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CHAPTER 58. Ma Chao Launches An Expedition For Revenge; Cao Cao Flees The Field In Disguise.

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

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“What is this good plan of yours, friend Chen
Qun?” asked Cao Cao of the speaker, who was a
civilian in his service.
Chen Qun replied, “Your two principal
enemies—Liu Bei and Sun Quan—are now firm
allies, close as lips and teeth. But Liu Bei wants the
Western Land of Rivers and if you, O Prime Minister,
send a mighty host against Sun Quan, Sun Quan
must ask help from his friend Liu Bei, who, having
his heart set on the west, will refuse it. Sun Quan
without this aid cannot stand and will become so
weak that the South Land will be yours for the taking,
and Jingzhou will follow in a tap of the drum. The
west will follow and the whole empire is yours.”
“Those are my thoughts put into words,” replied
Cao Cao.
The expeditionary force of three hundred
thousand troops set out for the south. Zhang Liao of
Hefei was in command of the supply department.
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Sun Quan speedily heard of the move and called
in his advisers.
At the council Zhang Zhao said, “Let us send to
Lu Su to tell him to write at once to Liu Bei that he
may help us. They are good friends, and Liu Bei will
certainly respond favorably. Beside, since Liu Bei
and our lord are now connected by marriage, there is
no risk of refusal. With the support of Liu Bei, there is
no danger to our country.”
Sun Quan listened to this advice and sent to Lu
Su bidding him to ask help from Liu Bei. Accordingly,
on receipt of this command, a letter was written to
Liu Bei, who after reading it, retained the messenger
at the guest−house till Zhuge Liang could arrive from
Nanjun. As soon as he arrived, Liu Bei showed him
the letter.
The adviser said, “It is not necessary for the
South Land’s troops to move, nor need we send
ours. I can prevent Cao Cao from even daring to look
in the southeast direction.”
So Zhuge Liang wrote a reply telling Lu Su:
“You can lay aside all anxiety and rest content, for
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if the northern army approach, they will be forced
backward at
The letter was given to the messenger, and then
Liu Bei asked his adviser, “How could the Instructor
hope to roll back the huge army of three hundred
thousand troops that Cao Cao is preparing to bring
Zhuge Liang replied, “Cao Cao’s chief fear is
Xiliang. Now just lately he has slain Ma Teng and his
sons as well, and the people of Xiliang are grinding
their teeth with rage. Now you must write and ask Ma
Chao to march through the pass, and Cao Cao will
have no leisure to think of any expedition to the
The letter was written, sent by a trusty hand, and
duly delivered. Now Ma Chao was in Xiliang. One
night he had a vision. In his dream he saw himself
lying out on a snowy plain and many tigers were
coming up and biting him. He awoke in a fright and
began to wonder what the dream portended. Failing
to explain it, he told the dream to his officers. One of
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them ventured to say the portent was evil. This was
General Pang De.
“What is your interpretation?” asked Ma Chao.
“Meeting with tigers on a snowy plain is a very
inauspicious subject to dream about. Assuredly our
old General is in trouble at the capital.”
And at that moment one entered in hot haste and
cast himself on the earth, weeping and crying, “The
Uncle and his sons are dead!”
It was Ma Dai, the nephew of Ma Teng. And he
told the story of the evil: “Uncle Ma Teng and Huang
Kui had planned to assassinate Cao Cao, but the
plot had miscarried and become known. Ma Tie fell
in the battlefield, Uncle Ma Teng and Ma Xiu were
put to death in the market place, and I escaped in
Ma Chao fell to the ground and wept bitterly,
grinding his teeth with rage at his enemy Cao Cao.
They lifted him to his feet and led him away to
Soon after arrived a messenger with a letter from
Liu Bei, which read like this:
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“In these latter days of the hapless Hans, when
the rebellious and tyrannical Cao Cao monopolizes
all power, to the
injury of the Emperor and the wretchedness of the
people, I, Liu Bei, recall that I and your father were
recipients of an edict and we swore to exterminate
the recreant. Now your father has suffered death at
the hands of the tyrant, and you must avenge him.
