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CHAPTER 76. Xu Huang Fights At The River Mian; Guan Yu Retreats To Maicheng.

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

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The fall of Jingzhou put Mi Fang in a quandary;
and before he could decide upon any course, his old
colleague Fu Shiren came to see him. Fu Shiren was
admitted, and when asked why he had come, he
blurted out his business without beating about the
bush.
“I am faithful enough, but I got into difficulties and
danger and could not hold on, so I have surrendered
to Wu. And I advise you to do the same.”
“You and I have both fed on the bounty of the
Prince of Hanzhong, and I cannot understand how
you can turn against him.”
“Guan Yu went away hating both of us intensely;
and even if he comes back victorious, I do not think
he will forgive us. Just think it over.”
“My brother and I have followed the Prince these
many years, and I do not like leaving him like this.”
Mi Fang hesitated.
Before he could make up his mind, there came a
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messenger, saying, “The army in Fankou is short of
grain, and I was sent to demand white rice for the
soldiers. Nanjun and Gongan are to send ten
thousand carts at once. Delay will be most severely
punished.”
This sudden demand was a shock to Mi Fang.
“Where am I to get the rice?” said he despairingly
to his friend and tempter. “Jingzhou is now in the
hands of Wu.”
“Do not dilly−dally,” said Fu Shiren. Thereupon he
drew his sword and slew the messenger as he stood
in the hall.
“What have you done?” cried Mi Fang.
“Guan Yu wanted to slay us two and has forced
me to this. Are we to fold our hands and await
death? Either you give in at once and go over to Wu,
or you will be put to death by Guan Yu.”
Just then they heard that Lu Meng’s troops had
actually reached the city wall. Mi Fang saw that
nothing could save his life but desertion, so he went
out with Fu Shiren and gave in his allegiance to Lu
Meng, by whom he was led to Sun Quan. Sun Quan
gave both of them presents, after which he
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proceeded to restore order and to reward his army
for their services.
At the time that great discussion about Jingzhou
was going on in Xuchang, a messenger arrived with
a letter from Sun Quan. It told the tale of the
acquisition of Jingzhou and begged Cao Cao to send
an army to attack Guan Yu in the rear, enjoining the
utmost secrecy.
At the meeting of advisers that Cao Cao
summoned to consultation, First Secretary Dong
Zhao said, “Now that the relief of Fankou is
contemplated, it would be well to shoot letter into the
city to let the besieged know, so that they may not
yield to depression and to inform Guan Yu. If Guan
Yu hears that Jingzhou is in the hands of Wu, he will
come back to try to recover it. Then let Xu Huang
take the chance to attack, and our victory will be
complete.”
Cao Cao agreed that the plan was good, and so
he sent a messenger to urge Xu Huang to attack.
Cao Cao himself led a large force to Yangling Slope,
south of Luoyang, to rescue Cao Ren.
Xu Huang was sitting in his tent when they told
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him that a messenger from the Prince of Wei had
arrived.
The messenger was called in and said, “The
Prince has led an army to Luoyang, and he wishes
you to hasten to attack Guan Yu in order to relieve
Fankou.”
Just then the scouts came to report: “Guan Ping
has encamped at Yencheng and Liao Hua at
Sizhong. The enemy have built a line of twelve
stockades.”
Xu Huang ordered two of his generals—Lu Qian
and Xu Shang—to Yencheng to masquerade as if he
himself was in command, by showing his ensigns.
Xu Huang himself, at the head of five hundred
veterans, went along River Mian to attack Yencheng
in the rear.
When Guan Ping heard of the approach of Xu
Huang, he prepared his own division to meet him.
When both sides were arrayed, Guan Ping rode out
and engaged Xu Shang. After three encounters Xu
Shang had the worst of it and fled. Then the other
general, Lu Qian, went out. He fought half a dozen
bouts and also ran away. Thereupon Guan Ping
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went in pursuit and smote the flying enemy for seven
miles. But then there was an alarm of fire within
Yencheng, and Guan Ping knew that he had been
inveigled into the pursuit and was a victim. So he
turned and set out for the city again. On his way he
met a body of troops, and standing under the great
standard was Xu Huang.
Xu Huang shouted out, “Guan Ping, my worthy
nephew, it is strange that you do not recognize death
when it stares you in the face. Your Jingzhou has
fallen into the hands of Wu, and yet you act so
madly.”
