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CHAPTER 44. Zhuge Liang Stirs Zhou Yu To Actions; Sun Quan Decides To Attack Cao Cao.

| Articles of Ancient China, English Version - Romance of the Three Kingdoms Novel | March 7, 2011

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The dying message which Lady Wu recalled to
Sun Quan’s memory was, “For internal matters
consult Zhang Zhao; for external policy Zhou Yu.”
Wherefore Zhou Yu was summoned.
But Zhou Yu was already on the way. He had
been training his naval forces on Poyang Lake when
he heard of the approach of Cao Cao’s hosts and
had started for Chaisang without loss of time. So,
before the messenger ordered to call him could start,
he had already arrived. As he and Lu Su were close
friends, the latter went to welcome him and told him
of all that had happened.
“Have no anxiety;” said Zhou Yu, “I shall be able
to decide this. But go quickly and beg Zhuge Liang to
come to see me.”
So Lu Su went to seek out Zhuge Liang. Zhou Yu
had many other visitors. First came Zhang Zhao,
Zhang Hong, Gu Yong, and Bu Zhi to represent their
faction to find out what might be afoot.
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They were received, and after the exchange of
the usual commonplaces, Zhang Zhao said, “Have
you heard of our terrible danger?”
“I have heard nothing,” said Zhou Yu.
“Cao Cao and his hordes are encamped up the
Han River. He has just sent letters asking our lord to
hunt with him in Jiangxia. He may have a desire to
absorb this country but, if so, the details of his
designs are still secret. We prayed our master to
give in his submission and so avoid the horrors of
war, but now Lu Su has returned bringing with him
the Directing Instructor of Liu Bei’s army, Zhuge
Liang. Zhuge Liang, desiring to avenge himself for
the recent defeat, has talked our lord into a mind for
war, and Lu Su persists in supporting that policy.
They only await your final decision.”
“Are you all unanimous in your opinions?”
“We are perfectly unanimous,” said Zhang Zhao.
Zhou Yu said, “The fact is I have also desired to
submit for a long time. I beg you to leave me now,
and tomorrow we will see our master, and I shall
make up his mind for him.”
So they took their leave. Very soon came the
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military party led by Cheng Pu, Huang Gai, and Han
Dang. They were admitted and duly inquired after
their host’s health.
Then the leader Cheng Pu said, “Have you heard
that our country is about to pass under another’s
“No; I have heard nothing,” replied the host.
“We helped General Sun Quan to establish his
authority here and carve out this kingdom, and to
gain that end we fought many a battle before we
conquered the country. Now our lord lends his ear to
his civil officers and desires to submit himself to Cao
Cao. This is a most shameful and pitiful course, and
we would rather die than follow it; so we hope you
will decide to fight, and you may depend upon our
struggling to the last person.”
“And are you unanimous, Generals?” asked Zhou
Huang Gai suddenly started up and smote his
forehead, saying, “They may take my head, but I
swear never to surrender.”
“Not one of us is willing to surrender,” cried all the
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“My desire also is to decide matters with Cao Cao
on the battlefield. How could we think of submission?
Now I pray you retire, Generals, and when I see our
lord, I will settle his doubts.”
So the war party left. They were quickly
succeeded by Zhuge Jin, Lu Fan and their faction.
They were brought in and, after the usual
courtesies, Zhuge Jin said, “My brother has come
down the river saying that Liu Bei desires to ally
himself with our lord against Cao Cao. The civil and
military hold different opinions as to the course to be
pursued, but as my brother is so deeply concerned, I
am unwilling to say much on either side. We are
awaiting your decision.”
“And what do you think about it?” asked Zhou Yu.
“Submission is an easy road to tranquillity, while
the result of war is hard to foretell.”
Zhou Yu smiled, “I shall have my mind made up.
Come tomorrow to the palace, and the decision shall
be announced.”