As the holy books say, you cannot let the same sky
cover you nor the same sunshine upon you and your
father’s murderer. If you can lead your army to attack
Cao Cao on one side, I will march my armies to
prevent his retreat, and he will be taken, and all his
evil crew can be exterminated. Then and thus will
your father be avenged and the Hans can be
restored. I might add more, but I will await your
Wiping his tears, Ma Chao wrote a reply which
was returned by the bearer.
The Xiliang army was then mustered; horse and
foot were assembled. Just before the day that had
been fixed for the start, the Imperial Protector of
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Xizhou, Han Sui, sent for Ma Chao, to whom he
showed a letter from Cao Cao promising the
Lordship of Xiliang as a reward for sending Ma Chao
a prisoner to the capital.
“Bind us both, Uncle, and send us thither; you
need not move a single spear,” said the younger
man prostrating himself.
But Han Sui raised him, saying, “Your father and I
were sworn brothers; think you I would harm you?
Rather will I help if you are going to fight.”
Ma Chao expressed his gratitude. The unhappy
bearer of Cao Cao’s letter was dragged forth and
beheaded. This done, the two took count of their
armies. Han Sui had eight divisions under eight
commanders—Yang Qiu, Cheng Yin, Hou Xuan,
Liang Xing, Cheng Yi, Li Kan, Ma Wan, and Zhang
Heng—all to be relied upon to follow Han Sui. Ma
Chao had two leaders, Pang De and Ma Dai. The
total force was two hundred thousand troops with
which the commanders march to Changan.
The Governor of that city was Zhong Yao. As
soon as he heard what was afoot, he sent a fleet
messenger to Cao Cao and prepared for defense.
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He led his force out into the open plain and arrayed it
for battle.
Ma Dai, with fifteen thousand, came on first,
pouring over the countryside like a flood. Zhong Yao
would parley with him, but Ma Dai came forward,
sword in hand, to attack. However, the defender did
not take the challenge but turned and fled. Ma Dai
followed in pursuit. Soon the main body of the
invaders arrived, and they surrounded the city, which
Zhong Yao set about defending.
Changan had been the capital of the Western
Hans and so was well fortified with a solid wall and a
deep moat, safe against the most terrific attacks. The
new armies besieged the city for ten days without
success. Then Pang De proposed a plan.
Said he, “Since the land about the city is barren
and the water bitter, the people must have
communication with the country around in order to
live. Further they have no fuel. Ten days of siege
must have exhausted the supplies in the city,
wherefore if we relax for a time—well, you will see.
We shall capture the city without moving a finger.”
“Your plan seems excellent,” said Ma Chao, when
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he heard what it was.
Thereupon they sent orders to each division to
retire, and Ma Chao covered the retreat. Next day
Zhong Yao went up on the walls to look around and
saw that the besiegers had gone. However,
suspecting a ruse, he sent out spies, who returned to
say the soldiers had really moved away to a
distance. Wherefore he felt much relieved and
allowed both soldiers and people to go out into the
country to cut the much needed firewood and bring
in water. The city gates, thrown wide open, were
thronged with those passing in and out.
This continued for five days, and then they heard
that Ma Chao’s army was returning. A panic ensued.
The people rushed into the city, and the gates were
once more barred.
The General of the west gate was Zhong Jin,
brother of Zhong Yao. About the third watch of the
night, a torch was seen moving just inside the gate;
and when the General went to see what was wrong,
and was passing the gateway, a man suddenly
galloped up and slashed at him with a sword. At the
same time the attacker shouted, “Here is Pang De!”
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Zhong Jin was taken aback, could not defend
himself and was cut down. The gate guard was soon
disposed of, the gates were shattered, and the
soldiers of Ma Chao and Han Sui came pouring in.
Zhong Yao escaped by the opposite gate and left the
city in the hands of his enemies. He reached Tong
Pass, where he fortified himself and sent news of the
misfortune to Cao Cao.
Cao Cao threw aside all plans for his expedition
to the south when Changan was lost.
He at once gave orders, “Cao Hong and Xu
Huang are to march your ten thousand troops to
Tong Pass to support Zhong Yao. You are to hold
the Pass at all costs for ten days, or you will pay for
its loss with your heads. After ten days the Pass will
be no concern of yours, for I will be there with the
main army.”
Cao Ren said, “Cao Hong short of temper is
unfitted to hold the Pass. Everything could happen.”
Cao Cao replied, “You will go to reinforce him.”
