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CHAPTER 94. Zhuge Liang Defeats The Qiangs In A Snowstorm; Sima Yi Quickly Captures Meng Da.

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

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The scheme by which Guo Huai proposed to
overcome the army of Shu he laid before his
colleague, saying, “The Qiang tribes have paid
tribute regularly since the days of the Founder of
Wei. Emperor Pi regarded them with favor. Now let
us hold such points of vantage as we may, while we
send secret emissaries to engage their help in
exchange for kindly treatment. We may get the
Qiangs to attack Shu and engage their attention,
while we gather a large army to smite them at
another place. Thus attacking, how can we help
gaining a great victory?”
A messenger was sent forthwith bearing letters to
the Qiang tribespeople.
The King of the western Qiangs was named Cheli
Ji. He had rendered yearly tribute since the days of
Cao Cao. He had two ministers, one for civil and the
other for military affairs, named, respectively, Prime
Minister Ya Dan and Chief Leader Yue Ji.
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The letter was accompanied by presents of gold
and pearls, and when the messenger arrived, he first
sought Prime Minister Ya Dan, to whom he gave
gifts and whose help he begged. Thus he gained an
interview with the King, to whom he presented the
letter and the gifts. The King accepted both and
called his counselors to consider the letter.
Ya Dan said, “We have had regular intercourse
with the Wei nation. Now that Cao Zhen asks our aid
and promises an alliance, we ought to accede to his
Cheli Ji agreed that it was so, and he ordered his
two chief ministers to raise an army of two hundred
fifty thousand of trained soldiers, archers and
crossbowmen, spearmen and swordsmen, warriors
who flung maces and hurled hammers. Beside these
various weapons, the tribesmen used chariots
covered with iron plates nailed on. They prepared
much grain and fodder and many spare weapons, all
of which they loaded upon these iron−clad chariots.
The chariots were drawn by camels or teams of
horses. The carts or chariots were known as “iron
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The two leaders took leave of their King and went
straightway to Xiping Pass. The commander in
charge of the Pass, Han Zhen, at once sent
intelligence to Zhuge Liang, who asked, “Who will go
to attack the Qiangs?”
Guan Xing and Zhang Bao said they would go.
Then Zhuge Liang said, “You shall be sent; but as
you are ignorant of the road and the people, Ma Dai
shall accompany you.”
To Ma Dai he said, “You know the disposition of
the Qiangs from your long residence there; you shall
go as guide.”
They chose out five thousand of veterans for the
expedition. When they had marched many days and
drew near their enemy, Guan Xing went in advance
with a hundred horsemen and got first sight of them
from a hill. The Qiangs were marching, the long line
of iron chariots one behind another in close order.
Then they halted and camped, their weapons piled
all along the line of chariots like the ramparts of a
moated city. Guan Xing studied them for a long time
quite at a loss to think how to overcome them. He
came back to camp and consulted with his two
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Ma Dai said, “We will see tomorrow what they will
do when we make our array, and discuss our plans
when we know more.”
So the next day they drew up their army in three
divisions, Guan Xing’s division being in the center,
Zhang Bao’s in the left, and Ma Dai’s in the right.
Thus they advanced.
The enemy also drew up in battle order. Their
military chief, Yue Ji, had an iron mace in his hand
and a graven bow hung at his waist. He rode forward
on a curvetting steed boldly enough. Guan Xing gave
the order for all three divisions to go forward. Then
the enemy’s ranks opened in the center and out
rolled the iron chariots like a great wave. At the same
time the Qiangs shot arrows and bolts, and the men
of Shu could not stand against them.
The wing divisions under Ma Dai and Zhang Bao
retired, and the Qiangs were thus enabled to
surround the center. In spite of every effort, Guan
Xing could not get free, for the iron chariots were like
a city wall and no opening could be found. The
troops of Shu were absolutely helpless, and Guan
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Xing made for the mountains in hope of finding a
road through.
As it grew dark a Qiang leader with a black flag
approached, his warriors like a swarm of wasps
about him.
Presently the leader cried out to him, “Youthful
general, flee not; I am Yue Ji!”
But Guan Xing only hastened forward, plying his
whip to urge his steed. Then he suddenly came on a
deep gully, and there seemed nothing but to turn and
fight. Yue Ji come close and struck at him with the
mace. Guan Xing evaded the blow, but it fell upon
his steed and knocked it over into water. Guan Xing
went into the water too.
Presently he heard a great noise again behind
him. Yue Ji and his troops had found a way down
into the gully and were coming at him down the
stream. Guan Xing braced himself for a struggle in
the water.
Then he saw Zhang Bao and Ma Dai coming up
on the bank fighting with, and driving off, the Qiangs.
