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Man Ch‘ung led the leading division toward Ch‘aohuk'ou. Thence, looking across to the eastern shore, he saw only a few ships, but a large number of flags and banners. So he returned to the main army and proposed an attack without loss of time.
“The enemy think we shall be fatigued after a long march and have not troubled to prepare any defence; we should attack this night, and we shall overcome them.”
“What you say accords with my own ideas," said the king, and he told off the cavalry leader, Chang Ch‘iu, to take five companies and try to burn out the enemy. Man Ch‘ung was also to attack from the eastern bank.
In the second watch of that night the two forces set out and gradually approached the entrance to the lake. They reached the marine camp unobserved, burst upon it with a yell, and the men of Wu fled without striking a blow. The men of Wei set fires going in every direction and thus destroyed all the ships together with much grain and many weapons.
Chuko Chin, who was in command, led his beaten men to Mienkou, and the attackers returned to their camp much elated.
When the report come to Lu Hsün he called together his officers and said, “I must write to the king to abandon the siege of Hsinch'êng, that the men may be employed to cut off the retreat of the Wei army, while I will attack them in front. They will be harassed by the double danger, and we shall break them.”
All agreed that this was a good plan, and the memorial was drafted. It was sent by the hand of a junior officer, who was told to convey it secretly. But this messenger was captured at the ferry and taken before King Jui, who read the despatch, saying, with a sigh, "This Lu Hsün is really very resourceful.”
The captive was put into prison, and Liu Shao was told off to defend the rear and keep off Sun's army.
Now Chuko's defeated men were suffering from hot weather illnesses, and at length he was compelled to write and tell Lu Hsün, and ask that his army be relieved and sent home. Having read this despatch, Lu said to the messenger, "Make my obeisance to the Great General and say that I will decide."
When the messenger returned with this reply Chuko asked what was doing in the Commander-in-chief's camp. He replied that the men were all outside planting beans, and the officers were amusing themselves at the gates. They were playing a game of skill, throwing arrows into narrow-necked vases.
Then Chuko himself went to his chief's camp and asked how the pressing danger was to be met.
Lu Hsün replied, "My messenger to the king was captured, and thus my plans were discovered. Now it is useless to prepare to fight, and so we had better retreat. I have sent in a memorial to engage the king to retire gradually.”
Chuko replied, "Why delay? If you think it best to retire, it had better be done quickly."
"My army must retreat slowly, or the enemy will come in pursuit, which will mean defeat and loss. Now you must first prepare your ships as if you meant to resist, while I make a semblance of an attack toward Hsiangyang. Under cover of these operations I shall withdraw into Chiangtung, and the enemy will not dare to follow."
So Chuko returned to his own camp and began to fit out his ships as if for an immediate expedition, while Lu made all preparations to march, giving out that he intended to advance upon Hsiangyang. The news of these movements were duly reported in the Wei camps, and when the leaders heard it they wished to go out and fight. But the king knew his opponent better than they and would not bring about a battle. So he called his officers together and said to them, “This Lu Hsün is very crafty; keep careful guard, but do not risk a battle."
The officers obeyed, but a few days later the scouts brought in news that the armies of Wu had retired. The king doubted and sent out some of his own spies, who confirmed the report. When he thus knew it was true he consoled himself with the words, “Lu Hsün knows the rat of war even as did Sun Wu and Wu P'ing; they were no whit his superior. The subjugation of the south-east is not for me this time.”
Thereupon he distributed his captains among the various vantage points and led the main army back into Hofei, where he camped ready to take advantage of any change of conditions that might promise success.
Meanwhile K‘ung-ming was at Ch‘ishan, where, to all appearances, he intended to make a long sojourn. He made his soldiers mix with the people and share in the labour of the fields. He gave strict orders against any encroachment on the property of the farmers, and so they and the soldiers lived together very amicably.
Then Ssúma's son, Shih, went to his father and said, “These men of Shu have despoiled us of much grain, and now they are mingling with the people of Ch‘ishan and tilling the fields along the banks of the Wei River as if they intended to remain there. This would be a calamity for us. Why do you not appoint a time to fight a decisive battle with K‘ung-ming ?”
His father replied, "I have the king's orders to act on the defensive and may not do as you suggest."
While they were thus talking, one reported that Wei Yen had come near and was insulting the army and reminding them that they had the helmet of its leader. And he was challenging them. The captains were greatly incensed and desired to accept the challenge, but the Commander-in-chief was immovable in his decision to obey his orders.
"The Holy One says if we cannot suffer small things, great matters are imperilled. Our plan is to defend.”
So the challenge was not accepted, and there was no battle. After reviling them for some time, Wei Yen went away.
Seeing that his enemy was not to be provoked into fighting, K‘ung-ming gave orders to build a strong stockade and therein to excavate pits and to collect large quantities of inflammables. So on the hill they piled wood and straw in the shape of sheds, and all about they digged pits and buried mines. When these preparations were complete Ma Tai received instructions to block the road in rear of Hulu Valley and to lay an ambush at the entrance.
"If Ssúma comes, let him enter the valley, and then explode the mines and set fire to the straw and the wood," said K‘ungming.
Kʻung-ming set up a seven-star signal at the mouth of the valley and also arranged a night signal of seven lamps on the hill. After Ma Tai had gone, Wei Yen was called in, and Kʻungming said to him, “Go to the camp of Wei with half a company and provoke them to battle. The important matter is to entice Ssúma out of his stronghold. You will be unable to obtain a victory, so retreat that he may pursue; and you are to make for the signal, the seven stars by day or the seven lamps at night. Thus you will lead him into the Hulu Valley, where I have a plan prepared for him.''