Cao Hong and Xu Huang made all haste to Tong
Pass and took over the command from Zhong Yao.
They confined themselves to defense; and though
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Ma Chao appeared every day and reviled and
shouted shameful things of the three generations of
Cao Cao’s family, the guardians of the Pass
remained quiet. But Cao Hong fretted at the daily
insults and would have led the defenders out to fight
had not his colleague restrained him.
“Ma Chao only wishes to provoke you to come
out, but remember our orders and go not. The Prime
Minister has some master plan.”
So spoke Xu Huang. But the advice was hard to
follow, for Ma Chao’s soldiers took turns in reviling
the defenders of the Pass, resting neither day nor
night. And Xu Huang found it hard to curb his
colleague’s impatience.
Thus it continued till the ninth day. Then the
defenders saw that their enemies had turned all their
horses loose and were lolling about on the grass and
sleeping as if quite fatigued.
Thereupon Cao Hong bade them saddle his
horse, told off three thousand troops, and soon this
small force was dashing down to catch the besiegers
unprepared. The soldiers of Ma Chao at once fled,
leaving their steeds and throwing aside their
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weapons. Cao Hong could not resist pursuit and
chased them.
At this time Xu Huang was higher up the road
taking in cartloads of grain and forage; but when he
heard what his impulsive colleague had done, he
hastily got a force together and went to his rescue.
He shouted to Cao Hong to return.
Suddenly a great shouting arose near Xu Huang,
and out dashed Ma Dai to attack. Both Cao Hong
and Xu Huang turned to flee, but the drums rolled
and two bodies of troops led by Ma Chao and Pang
De came out from behind the hills. Then a battle
began which went against Cao Cao’s troops from the
first. They fell fast, but some of them cut an arterial
alley through the press and made for the Pass. Their
enemies flooded into the Pass in close pursuit, and
they had to abandon their post and flee whither they
could find a way.
Pang De pursued after Cao Hong, but Cao Ren
came to his rescue and they both fled. Ma Chao and
Pang De took the Pass.
Cao Hong made all haste to his master to give
him the evil tidings.
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“When I gave you the limit of ten days, why did
you leave the Pass on the ninth?”
“Those soldiers from Xiliang hurled every sort of
insult at us,” replied Cao Hong. “And when I thought I
had them unprepared, I took the opportunity. But I
fell victim to their cunning.”
“You are young and impetuous. But, Xu Huang,
you ought to have known.”
Xu Huang said, “He would not listen, though I told
him many times. And that day I was taking in stores
in another part of the Pass. As soon as they told me,
I felt sure there would be some misfortune, and so I
hastened after him, but it was too late.”
Cao Cao was annoyed and ordered Cao Hong to
be put to death. But his brother officers begged that
he might be pardoned, and as he had confessed his
fault, he was allowed to go free and unpunished.
Cao Cao advanced to Tong Pass.
Cao Ren said, “We should establish a strong
stockade before attacking.”
So trees were felled and a strong stockade built.
They made three camps: Cao Ren was in the left;
Xiahou Yuan, the right; and Cao Cao himself was in
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the center one.
Soon after, Cao Cao and all his officers in a body
rushed to attack the Pass. They ran against the
Xiliang troops posted on two sides, halted and
formed their array. This done, Cao Cao rode to the
center standard whence he looked at his opponents.
He saw before him a body of fine troops, every
one with the bearing of a hero. And the leader, Ma
Chao, was worthy of them, with his vivid face as if
powdered and red lips as if colored, his supple hips
and broad shoulders, his deep voice and fierce
strength. He was wearing silver helmet and armor
and gripping a long spear as he sat there on his
charger. Pang De and Ma Dai supported him, and
Cao Cao admired Ma Chao in his secret heart.
However, Cao Cao urged forward his steed and
shouted to Ma Chao, “Why are you arrayed against
the Hans, whom your father and grandfather served
Ma Chao ground his teeth and cursed Cao Cao,
“Rebel! Betrayer of both prince and people! Murderer
of my father and brothers! My hate for you is to the
death: the same sky shall not continue to cover us,
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for I will take you captive and satiate my appetite on
your living flesh.”
With this he set his spear and rode over toward
Cao Cao as if to slay him. But Yu Jin came out from
behind and engaged Ma Chao in battle. These two
fought some half score bouts, and then Yu Jin had to
flee. Zhang He, however, took his place and the two
warriors exchanged twenty passes. Then Zhang He,
too, ran away.