Yue Ji was struck by Zhang Bao, and he too fell into
the gully. Guan Xing gripped his sword and was
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about to launch a stroke at Yue Ji as he came up,
when Yue Ji jumped out of the water and ran away.
At once Guan Xing caught the steed Yue Ji had
left, led it up the bank and soon had it ready to
mount. Then he girded on his sword, got on the
horse, and joined the battle with his colleagues.
After driving off the Qiangs, Guan Xing, Zhang
Bao, and Ma Dai gathered together and rode back.
They quickly gained the camp.
“I do not know how to overcome these men,” said
Ma Dai. “Let me protect the camp while you go back
and ask the Prime Minister what we should do.”
Guan Xing and Zhang Bao started at once and
made the best of their way back. They told Zhuge
Liang what had happened. He at once sent off Zhao
Yun and Wei Yan to go into ambush. After this he
went himself with thirty thousand troops and Jiang
Wei, Zhang Yi, Guan Xing, and Zhang Bao and soon
came to Ma Dai’s camp. The day after, from the
summit of a hill, Zhuge Liang surveyed the country
and the enemy, who were coming on in a ceaseless
“It is not difficult,” said Zhuge Liang.
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He called up Ma Dai and Zhang Yi and gave them
certain orders.
They having gone, he turned to Jiang Wei,
saying, “My friend, do you know how to overcome
“The Qiangs only depend upon force or courage;
they cannot understand this fine strategy.” was the
“You know,” said Zhuge Liang, smiling. “Those
dark clouds and the strong north wind mean snow.
Then I can do what I wish.”
The two leaders, Guan Xing and Zhang Bao,
were sent into ambush, and Jiang Wei went out to
offer battle. But he was to retire before the iron
chariots. At the entrance to the camp were displayed
many flags, but the soldiers that should serve under
them were not there.
It was now full winter, the twelfth month, and the
snow had come. The army of Shu went out to offer
battle; and when the iron chariots came forward, they
retired and thus led the Qiangs to the gate of the
camp, Jiang Wei going to its rear. The Qiangs came
to the gate and stopped to look. They heard the
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strumming of a lute, but there were no soldiers there;
the flags meant nothing. They told Yue Ji, and he
suspected some ruse. Instead of entering, he went
back to Prime Minister Ya Dan and told him.
“It is a ruse,” said Ya Dan. “Zhuge Liang’s base
trick is the pretense of a pretense, and you would
better attack.”
So Yue Ji led his troops again to the camp gate,
and there he saw Zhuge Liang with a lute just getting
into his chariot. With a small escort, he went toward
the back of the camp. The tribesmen rushed into the
camp and caught sight of the light chariot again just
as it disappeared into a wood.
Then said Ya Dan, “There may be an ambush,
but I think we need not be afraid of these soldiers.”
Hence they decided to pursue. Ahead of them
they saw the division under Jiang Wei hastening off
through the snow. Yue Ji’s rage boiled up at this
sight, and he urged his men to go faster. The snow
had filled in the roads among the hills, making every
part look like a level plain.
As they marched, one reported that some of the
enemy were appearing from the rear of the hills.
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Some thought this meant an ambush, but Ya Dan
said it did not matter, and they need not fear. He
urged them to hasten.
Shortly after this they heard a roaring as if the
hills were rending asunder and the earth falling in,
and the pursuers on foot fell one atop of the other
into great pits that were invisible in the snow. The
iron chariots, being close behind and hurrying along,
could not stop, and they went into the pits also.
Those still farther in the rear halted, but just as they
were facing about, Guan Xing and Zhang Bao came
up, one on either side, and attacked. Myriads of bolts
flew through the air. Then three other divisions under
Jiang Wei, Ma Dai, and Zhang Yi arrived and
confusion was worse than ever.
The Qiang leader, Yue Ji, fled to the rear and was
making for the mountains when he met Guan Xing,
who slew him in the first encounter. Prime Minister
Ya Dan was captured by Ma Dai and taken to the
main camp. The soldiers scattered. Hearing of the
capture of one leader, Zhuge Liang took his seat in
his tent and bade them bring the prisoner. He told
the guards to loose his bonds, and he had wine
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brought to refresh him and soothed him with kindly
Ya Dan was grateful for this kindness, and felt
more so when Zhuge Liang said, “My master, the
Emperor of the Great Hans, sent me to destroy those
who are in revolt; why are you helping them? But I
will release you, and you will return to your master
and say that we are neighbors and we will swear an
oath of everlasting friendship, and tell him to listen
no more to the words of those rebels.”
Ya Dan was released and so were all the soldiers
that had been captured, and all their stuff was given
back to them. They left for their own country.
The Qiangs being thus disposed of, Zhuge Liang
quickly marched again to Qishan. He sent letters to
Capital Chengdu announcing his success.