Guan Ping, whirling his sword, just rode hard at
Xu Huang, and they engaged. But after the third bout
there was a tremendous shouting among the
soldiers, for the flames within the city burst up higher
than before. Guan Ping could not follow up his desire
to continue the fight, but cut his way out and made a
dash for Sizhong, where Liao Hua received him with
the news of the disaster to Jingzhou.
“People say that Jingzhou has fallen to Lu Meng,
and the news has frightened the whole army; what is
to be done?” said Liao Hua.
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“It is only a malicious rumor; do not let it spread. If
any one repeats it, put him to death.”
Just then a man came running in to say that Xu
Huang was attacking the first stockade on the north.
“If that goes,” said Guan Ping, “the remainder will
follow. But as we have River Mian at our back, they
will not dare attack this. Let us go to the rescue.”
So Liao Hua summoned his subordinate leaders
and gave them orders to hold the camp and make a
signal if the enemy came. “There is no danger here,”
said they. “The camp is defended by a tenfold line of
thorny barriers; even a bird could not get in.”
Guan Ping and Liao Hua mustered all the
veterans they had and went away to the first
stockade. Seeing the Wei soldiers camped on a low
hill, Guan Ping said to his colleague, “Those soldiers
are stationed in an unsafe place; let us raid their
camp tonight.”
“You take half the force, General, and I will
remain to keep the camp,” said Liao Hua.
When night fell, the attacking force went out. But
on reaching the camp not a man opposed them. The
camp was empty. Then Guan Ping knew he had
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been deceived, and turned to retreat. He was at
once attacked on two sides by Xu Shang and Lu
Qian from left and right. Unable to stand, his troops
ran for the camp. The soldiers of Wei followed, and
presently the camp was surrounded. They were
compelled to abandon the position and set off for
Sizhong. As they drew near they saw torches, and
presently knew by the ensigns displayed that the
camp had also fallen to the enemy. Retiring, they
hastened along the high road toward Fankou, but
presently their way was barred by a force under Xu
Huang himself. By dint of hard fighting they got away
and returned to their main camp, and Guan Ping
went to his father.
“Xu Huang has got possession of Yencheng; Cao
Cao’s main army is on the way in three divisions; and
many say that Jingzhou is in the enemy’s hands.”
Guan Yu bade him be silent.
“This is a fabrication of the enemy,” said Guan
Yu, “but it may dishearten the soldiers. We know Lu
Meng is ill, and they have appointed that impractical
fellow Lu Xun to succeed him at Lukou. There is
nothing to fear.”
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Then news came that Xu Huang had arrived . At
once Guan Yu bade them saddle his charger.
“Father, you are not strong enough to go into the
battle,” said Guan Ping.
“Xu Huang and I were once friends, and I know
what he can do and not do. I will give him the chance
to retire; and if he does not take it, then I shall just
slay him as a warning to the others.”
Mounting his charger, Guan Yu rode out as
impetuously as of yore, and the sight of the old
warrior made to quake the hearts of the troops of
Wei.
When he came close enough to his enemy, Guan
Yu checked his steed and said, “Where is my friend
Xu Huang?”
As a reply, the gate of the battle opened, and Xu
Huang appeared under the standard. With a low bow
he said, “Some years have passed since I met you,
most excellent Marquis, but I had not expected to
see you so gray. I have not forgotten the old brave
days, when we were together and you taught me so
much, and I am very grateful. Your new fame has
spread throughout the whole empire, and your old
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friends cannot but praise you. I am indeed glad that I
have the happiness to see you.”
Guan Yu replied, “We have been excellent
friends, Xu Huang—better than most. But why have
you pressed my son so hardly of late?”
Xu Huang suddenly turned to the officers about
him and cried fiercely, “I would give a thousand
ounces of gold for this Guan Yu’s head.” Guan Yu,
greatly shocked, said, “What did you say that for?”
“Because today I am on state business, and I
have no inclination to let private friendship override
my public duty.”
As he said this, he whirled his battle−ax and rode
at Guan Yu, who, greatly enraged, threw up his great
saber to strike. They fought a half score bouts, but
although his skill lacked nothing of its pristine vigor
and excelled all the world, the old warrior’s right arm
was still weak from the wound. Guan Ping saw that
his father failed somewhat, and so hastily beat the
gong for retreat. Guan Yu rode back.
Suddenly the noise of a great shouting was
heard; it came from the troops in Fankou, for Cao
Ren, having heard of the arrival of troops of his own
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side, had made a sortie and was about to attack to
help Xu Huang. His army fell on, and the army of
Jingzhou were routed. Guan Yu, with as many of his
officers as could, fled away along the banks of River
Xiang, hotly pursued by the army of Wei. Crossing
the river, he made for Xiangyang.