Next to come forth was Li Tong. Ma Chao’s
martial prowess was now at its height, and he made
short work of Li Tong, who went out of the saddle at
the first blow. Then Ma Chao flourished his spear at
the troops behind him as a signal for them to come
on, which they did like a flood. They overwhelmed
Cao Cao’s forces, and Ma Chao, Pang De, and Ma
Dai rode forward to try to capture Cao Cao.
They came close. Cao Cao heard one of his
pursuers shout to another, “Cao Cao is he in the red
So he hastily tore off his red robe and threw it
away. He also heard one say “Cao Cao is he with
the long beard!”
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At once Cao Cao took the sword that he wore at
his side and sawed off some of the beard. Yet again
a soldier recognized him and told Ma Chao that Cao
Cao had now cut his beard, whereupon the order
went forth to capture short beards. And then Cao
Cao wrapped the corner of a flag about neck and
jowl and fled.
Panic seized upon the soldiers at Tong Pass;
Frightened, Cao Cao flung off his brocade robe
And, terror−stricken, sawed his beard off with a
The fame of Ma Chao rose even to the sky.
Cao Cao had got clear of the battle and was
getting calmer. Then again the sound of hoofs fell
upon his ears; and on looking round, he perceived
Ma Chao quite close. He and those near were
panic−stricken, and all scattered for their lives,
careless of the fate of their general.
“Cao Cao, do not flee!” cried Ma Chao coming
The whip dropped from Cao Cao’s nerveless
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hand as he saw his enemy coming closer and closer.
But just as Ma Chao had leveled his spear for a
thrust, Cao Cao slipped behind a tree, changed the
direction of his flight and so escaped, while Ma Chao
struck the tree. He quickly pulled out his spear, but
the delay gave the fugitive an advantage, although it
did not quite free him from pursuit, for Ma Chao was
soon again galloping on his track. As they drew near
the slope of some hills, a bold general suddenly
appeared, who cried, “Do not hurt my lord!”
This was Cao Hong, and he went toward Ma
Chao, whirling his sword. Ma Chao was stopped,
and this saved Cao Cao’s life. Cao Hong and Ma
Chao fought half a hundred bouts till Cao Hong
began to grow weary and become uncertain of his
strokes. And when, shortly after, Xiahou Yuan
appeared with some thirty horsemen, Ma Chao
found it prudent to retire.
Then Cao Cao was escorted to his camp
defended by Cao Ren. He found the camps were still
unharmed and the losses had not been great.
As he sat in his tent, Cao Cao said, “Had I not
spared Cao Hong, I should have fallen at the hands
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of Ma Chao today.”
So he called in his rescuer and rewarded him
And they got together the scattered troops and
strengthened the camp, deepening the moat and
raising the rampart. Ma Chao came daily and
challenged any one to combat and abused them all
shamefully, but, by the order of the Prime Minister,
these insults were treated with silent contempt.
“Our enemies use long spears,” said the officers.
“We will meet them with bows and crossbows.”
“They may have long spears,” replied Cao Cao,
“but whether I give battle or not depends on my
decision. How can they thrust at us if we do not go
out? All you have to do is to take no notice of them,
and they will speedily retire.”
The officers wondered. They said one to another,
“The Prime Minister came out on this expedition of
his own will and was foremost in the fight; why does
he accept defeat so easily?”
After some days the spies reported: “Ma Chao
has been reinforced by twenty thousand Qiangs, the
tribespeople beyond the frontier.”
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Cao Cao took the news gleefully. His officers
asked him why the news pleased him, and he
replied, “Wait till I have defeated them and I will
Three days later there was a report of further
reinforcements, and Cao Cao not only smiled but
gave a banquet. His officers ridiculed him in secret.
Then said Cao Cao, “You gentlemen laugh
because I cannot destroy Ma Chao. Well then, can
any one of you propose a plan?”
Then rose Xu Huang and said, “O Prime Minister,
you have a large force here, and the enemy are
strongly posted beyond the Pass. This means that
on the west side of River Wei they are unprepared. If
you can get an army secretly across the river and
block the ferry, you will cut off their retreat; and if you
can smite them on the north side of the river, they
can get no reinforcements and must fail.”