The trimmers took their leave. But soon after
came Lu Meng, Gan Ning, and their supporters, also
desirous of discussing the same thing, and they told
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him that opinions differed greatly, some being for
peace and others for war. One party constantly
disputed with the other.
“I must not say much now,” replied Zhou Yu, “but
you will see tomorrow in the palace, when the matter
will be fully debated.”
They went away leaving Zhou Yu smiling
About eventide Lu Su and Zhuge Liang came,
and Zhou Yu went out to the main gate to receive
When they had taken their proper seats, Lu Su
spoke first, saying, “Cao Cao has come against the
South Land with a huge army. Our master cannot
decide whether to submit or give battle and waits for
your decision. What is your opinion?”
Zhou Yu replied, “We may not oppose Cao Cao
when he acts at the command of the Emperor.
Moreover, he is very strong, and to attack him is to
take serious risks. In my opinion, opposition would
mean defeat and, since submission means peace, I
have decided to advise our lord to write and offer
surrender.” “But you are wrong!” stammered Lu Su.
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“This country has been under the same rule for three
generations and cannot be suddenly abandoned to
some other. Our late lord Sun Ce said that you were
to be consulted on matters beyond the border, and
we depended upon you to keep the country as
secure and solid as the Taishan Mountains. Now you
adopt the view of the weaklings and propose to yield!
I cannot believe you mean it.”
Replied Zhou Yu, “The six territories contain
countless people. If I am the means of bringing upon
them the misery of war, they will hate me. So I have
decided to advise submission.”
“But do you not realize our lord’s might and the
strength of our country? If Cao Cao does attack, it is
very uncertain that he will realize his desire.”
The two wrangled for a long time, while Zhuge
Liang sat smiling with folded arms.
Presently Zhou Yu asked, “Why do you smile
thus, Master?”
And Zhuge Liang replied, “I am smiling at no
other than your opponent Lu Su, who knows nothing
of the affairs of the day.”
“Master,” said Lu Su, “what do you mean?”
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“Why, this intention to submit is perfectly
reasonable; it is the one proper thing.”
“There!” exclaimed Zhou Yu. “Zhuge Liang knows
the times perfectly well, and he agrees with me.”
“But, both of you, why do you say this?” said Lu
Said Zhuge Liang, “Cao Cao is an excellent
commander, so good that no one dares oppose him.
Only very few have ever attempted it, and they have
been exterminated; the world knows them no more.
The only exception is Liu Bei, who did not
understand the conditions and vigorously contended
against him, with the result that he is now at Jiangxia
in a very parlous state. To submit is to secure the
safety of wives and children, to be rich and honored.
But the dignity of the country would be left to chance
and fate—however, that is not worth consideration.”
Lu Su interrupted angrily, “Would you make our
lord crook the knee to such a rebel as Cao Cao?”
“Well,” replied Zhuge Liang, “there is another
way, and a cheaper; there would be no need to ‘lead
the sheep and shoulder wine pots’ for presents, nor
any need to yield territory and surrender seals of
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office. It would not even be necessary to cross the
river yourselves. All you would require is a simple
messenger and a little boat to ferry a couple of
people across the river. If Cao Cao only got these
two persons under his hand, his hordes and legions
would just drop their weapons, furl their banners, and
silently vanish away.”
“What two persons could cause Cao Cao to go
away as you say?” asked Zhou Yu.
“Two persons who could be easily spared from
this populous country. They would not be missed any
more than a leaf from a tree or a grain of millet from
a granary. But if Cao Cao could only get them, would
he not go away rejoicing?”
“But who are the two?” asked Zhou Yu again.