Suddenly the scouts reported: “Jingzhou has
been taken by Lu Meng. Your family is now in the
hand of enemy.”
Guan Yu was shocked; thence he marched for
Gongan. But the scouts told him: “Fu Shiren has
yielded Gongan to the hands of Wu.”
Then some of the men he had dispatched for
supplies came in and reported: “Fu Shiren murdered
the officer and persuade Mi Fang to surrender to
Wu.”
The story filled Guan Yu with boundless rage. It
was too much. The wound reopened, and he fell in a
swoon.
“Wang Fu, you were right,” said he when he
recovered consciousness. “How I regret that I did not
heed what you said! And now.”
“But why were the beacon fires not lighted?”
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continued he presently.
“Lu Meng’s marines in the guise of traders came
over the river. There were soldiers hidden in the
ships, and they seized the beacon guards, so
preventing them from kindling the fires.”
Guan Yu sighed. Beating the ground with his foot,
he said, “Indeed I have fallen into their trap. How
shall I look my brother in the face?”
Then outspoke Commissariat Commander Zhao
Lei, saying, “We are in straits. Send to Chengdu for
help, and let us take the land road to Jingzhou to try
to recover it.”
So three messengers were sent by different
routes to ask for help, while the army set out to
return to Jingzhou, Guan Yu leading and Liao Hua
with Guan Ping keeping the rear.
The siege of Fankou being thus raised, Cao Ren
went to see his master. With tears he acknowledged
his fault and asked pardon.
“It was the will of heaven, and no fault of yours,”
said Cao Cao; and he rewarded the armies.
When he visited Sizhong and had inspected the
captured stockades, he remarked on the defenses,
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saying, “Xu Huang was very clever to overcome
these. With my thirty years of war, I should not have
dared to penetrate such opposition. He is valiant and
wise, and both in a high degree.”
“Aye,” said they with him, for they could not but
agree.
Cao Cao’s army marched back to Mopo and there
camped. When Xu Huang returned, Cao Cao went
out of the stockade to meet him, and netted with joy
when seeing the excellent order and discipline that
his army showed. Every soldier was in his place, the
ranks perfectly kept, all without a trace of disorder.
“General Xu Huang has the spirit of the old Zhou
Yafu,” said Cao Cao, and on the spot conferred on
his commander the title of General Who Pacifies the
South. Xu Huang was sent soon after to share in the
defense of Xiangyang with Xiahou Shang to meet
Guan Yu’s army.
Jingzhou being still in turmoil, Cao Cao remained
at Mopo waiting for news.
Guan Yu found himself at a standstill on the road
to Jingzhou with the army of Wu in front and the men
of Wei coming up behind.
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“What is to be done,” he discussed the position
with Zhao Lei, “when we cannot advance nor retreat
and the aid has not come?”
Zhao Lei proposed a halt to try to shame Lu Meng
into aiding Cao Cao.
Said he, “When Lu Meng was at Lukou, he used
to write to you often, and you agreed to join hands in
the destruction of Cao Cao. Now he is a traitor and
fighting on the other side. Send a letter and reproach
him. Perhaps we may get a satisfactory reply.”
So the letter was written and sent to Jingzhou.
Meanwhile, by Lu Meng’s special command, the
most complete protection was given to the families of
all the officers who were serving under Guan Yu, and
they were kept supplied with all they required. Even
the ailing members of their households were treated
by physicians free of charge. The result was that
they were quite won over to the new order of things,
and there was no attempt to disturb it. When Guan
Yu’s letter came, the messenger was led into the city
and well treated.
When Lu Meng read the letter, he said to the
bearer thereof, “You must understand the different
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circumstances. When your general and I were
leagued together, it was a personal matter between
us two. Now things have changed. I am sent here
with certain orders and am not my own master. I
would trouble you, O Messenger, to return and
explain thus to your master and in good words.”
The bearer of the letter was entertained at a
banquet and sent to repose himself in the
guest−house, where the families of the absent
officers sought him to have news of their husbands
and fathers. Moreover, they brought him letters and
gave him messages for the officers, and the whole
tenor of these letters and messages was that they
were all in good health, all their needs were supplied,
and they lacked nothing. When he left the city, Lu
Meng himself escorted him to the outskirts and set
him on his way.
On his return to the army, he gave to Guan Yu
the message of Lu Meng and told him that the
families were all well and safe and well cared for.