“What you propose is just what I think,” said Cao
So Xu Huang was placed over four thousand
troops, and with Zhu Ling, marched to the west of
River Wei and hid in the gullies. They were to wait till
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Cao Cao crossed the river to the north so that both
could strike together. Then Cao Cao ordered Cao
Hong to prepare boats and rafts at the Reed Ferry.
Cao Ren was left in command of the camps.
Cao Cao himself crossed River Wei, and when
Ma Chao heard of the new military movements, he
said, “I understand. The Pass is left, rafts are being
prepared; that means that he is going to cross to the
north side and cut off my retreat. I must coast along
the river and keep him off. If I can do that, his food
will run short within twenty days, and that will cause
a mutiny. I will travel along the south bank and
Han Sui did not approve this plan. He quoted the
military maxim to strike when troops were half over
the river.
“Attack from the south bank when his army is in
the act of crossing, and his army will be drowned in
the river,” said he.
“Uncle, your words are good,” replied Ma Chao.
And the spies went forth to find out the time of
crossing the river.
When Cao Cao’s preparations were complete and
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all was ready, he sent three parties of soldiers over
the river first. They reached the ferry at the first sign
of dawn, and the veterans were sent over first and
lay out a camp. Cao Cao and his guard took up
station on the south bank to watch the crossing.
Very soon the sentinels reported, “A general
dressed all in white is approaching.”
Everyone knew it must be Ma Chao. This terrified
them and they made a rush to get into the boats. The
river bank became a scene of shouting men
struggling who could first embark. Cao Cao sat
watching and never stirred. He only issued orders to
stop the confusion. Meanwhile, the yelling of the
troops and the neighing of the horses of the
approaching army came nearer and nearer.
Suddenly a general jumped out of one of the boats
and shouted to Cao Cao: “The rebels are close! Get
into a boat, O Prime Minister.”
“The rebels are near; why not?” replied Cao Cao
simply to the speaker, who was Xu Chu. And he
turned round to look at them.
As a fact Ma Chao was very close, not a hundred
paces away, and Xu Chu laid hold of Cao Cao and
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dragged him down the bank. The boat had already
pushed off and was ten spans from the bank, but Xu
Chu took Cao Cao on his back and leaped on board.
The boat was small and in danger of being
overturned, wherefore Xu Chu drew his sword and
chopped away at the hands clinging to the side so
that the soldiers fell back into the water.
The boat went down stream, Xu Chu standing in
the prow poling as hard as he could. His master
crouched out of sight at his feet.
When Ma Chao saw tile boat in midstream drifting
down with the current, he took his bow and arrows
and began to shoot. He also ordered his brave
generals to go along the river and shoot so that a
shower of arrows fell about the boat. Xu Chu fearing
Cao Cao would be wounded, protected him with a
saddle which he held over him with his left hand, for
Ma Chao’s shooting was not in vain. Many of the
soldiers working the boat were wounded. Some had
fallen overboard, while more lay in the bottom of the
boat. The boat itself got out of control and was
whirled hither and thither by the current. Xu Chu
straddled over the tiller and tried thus to guide the
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boat while he poled with one hand and with the other
held the protecting saddle over Cao Cao’s head.
Then the Magistrate of Weinan, Ding Fei, who
from a hill top saw that Cao Cao was very closely
pressed, even in danger of his life, drove out from his
camp all the cattle and horses there, so that they
scattered over the hillside. This was too much for the
born Qiang herdsmen of the plains. At sight of the
beasts, they left the river and ran off to secure the
cattle. Nor had they any inclination to pursue their
And so Cao Cao escaped. As soon as they
reached the northern shore, the boat was scuttled.
The rumor had spread that Cao Cao was on the river
and in danger, so all his officers came to his aid. But
he was now safe on shore. Xu Chu’s double armor
was stuck full of arrows. The officers escorted Cao
Cao to the camp where they made their obeisance
and expressed the hope that he had not suffered
“The rebels very nearly caught me today,” said he
“They would have got across the river had they
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not been enticed away by the freeing of the cattle
and horses.” said Xu Chu.
“Who was it that drew them off?” said Cao Cao.
Some one who knew told him. Before long
Magistrate Ding Fei came in to pay his respects, and
Cao Cao thanked him.
“I should have been a prisoner but for your happy
thought,” said he.