“When I was living in the country, they told me
that Cao Cao was building a pavilion on the River
Zhang; it was to be named the Bronze Bird Tower. It
is an exceedingly handsome building, and he has
sought throughout all the world for the most beautiful
women to live in it. For Cao Cao really is a
“Now there are two very famous beauties in Wu,
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born of the Qiao family. So beautiful are they that
birds alight and fishes drown, the moon hides her
face and the flowers blush for shame at sight of
them. Cao Cao has declared with an oath that he
only wants two things in this world: the imperial
throne in peace and the sight of those two women on
the Bronze Bird Terraces. Given these two, he would
go down to his grave without regret. This expedition
of his, his huge army that threatens this country, has
for its real aim these two women. Why do you not
buy these two from their father, the State Patriarch
Qiao, for any sum however large and send them
over the river? The object of the army being attained,
it will simply be marched away. This is the use that
Fan Li of Yue made to the king of Wu of the famous
beauty Xi Shi.”
“How do you know Cao Cao so greatly desires
these two?” said Zhou Yu.
“Because his son Cao Zhi, who is an able writer,
at the command of his father wrote a poem ‘An Ode
to the Bronze Bird Terrace,’ theme only allowing
allusions to the family fitness for the throne. He has
sworn to possess these two women. I think I can
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remember the poem, if you wish to hear it. I admire it
“Try,” said Zhou Yu.
So Zhuge Liang recited the poem:
“Let me follow in the footsteps of the enlightened
ruler that I may rejoice,
And ascend the storied terrace that I may gladden
my heart,
That I may see the wide extent of the palace,
That I may gaze upon the plans of the virtuous
He has established the exalted gates high as the
He has built the lofty towers piercing the blue
He has set up the beautiful building in the midst of
the heavens,
Whence the eye can range over the cities of the
On the banks of the rolling River Zhang he
planned it,
Whence abundance of fruits could be looked for
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in his gardens.
The two towers rise, one on either flank,
This named Golden Phoenix, that Jade Dragon.
He would have the two Qiaos; these beautiful
ladies of Wu,
That he might rejoice with them morning and
Look down; there is the grand beauty of an
imperial city,
And the rolling vapors lie floating beneath.
He will rejoice in the multitude of scholars that
Answering to the felicitous dream of King Wen.
Look up; and there is the gorgeous harmony of
And the singing of many birds delighting the ear;
The lofty sky stands over all.
The house desires success in its double
That the humane influence may be poured out
over all the world,
That the perfection of reverence may be offered
to the Ruler.
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Only the richly prosperous rule of Kings Wu and
Could compare with that of the sacred
That fortune! What beauty!
The gracious kindness spreads afar,
The imperial family is supported,
Peace reigns over all the empire,
Bounded only by the universe.
Bright as the glory of the sun and moon,
Ever honorable and ever enduring,
The Ruler shall live to the age of the eastern
The dragon banner shall wave to the farthest
His glorious chariot shall be guided with perfect
His thoughts shall reform all the world,
Felicitous produce shall be abundant,
And the people shall rest firm.
My desire is that these towers shall endure
And that joy shall never cease through all the
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Zhou Yu listened to the end but then suddenly
jumped up in a tremendous rage.
Turning to the north and pointing with his finger,
he cried, “You old rebel; this insult is too deep!”
Zhuge Liang hastily rose too and soothed him,
saying, “But remember the Khan of the Xiongnu
People. The Han emperor gave him a princess of the
family to wife although he had made many incursions
into our territory. That was the price of peace. You
surely would not grudge two more women from
among the common people.”
“You do not know, Sir,” replied Zhou Yu. “Of
those two women of the Qiao family you mentioned,
Elder Qiao is the widow of Sun Ce, our late ruler,
and Younger Qiao is my wife!”
Zhuge Liang feigned the greatest astonishment
and said, “No indeed; I did not know. I blundered; a
deadly fault; a deadly fault!”
“One of us two has to go, either the old rebel or I;
we shall not both live. I swear that,” cried Zhou Yu.
“However, such a matter needs a good deal of
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thought,” replied Zhuge Liang. “We must not make
any mistake.”
Zhou Yu replied, “I hold a sacred trust from my
late lord, Sun Ce; I would not bow the knee to any
such as Cao Cao. What I said just now was to see
how you stood. I left Poyang Lake with the intention
of attacking the north, and nothing can change that
intention, not even the sword at my breast or the ax
on my neck. But I trust you will lend an arm, and we
will smite Cao Cao together.”