This, however, did not greatly please Guan Yu, for
he saw in this merely a plan to gain favor and
popularity.
Three Kingdoms Romance
“The brigand! If I cannot slay him while I live, I will
after I am dead. My hate shall not go unappeased.”
He roughly dismissed the messenger, who went out
and was at once surrounded by those whose families
were in the city and who desired to have news of
them. And when he gave them the letters and
messages and told them all were well, there was
great rejoicing among the men in the camp, and
kindly feelings for Lu Meng prevailed. And therewith
died down the spirit of fighting.
Guan Yu led the army to attack Jingzhou, but day
by day the men deserted and ran away to the very
city they were moving to attack. So day by day Guan
Yu’s bitterness and anger increased, and he
advanced in angry haste. One day there was a great
shouting and the noise of drums, and he found his
way blocked.
“Why do you not surrender, friend Guan Yu?” said
the leader of this body, Jiang Qin.
“Could I give in to a rebel; I, a servant of the Hans
and a leader of their army?” roared Guan Yu in a
passion.
Thereupon he whipped his horse forward and
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swung up his sword to strike. However, Jiang Qin
would not fight. The two exchanged a few blows, and
Jiang Qin fled. Guan Yu followed. When he had
gone a long way, there suddenly appeared from a
gully near him Han Dang, while Zhou Tai came out
from the other side. Thereupon Jiang Qin wheeled
round and once more came to do battle, so that
three forces were opposed to Guan Yu. Unable to
withstand these, he retreated.
Before he had gone very far, he saw signs of
many people bivouacking among the hills, and
presently made out, on a huge white banner that
flapped in the breeze, the words “Natives of
Jingzhou”, and the people about were calling out,
“All the inhabitants of this place have surrendered.”
Guan Yu felt like rushing up and cutting these
people to pieces, but just then two other cohorts
appeared led by Ding Feng and Xu Sheng, who
supported Jiang Qin. The three bodies of troops then
set on with shouting and loud beating of drums that
seemed to make the very earth tremble. And Guan
Yu was like the kernel in a nut, quite surrounded.
This was not all. He saw the number of his
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followers diminishing every moment. He fought on till
dusk, and looking about him he saw all the hills
crowded with Jingzhou folks and heard them calling
brother for brother and son for father, till his soldiers’
hearts had melted within them. One by one they ran
to their relatives, heedless of their leader and his
voice. Presently he had but three hundred left, but
with them he kept up the battle till the third watch.
Then there was another shouting in another note, for
his leaders, Guan Ping, his son, and Liao Hua, came
to his help. And they rescued him.
“The soldiers’ hearts are all melted,” said Guan
Ping. “We must find some place wherein to camp till
help can arrive. There is Maicheng, small, but
sufficient; let us camp there.”
Guan Yu consented, and the exhausted army
hurried thither as quickly as they could.
The small force was divided among the four gates
to guard.
Zhao Lei said, “This place is near Shangyong
where Meng Da and Liu Feng station. We should
send for their help. If their army marches to our relief
until the grand army of Shu comes, the morale of our
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army will improve.”
But disappointments dogged them. Very soon the
army of Wu came up and laid siege to the city.
“Who will try to break through and go away to
Shangyong for assistance?” asked Guan Yu. “I will
go,” said Liao Hua.
“And I will escort you past the danger zone,” said
Guan Ping.
Guan Yu wrote his letter, which Liao Hua
concealed next his skin, and having eaten a full
meal, he rode out at the gate. The leader of the
enemy, Ding Feng, tried to check him, but Guan Ping
fought vigorously and drove him away. So Liao Hua
escaped the siege and reached Shangyong, while
Guan Ping returned. Then they barred the gates and
hold their defense.
Now, having captured Shangyong, Liu Feng and
Meng Da had remained to guard it. Liu Feng had
been created Governor General, and together with
Meng Da, to defend that city. When they heard of the
defeat of Guan Yu, they took counsel what to do.
When Liao Hua came, he was admitted into the city.
He told the tale of Guan Yu’s straits, and asked for
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help.
“Guan Yu is closely besieged in Maicheng. Help
from the west will be a long time in coming, so I have
been sent to beg your assistance. I hope you will
march the Shangyong troops thither as quickly as
possible, for any delay will be fatal.”
Liu Feng replied, “Sir, go to the rest−house for a
time till we can decide.”
So Liao Hua went, and the two leaders talked
over the matter.
Liu Feng said, “This is bad news; what is to be
done?”