When he had gone, Kao Hsiang was summoned.
“Take small herds, two or three score at a time, of the ‘wooden oxen and running horses,' load them up with grain and lead them to and fro on the mountains. If you can succeed in getting the enemy to capture them you will render a service.”
So the transport "cattle" were sent forth to play their part in the scheme, and the remainder of the Ch'ishan soldiers were sent to work in the fields, with orders to join in the battle only if Ssúma came in person. In that case they were to attack the south bank of the river and cut off the retreat. Then K‘ung-ming led his army away to camp in the Shangfang Valley.
Hsiahou Hui and Hsiahou Ho went to their chief, Ssúma I, and said, “The enemy have set out camps and are engaged in field work as though they intended to remain. If they are not destroyed now, but are allowed to consolidate their position, they will be hard to dislodge."
"This certainly is one of Kʻung-ming's ruses,” said the chief.
“You seem very afraid of him, General," retorted they. “When do you think you can destroy him? At least let us two brothers fight one battle that we may prove our gratitude for the king's kindness."
"If it must be so, then you may go in two divisions," said Ssŭma.
As the two divisions were marching along they saw coming toward them a number of the transport "animals" of the enemy. They attacked at once, drove off the escort, captured them and sent them back to camp. Next day they captured more, with men and horses as well, and sent them also to camp.
Ssúma called up the prisoners and questioned them. They told him that K‘ung-ming quite understood that he would not fight and so had told off the soldiers to various places to work in the fields and thus provide for future needs. They had been unwittingly captured.
Ssóma set them free and bade them begone. "Why spare them ?” asked Hsiahou Ho.
“There is nothing to be gained by the slaughter of a few common soldiers. Let them go back to their own and praise the kindliness of the Wei leaders. That will slacken the desire of their comrades to fight against us. That was the plan by which Lü Mêng captured Chingchou.”
Then he issued general orders that all Shu prisoners should be well treated and sent away free, and he rewarded those of his army who had done well.
As has been said, Kao Hsiang was ordered to keep pretended convoys on the move, and the soldiers of Wei attacked and captured them whenever they saw them. In half a month they had scored many successes of this sort, and Ssúma's heart was cheered. One day, when he had made new captures of men, he sent for them and questioned them again.
"Where is Kʻung-ming now?"
"He is no longer at Ch'ishan, but in camp about ten li from Shangfang Valley. He is gathering great store of grain there."
After he had questioned them fully, he set the prisoners free. Calling together his officers, he said, “K‘ung-ming is not camped on Ch‘ishan, but near Shangfang Valley. Tomorrow you shall attack the Ch‘ishan camp, and I will command the reserve."
The promise cheered them, and they went away to prepare.
"Father, why do you intend to attack the enemy's rear?" asked Ssúma Shih.
"Ch‘ishan is their main position, and they will certainly hasten to its rescue. Then I shall make for the valley and burn the stores. That will render them helpless and will be a victory."
The son dutifully agreed with his father and set out, while his father followed with the reserves.
From the top of a hill K‘ung-ming watched the Wei soldiers march and noticed that they moved carelessly, not even keeping their ranks. He guessed that their object was the Ch'ishan
camp and sent strict orders to his captains that if Ssuma led in person they were to go off and capture the camp on the south bank.
When the men of Wei had got near and made their rush toward the camp of Shu, the men of Shu ran up also, yelling and pretending to reinforce the defenders. Ssúma, seeing this, suddenly changed his direction and turned off for the Shangfang Valley. Here Wei Yen was expecting him, and as soon as he appeared Wei Yen galloped up and soon recognised Ssúma as the leader.
"Ssúma I, stay!" shouted he as he came near. He flourished his sword, and Ssúma set his spear. The two warriors exchanged a few passes, and then Wei Yen suddenly turned his steed and bolted. As he had been ordered, he made direct for the seven-starred flag, and Ssůma followed, the more readily as he saw the fugitive had but a small force. The two sor of Ssúma rode with him, one on either hand.
Presently Wei Yen and his men entered the mouth of the valley. Ssúma halted a time while he sent forward a few scouts, but when they returned and reported nothing to be seen but a few straw houses on the hills, he rode in, saying, “This must be the store valley."
But when he had got well within, Ssúma noticed that kindling wood was piled over the straw huts, and as he saw no sign of Wei Yen he began to feel uneasy.
"Supposing soldiers seize the entrance; what then?” said he to his sons.
As he spoke there arose a great shout, and from the hillside came many torches, which fell all around them and set fire to the straw, so that soon the entrance to the valley was lost in smoke and flame. They tried to get away from the fire, but no road led up the hillside. Then fire-arrows came shooting, down, and the earth-mines exploded, and the straw and firewood blazed high as the heavens. Ssúma I, scared and helpless, dismounted, clasped his arms about his two sons and wept, saying, “My sons, we three are doomed."
But suddenly a fierce gale sprang up, black clouds gathered, a peal of thunder followed and rain poured down in torrents, speedily extinguishing the fire all through the valley. The mines no longer exploded and all the fiery contrivances ceased to work mischief.
“If we do not break out now, what better chance shall we have ?” cried the father, and he and his two sons made a dash for the outlet. As they broke out of the valley they came upon reinforcements under Chang Hu and Yüeh Lin, and so were once more safe. Ma Tai was not strong enough to pursue, and the men of Wei got safely to the river.
But there they found their camp in the possession of the enemy, while Chiang Huai and his colleague were on the float