“Should I be happy enough not to be rejected, I
would render such humble service as I could.
Perhaps presently I might be able to offer a plan to
oppose him.”
“I am going to see my lord tomorrow to discuss
this matter,” said Zhou Yu.
Zhuge Liang and Lu Su then left. Next day at
dawn Sun Quan went to the council chamber, where
his officials, civil and military, were already
assembled. They numbered about sixty in all. The
civil, with Zhang Zhao at their head, were on the
right; the military, with Cheng Pu as their leader,
were ranged on the left. All were in full ceremonial
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dress, and the swords of the soldiers clanked on the
Soon Zhou Yu entered and, when Sun Quan had
finished the usual gracious remarks, Zhou Yu said, “I
hear that Cao Cao is encamped on the river and has
sent a dispatch to you, my lord; I would ask what
your opinion is.”
Thereupon the dispatch was produced and
handed to Zhou Yu.
After reading it through he said, smiling, “The old
thief thinks there are no people in this land that he
writes in this contemptuous strain.”
“What do you think, Sir?” asked Sun Quan. “Have
you discussed this with the officials’“ asked Zhou Yu.
“We have been discussing this for days. Some
counsel surrender and some advise fight. I am
undecided, and therefore I have asked you to come
and decide the point.”
“Who advise surrender?” asked Zhou Yu.
“Zhang Zhao and his party are firmly set in this
Zhou Yu then turned to Zhang Zhao and said, “I
should be pleased to hear why you are for surrender,
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Then Zhang Zhao replied, “Cao Cao has been
attacking all opponents in the name of the Emperor,
who is entirely in his hands. He does everything in
the name of the government. Lately he has taken
Jingzhou and thereby increased his prestige. Our
defense against him was the Great River, but now he
also has a large fleet and can attack by water. How
can we withstand him? Wherefore I counsel
submission till some chance shall offer.”
“This is but the opinion of an ill−advised student,”
said Zhou Yu. “How can you think of abandoning this
country that we have held for three generations?”
“That being so,” said Sun Quan, “where is a plan
to come from?”
“Though Cao Cao assumes the name of the
Prime Minister of the empire, he is at heart a rebel.
You, O General, are able in war and brave. You are
the heir to your father and brother. You command
brave and tried soldiers, and you have plentiful
supplies. You are able to overrun the whole country
and rid it of every evil. There is no reason why you
should surrender to a rebel.
Three Kingdoms Romance
“Moreover, Cao Cao has undertaken this
expedition in defiance of all the rules of war. The
north is unsubdued; Ma Teng and Han Sui threaten
his rear, and yet he persists in his southern march.
This is the first point against Cao Cao. The northern
soldiers are unused to fighting on the water; Cao
Cao is relinquishing his well−tried cavalry and
trusting to ships. That is the second point against
him. Again, we are now in full winter and the weather
is at its coldest so there is no food for the horses.
That is the third point against. Soldiers from the
central state marching in a wet country among lakes
and rivers will find themselves in an unaccustomed
climate and suffer from malaria. That is the fourth
point against. Now when Cao Cao’s armies have all
these points against them, defeat is certain, however
numerous they may be, and you can take Cao Cao
captive just as soon as you wish. Give me a few
legions of veterans and I will go and destroy him.”
Sun Quan started up from his place, saying, “The
rebellious old rascal has been wanting to overthrow
the Hans and set up himself for years. He has rid
himself of all those he feared, save only myself, and I
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swear that one of us two shall go now. Both of us
cannot live. What you say, Noble Friend, is just what
I think, and Heaven has certainly sent you to my
“Thy servant will fight a decisive battle,” said Zhou
Yu, “and shrink not from any sacrifice. Only, General,
do not hesitate.”
Sun Quan drew the sword that hung at his side
and slashed off a corner of the table in front of him,
exclaiming, “Let any other person mention surrender,
and he shall be served as I have served this table.”