“Wu is very powerful,” replied his colleague. “Now
they have control over the whole region of Jingzhou,
save this small clod of earth called Maicheng. Cao
Cao is at hand with five hundred thousand troops,
and we cannot stand against the two mighty forces. I
say we must not move.”
“I know all this. But Guan Yu is my uncle, and I
cannot bear to sit still and not try to save him.”
“So you hold him as an uncle!” said Meng Da with
a smile. “Yet I do not think he holds you much as a
nephew. When the Prince of Hanzhong adopted you,
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Guan Yu was greatly annoyed. And after the Prince
had accepted his new dignity and was nominating
his heir, I heard he consulted Zhuge Liang, who said
the affair was one to be decided within the family and
declined to advise. Then the Prince sent to ask Guan
Yu’s advice. Did Guan Yu name you? Not at all. You
were only a son by adoption and could have no
place in the succession. Further, Guan Yu advised
that you be sent to a distance lest you might cause
trouble. This is common knowledge, and I am
surprised that you are ignorant of it. Yet today you
make capital out of the relationship and are willing to
run a great risk to support it.”
“Granted that what you say is true, still what reply
can we give?”
“Simply say that this city is still unsettled, and you
dare not move lest it be lost.”
Liu Feng took his colleague’s view, sent for the
messenger and told him. Liao Hua was greatly
disappointed. He threw himself on the ground and
knocked his head, imploring assistance.
“If you act thus, there is an end of Guan Yu!” cried
Liao Hua.
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“Will a cup of water extinguish a wagon load of
blazing wood?” said Meng Da. “Hasten back and
await patiently for the coming of help from the west.”
Liao Hua renewed his entreaties. The two
commanders simply rose, shook out their sleeves,
and left him. Liao Hua saw that things had gone
against him and thought his best course would be to
go at once to Chengdu. He rode out of the city
cursing its defenders and went away west.
Guan Yu from his fortress looked anxiously, but
vainly, for the coming of the expected aid. He was in
a sorry plight. His army numbered but a few
hundred, many wounded; there was no food.
Then someone came to the foot of the wall and,
calling out to the defenders on the wall not to shoot,
said he had a message for the commander. He was
allowed to enter; it was Zhuge Jin. When he had
made his salutations and taken tea, he began his
harangue.
“I come at the command of my master, the
Marquis of Wu, to persuade you to a wise course.
From of old it has always been recognized that the
hero must bow to circumstances. The region with its
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nine territories and forty−one counties that you ruled
have come under another, with the exception of this
single city. Within, there is no food, without, no help,
so that it must fall quickly. Wherefore, O General,
why not hear me and join your fortunes to those of
Wu? You shall be restored to your governorship, and
you will preserve your family. If haply, Sir, you would
reflect thereon.”
Guan Yu replied, quite calmly, “I am a simple
soldier from the village of Jieliang. I am the ‘hands
and feet’ of my lord. How can I betray him? The city
may fall, and then I can but die. Jade may be
shattered, but its whiteness remains; bamboo may
be burned, but its joints stand straight. My body may
be broken, but my fame shall live in history. Say no
more, but leave the city, I beg. I will fight Sun Quan
to the death.”
“My master desires to enter into such a league
with you as did Jin and Qin in former days, that you
may mutually assist to destroy Cao Cao and restore
the Hans. That is his idea, and why do you persist in
this wrong course?”
As Zhuge Jin finished this speech, Guan Ping,
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who was by, drew his sword to slay him. But his
father checked him.
“Remember his brother is in Shu, helping your
uncle. If you hurt him, you will injure the principle of
fraternity.”
Guan Yu then bade his servants lead Zhuge Jin
away. Zhuge Jin went, his face covered with shame,
and left the city. When he reached his master, he
told of Guan Yu’s obduracy and rejection of all
argument.
“He is indeed a loyal servant!” said Sun Quan.
“Still, what is to be done next?”
“Take some casts in the Book of Changes,” said
Lu Fan.
So the lots were taken and explained to mean
that the Marquis’ enemies should flee to a distance.
Then Sun Quan asked Lu Meng, saying, “If he
flies to a distance, how can he be captured?”
“The divination exactly fits in with my schemes;”
replied Lu Meng, “and though Guan Yu had wings to
soar to the skies, he would not escape my net.”
The dragon in a puddle is the sport of shrimps,
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The phoenix in a cage is mocked of small birds.
The scheme of Lu Meng will be unfolded in the
next chapter.
Three Kingdoms Romance

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