And the Magistrate received a rank of
Commander in the army.
“Though they have gone, yet they will assuredly
return tomorrow,” said Ding Fei. “You must prepare
to repel them.”
“My preparations are all made,” was the reply.
Cao Cao ordered his generals to spread
themselves along the river bank and throw up
mounds as shelters for camps. If they saw the
enemy approaching, the soldiers were to be
withdrawn from behind the mounds, leaving the
ensigns all flying, so as to give the impression that
each camp contained a garrison. Along the river they
were to dig ditches and put up sheds, thus to entice
the enemy there and their army would stumble into
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the pits and fall easy victims.
Ma Chao returned to Han Sui and told him,
saying, “I would have captured Cao Cao, but a
certain bold general had taken him on his back and
leaped with him into a boat.”
Han Sui replied, “I have heard that Cao Cao had
a body guard of the bravest and strongest soldiers
under the command of Dian Wei and Xu Chu. They
are called the Tiger Guards. Now as Dian Wei is
dead, the man you saw must have been Xu Chu. He
is both brave and powerful and goes by the name of
Tiger−Lust. You will do well to avoid him.”
“I know his name, too,” said Ma Chao.
“Cao Cao now means to attack our rear;”
continued Han Sui, “let us attack first, before he can
establish camps and stockades. If once he can do
that, it will be difficult to dislodge him.”
“My idea is that we should hold the north bank
and prevent him from crossing.”
“Worthy nephew, keep guard here while I go
along the bank of the river and fight Cao Cao.” “If
you will take Pang De as your van leader, I am
content,” said Ma Chao.
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So Han Sui and Pang De, with fifty thousand
troops, went away down to the River Wei, while Cao
Cao again warned his generals to entice the enemy.
Pang De was in advance with a goodly squadron of
iron−clad horsemen, and they burst along at full
speed. Then there arose a confused shouting as
they all went plunging into the ditches prepared for
them. Pang De soon leaped out, gained the level
ground, and laid about him with all his might. He
slew many Cao Cao’s soldiers and presently got out
of the thick of the fight.
But Han Sui had also been involved, and Pang
De went afoot to try to aid him. On the way he met
Cao Yong, a general of Cao Ren. Pang De cut Cao
Yong down. Then mounting the dead man’s steed,
he rode forward fiercely, slaying as he passed. He
reached his leader whom he led away southeast.
The troops of Cao Cao pursued him, but Ma Chao
came with reinforcements and drove them off. He
rescued a great number, and they continued fighting
till evening when they withdrew and mustered their
troops. Two commanders, Cheng Yin and Zhang
Heng, were missing, and a couple of hundred
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soldiers had been killed when they fell into the pits.
Ma Chao and Han Sui discussed what should
next be done.
“If we give the enemy time, he will make himself
strong on the north bank. I think we can do no better
than to raid his camp tonight,” said Ma Chao.
“We must have a force and supports for it,” said
Han Sui.
So it was decided that Ma Chao should lead the
striking force with Pang De and Ma Dai as supports.
They would start at nightfall.
Now Cao Cao’s troops were on the north bank of
the River Wei, and he gave his generals orders,
saying, “The rebels will try to surprise us as they are
deceived by my not having set up stockades. You
will place your soldiers in ambush. At the bomb
signal, you will rush out from four directions to
capture them.”
At nightfall Ma Chao sent out a small scouting
party headed by Cheng Yi. Seeing nothing, Cheng Yi
penetrated deep into the enemy’s lines. Presently, a
bomb was exploded. Out leapt the hidden troops,
and in a few moments the whole scouting party were
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killed. Cheng Yi was cut down by the blade of Xiahou
But close at hand came the main army led by Ma
Chao, Ma Dai, and Pang De that rushed into the
ambush forces.
Wait for the foe all undismayed.
Place your men in ambuscade.
Generals striving to outvie
Are not beaten easily.
Who got the advantage will presently be told.
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RTK12 & 11 Best PC Power Strategy Game - Battle for China! 三国志12 - 11最佳PC电源策略游戏 - 战中国!

Click here to buy RTK12 & RTK11 at Promotion Price! 点击这里购买三国志11+12 PC游戏的促销价!

See All Games For Sale here at RTKG

Click here to see all Games for Sale!

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