Then he handed the sword to Zhou Yu, at the
s a m e t i m e g i v i n g h i m a c o m m i s s i o n a s
Commander−in−Chief and Supreme Admiral, Cheng
Pu being Vice−Admiral. Lu Su was also nominated
as Commanding Assistant.
In conclusion Sun Quan said, “With this sword
you will slay any officer who may disobey your
Zhou Yu took the sword and turning to the
assembly said, “You have heard our lord’s charge to
me to lead you to destroy Cao Cao; you will all
assemble tomorrow at the river−side camp to receive
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my orders. Should any be late or fail, then the full
rigor of military law—the seven prohibitions and the
fifty−four capital penalties—there provided, will be
Zhou Yu took leave of Sun Quan and left the
chamber; the various officers also went their several
ways. When Zhou Yu reached his own place, he
sent for Zhuge Liang to consult over the business in
hand. He told Zhuge Liang of the decision that had
been taken and asked for a plan of campaign.
“But your master has not yet made up his mind,”
said Zhuge Liang. “Till he has, no plan can be
decided upon.”
“What do you mean?”
“In his heart, Sun Quan is still fearful of Cao Cao’s
numbers and frets over the inequality of the two
armies. You will have to explain away those numbers
and bring him to a final decision before anything can
be effected.”
“What you say is excellent,” said Zhou Yu, and he
went to the palace that night to see his master.
Sun Quan said, “You must have something of real
importance to say if you come like this at night.”
Three Kingdoms Romance
Zhou Yu said, “I am making my dispositions
tomorrow; you have quite made up your mind?”
“The fact is,” said Sun Quan, “I still feel nervous
about the disparity of numbers. Surely we are too
few. That is really all I feel doubtful about.”
“It is precisely because you have this one
remaining doubt that I am come. And I will explain.
Cao Cao’s letter speaks of a million of marines, and
so you feel doubts and fears and do not wait to
consider the real truth. Let us examine the case
thoroughly. We find that he has of central regions’
soldiers, say, some one hundred fifty thousand
troops, and many of them are sick. He only got
seventy or eighty thousand northern soldiers from
Yuan Shao, and many of those are of doubtful
loyalty. Now these sick men and these men of
doubtful loyalty seem a great many, but they are not
at all fearsome. I could smash them with fifty
thousand soldiers. You, my lord, have no further
Sun Quan patted his general on the back, saying,
“You have explained my difficulty and relieved my
doubts. Zhang Zhao is an old fool who constantly
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bars my expeditions. Only you and Lu Su have any
real understanding of my heart. Tomorrow you and
Lu Su and Cheng Pu will start, and I shall have a
strong reserve ready with plentiful supplies to
support you. If difficulties arise, you can at once send
for me, and I will engage with my own army.”
Zhou Yu left; but in his innermost heart he said to
himself, “If that Zhuge Liang can gauge my master’s
thoughts so very accurately, he is too clever for me
and will be a danger. He will have to be put out of the
Zhou Yu sent a messenger over to Lu Su to talk
over this last scheme. When he had laid it bare, Lu
Su did not favor it.
“No, no,” said Lu Su, “it is self−destruction to
make away with your ablest officer before Cao Cao
shall have been destroyed.”
“But Zhuge Liang will certainly help Liu Bei to our
“Try what his brother Zhuge Jin can do to
persuade him. It would be an excellent thing to have
these two in our service.”
“Yes, indeed,” replied Zhou Yu.
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Next morning at dawn, Zhou Yu went to his camp
and took his seat in the council tent. The armed
guards took up their stations right and left, and the
officers ranged themselves in lines to listen to the
Now Cheng Pu, who was older than Zhou Yu but
was made second in command, was very angry at
being passed over, so he made a pretense of
indisposition and stayed away from this assembly.
