Our attack is not a matter to be achieved in haste. The suggestion for an extended campaign is excellent."
Wherefore the army was divided, and each half went out for one hundred days' service at a time, when it was relieved by the other half. Full penalties were provided for any laxity and failure to maintain the periods of active service.
In the spring of the ninth year of Chien-Hsing the army once more took the field against Wei. In Wei it was the fifth year of Tai-Ho.
When the King of Wei heard of this new expedition he called Ssŭma and asked his advice.
"Now that my friend Tsʻao Chên is no more, I am willing to do all that one man can to destroy the rebels against Your Majesty's authority.”
The king was gratified by this ready offer, and honoured Ssúma with a banquet. Soon after came the news of actual attack and an edict issued for the army to move. The king, riding in his state chariot, escorted Ssúma I out of the city, and, after the farewells, the general took the road to Ch'angan, where the force was gathering. There was assembled a council of war.
Chang Ho offered to guard Yung and Mei, but Ssúma said, “Our leading army is not strong enough to face the enemy's whole force. Moreover, to divide an army is not generally a successful scheme. The better plan will be to leave a guard in Shangk‘uei and send all the others to Ch‘ishan. Will you undertake the leadership of the van?"
Chang Ho consented, saying, "I have always been most loyal and will devote my energies entirely to the service of the state. So far I have not had an adequate opportunity to prove my sincerity, but now that you confer upon me a post of such responsibility I can only say that no sacrifice can be too great for me, and I will do my utmost."
So Chang was appointed van-leader, and then Kuo Huai was set over Shênsi. Other captains were distributed to other posts, and the march began. The spies ascertained that the main force of Shu was directed toward Ch‘ishan, and the leaders of the van were Wang P‘ing and Chang 1. The route chosen for their march was from Ch‘êntsʻang across Chienko, through Sankuan and the Hsieh Valley.
Hearing this, Ssúma said, “Kʻung-ming is advancing in great force and certainly intends to reap the wheat in Shênsi for his supply. You get sufficient men to hold Ch‘ishan, while I and Kuo Huai go over and foil the enemy's plan to gather the wheat."
So Cang Ho took four legions to hold Ch‘ishan, and Ssúma set out westwards.
When K‘ung-ming reached Ch‘ishan and had settled his men in camp, he saw that the bank of the River Wei had been fortified by his enemy.
"That must be the work of Ssúma I," remarked he to his captains. "But we have not enough food in camp. I have written to Li Yen to send grain, but it has not yet arrived. The wheat in Shênsi is now just ripe, and we will go and reap it."
Leaving a guard for the camps, K‘ung-ming, with several captains, went over to Luch'êng. The Prefect of that city knew he could not offer any real defence, so he opened the gates and yielded. Then K‘ung-ming asked him where the ripe wheat was to be found, and Shênshang was named. So a few men were left in the city, and the remainder of the army went to Shenshang.
But soon the leading body returned to say that Ssúma had already occupied that city.
"He guessed what I intended to do," said K'ung-ming, taken aback.
K‘ung-ming then retired, bathed and put on another dress. Next he bade them bring out three four-wheeled chariots, all exactly alike, that were among the impedimenta of the army. They had been built in Shu some time before.
Chiang Wei was told off to lead a company as escort for one chariot, and a half company of drummers were appointed to accompany it. The chariot with its escort and drummers was sent away behind the city. In like manner two other chariots were equipped and sent east and west of the city. Each chariot was propelled by a team of twenty men, all dressed in black, barefooted and with loosened hair. Each one of the team also had a sword or a black seven-starred bannerol.
While the chariots were taking up their positions the remaining men were ordered to prepare ropes and sickles to cut and carry away the grain.
Next K'ung-ming selected twenty-four handsome soldiers, whom he dressed and armed like those sent away with the three chariots, save that all carried swords instead of some swords and some bannerols. These were to push his own chariot. Kuan Hsing was told to dress up as a sort of angel and to walk in front of K‘ung-ming's chariot holding a black seven-starred bannerol. These preparations complete, K‘ungming mounted, and the chariot took the road toward the Wei camp.
The appearance of a chariot with such attendants more than startled the enemy's scouts, who did not know whether the apparition was that of a man or a demon. They hastened to their general and told him. Ssúma came out himself and saw the cavalcade, and its central figure dressed as a Taoist mystic, with head-dress, white robe and a feather fan.
"Some of K‘ung-ming's odd doings," said he, and he ordered a couple of companies to go out and bring in the chariot, escort and the seated figure.
The soldiers went out to do their bidding, but as soon as they appeared, the chariot retired and took a road leading to the rear of the Shu camp. Although the Wei soldiers were mounted, they could not come up with the cavalcade. What they did meet with was a chilly breeze and a cold mist that rolled about them.
They found it uncanny and halted, saying one to another, “How extraordinary it is that we have been pressing on and yet we got no nearer. What does it mean?”
When K‘ung-ming saw that the pursuit had ceased, he had his chariot pushed out again to the front and passed within sight of the halted men. At first they hesitated, but presently took up the pursuit once more. Whereupon the chariot again retired, proceeding slowly, but always keeping out of reach. And thus more than twenty li were covered and the chariot was still not captured.
Again the soldiers halted, puzzled and perplexed at this incomprehensible chase. But as soon as they stopped, the chariot came again toward them and they retook pursuit.
Ssúma now came up with a strong force. But he also halted, and said to his men, “This Kʻung-ming is a past master in the arts of necromancy and juggling and knows how to call up spirits to his aid. I know this trick of his; it is one of the 'Six Chia,' and it is vain to pursue."
So they ceased following. But then a roll of drums came from the side of the enemy as if a body of men were approaching. Ssúma told off some companies to repel them, but there only came into view a small force, and in their midst was a party of men dressed in black, the exact counterpart of the cavalcade he had first sent to pursue. In the chariot sat another K'ung-ming just like the one that had just disappeared.
“But just now he was sitting in that other chariot; how can he be here? It is most wonderful,” said Ssŭma.
Shortly after they heard another roll of the drums, and as the sound died away there appeared another body of men, with a chariot in the midst, exactly like the last and also carrying a sitting figure of K‘ung-ming.
“They must be magic soldiers," said Ssŭma.
The men were now feeling the strain of these weird appearances and began to get out of hand. They dared not stay to fight such beings, and some ran away. But before they had gone far, lo! another roll of drums, another cohort and another chariot with a similar figure seated therein.
The men of Wei were now thoroughly frightened, and even Ssúma himself began to feel doubtful whether these appearances should be ascribed to men or devils. He realised, however, that he was in the midst of dangers, and he and his men ran away helter-skelter, never stopping till they