But he sent his eldest son, Cheng Zi, to represent
Zhou Yu addressed the gathering, saying, “The
law knows no partiality, and you will all have to
attend to your several duties. Cao Cao is now more
absolute than ever was Dong Zhuo, and the Emperor
is really a prisoner in Xuchang, guarded by the most
cruel soldiers. We have a command to destroy Cao
Cao, and with your willing help we shall advance.
The army must cause no hardship to the people
anywhere. Rewards for good service and
punishments for faults shall be given impartially.”
Having delivered this charge, Zhou Yu told off
Han Dang and Huang Gai as Leaders of the Van,
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and ordered the ships under his own command to
get under way and go to the Three Gorges. They
would get orders by and bye. Then he appointed four
armies with two leaders over each: the first body was
under Jiang Qin and Zhou Tai; the second, Pan
Zhang and Ling Tong; the third, Taishi Ci and Lu
Meng; the fourth, Lu Xun and Dong Xi. Lu Fan and
Zhu Zhi were appointed inspectors, to move from
place to place and keep the various units up to their
work and acting with due regard to the general plan.
L a n d a n d m a r i n e f o r c e s w e r e t o m o v e
simultaneously. The expedition would soon start.
Having received their orders, each returned to his
command and busied himself in preparation. Cheng
Zi, the son of Cheng Pu, returned and told his father
what arrangements had been made, and Cheng Pu
was amazed at Zhou Yu’s skill.
Said he, “I have always despised Zhou Yu as a
mere student who would never be a general, but this
shows that he has a leader’s talent. I must support
So Cheng Pu went over to the quarters of the
Commander−in−Chief and confessed his fault. He
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was received kindly and all was over.
Next Zhou Yu sent for Zhuge Jin and said to him,
“Evidently your brother is a genius, a man born to be
a king’s counselor. Why then does he serve Liu Bei?
Now that he is here, I wish you to use every effort to
persuade him to stay with us. Thus our lord would
gain able support and you two brothers would be
together, which would be pleasant for you both. I
wish you success.”
Zhuge Jin replied, “I am ashamed of the little
service I have rendered since I came here, and I can
do no other than obey your command to the best of
my ability.” Thereupon he went away to his brother,
whom he found in the guest−house. The younger
brother received him; and when he had reached the
inner rooms, Zhuge Liang bowed respectfully and,
weeping, told his experiences since they parted and
his sorrow at their separation.
Then Zhuge Jin, weeping also, said, “Brother, do
you remember the story of Bo Yi and Shu Qi, the
brothers who would not be separated?”
“Ah, Zhou Yu has sent him to talk me over,”
thought Zhuge Liang. So he replied, “They were two
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of the noble people of old days; yes, I know.”
“Those two, although they perished of hunger
near the Shouyang Hills, yet never separated. You
and I, born of the same mother and suckled at the
same breast, yet serve different masters and never
meet. Are you not ashamed when you think of such
examples as Bo Yi and Shu Qi?”
Zhuge Liang replied, “You are talking now of love,
but what I stand for is duty. We are both men of Han,
and Liu Bei is of the family. If you, Brother, could
leave the South Land and join me in serving the
rightful branch, then on the one side we should be
honored as Ministers of Han, and on the other we
should be together as people of the same flesh and
blood should be. Thus love and duty would both
receive their proper meed. What do you think of it,
my brother?”
“I came to persuade him and lo! It is I who is
being talked over,” thought Zhuge Jin.
He had no fitting reply to make, so he rose and
took his leave. Returning to Zhou Yu, he related the
story of the interview.
“What do you think?” asked Zhou Yu.
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“General Sun Quan has treated me with great
kindness, and I could not turn my back on him,”
replied Zhuge Jin.
“Since you decide to remain loyal, there is no
need to say much; I think I have a plan to win over
your brother.”
The wisest people see eye to eye,
For each but sees the right;
But should their several interests clash,
They all the fiercer fight.
The means by which Zhou Yu tried to get the
support of Zhuge Liang will be described in the next
Three Kingdoms Romance

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