Meanwhile Cao Zhen anxiously waited for news
of his expected allies. Then a scout came in with the
news that the army of Shu had broken camp and
were marching away.
“That is because the Qiangs have attacked,” said
Guo Huai gleefully, and the two made ready to
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Ahead of them the army of Shu seemed to be in
confusion. The van−leader Cao Zun led the pursuit.
Suddenly, as he pressed on, there came a roll of
drums, followed by the appearance of a cohort led by
Wei Yan, who cried, “Stop! You rebels!”
But Cao Zun did not obey the summons. He
dashed forward to meet the attack. He was killed in
the third encounter. His colleague Zhu Zan in similar
fashion fell in with a cohort under Zhao Yun, to
whose long spear he soon fell victim. The loss of
these two made Cao Zhen and Guo Huai hesitate,
and they made to retire.
But before they could face about, they heard the
drums of an army in their rear, and Guan Xing and
Zhang Bao came out and surrounded them. Cao
Zhen and Guo Huai made a stand for a time, but
were soon worsted and fled. The army of Shu
pursued the beaten enemy to the banks of River
Wei, where they took possession of the Wei camp.
Cao Zhen was greatly chagrined at his defeat and
sad at the loss of his generals. He send a report of
his misfortune to his master and asked for
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At the court of Wei one of the ministers told the
story of defeat of Cao Zhen and the allies, and asked
the Ruler of Wei to decide upon the next step. Cao
Rui was alarmed and asked for someone to say how
to drive off the victorious foe.
Thereupon Hua Xin said, “It will be necessary for
Your Majesty to go in person. You should call
together all the nobles, and each will have to exert
himself. Unless this is done, Capital Changan will be
lost and the whole country be in danger.”
But Imperial Guardian Zhong Yao opposed him.
Said he, “The knowledge of every leader must
exceed that of those led; then only will he be able to
control them. Sun Zi the Strategist sums it up very
briefly: ‘Know the enemy, know thyself; and every
battle is a victory.’ I know Cao Zhen has had great
experience in the field, but he is no match for Zhuge
Liang. Still there is such a match, and I will pledge
my whole family that he will succeed. But Your
Majesty may be unwilling to listen to me.” The Ruler
of Wei replied, “You are a minister of high rank and
old. If you know any wise person able to repel these
soldiers of Shu, call him without delay and ease my
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Then said Zhong Yao, “When Zhuge Liang
decided to invade us, he was afraid of the one man I
will name. Wherefore he spread calumnies
concerning him, raising suspicion in Your Majesty’s
mind that you might dismiss him. That done, Zhuge
Liang invaded. Now employ this man again, and the
enemy will retire.”
“Who is it?” asked the Ruler of Wei.
“I mean the Regent Marshal Sima Yi.”
“I have long regretted my action,” said Cao Rui.
“Where now is friend Sima Yi?”
“He is at the city of Wancheng, idle.”
An edict was prepared recalling Sima Yi and
restoring him to his rank and titles, and conferring
upon him the new title Commander−in−Chief and
General Who Pacifies the West. All troops of
Nanyang were set in motion, and Cao Rui led them
to Changan. At the same time Cao Rui ordered Sima
Yi to be there to meet him on a certain day. And the
orders were sent by a swift messenger to the city of
At this time Zhuge Liang greatly rejoiced at the
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success he had had. He was at Qishan, busy with
plans for other victories, when Li Yan, who was in
command at the Palace of Eternal Peace, sent his
son Li Feng to the camp. Zhuge Liang concluded
that such a visit could only mean that Wu had
invaded them, and he was in consequence cast
down. However, he summoned Li Feng to his tent,
and when asked the object of his mission, Li Feng
replied that he had joyful news to impart.
“What is your joyful news?” said Zhuge Liang.
“Formerly Meng Da deserted to Wei, but only
because he could do nothing else. Cao Pi thought
much of his capabilities, treated him most
generously, kept him at his side, gave him titles of
General Who Establishes Strong Arms and Lord of
Pingyang, and appointed him to the posts of
Governor of Xincheng and Commander of
Shangyong and Jincheng, and so on. But when Cao
Pi died, all was changed. In Cao Rui’s court were
many who were jealous of Meng Da’s influence and
power, so that he enjoyed no peace.
“He used to talk about being originally one of the
Shu leaders, and he was forced to do so−and−so.
Three Kingdoms Romance
Lately he has sent several confidants with letters to
my father asking that he would state his case to you
as to the happenings when the five armies came
upon Shu. Now he is at Xincheng, and, hearing you
are attacking Wei, he proposes to lead the army of
the three counties about Xincheng, Jincheng, and
Shangyong to attack Luoyang while you attack
Changan, whereby both capitals will be taken. I have
brought with me his messenger and his letters.”
This was good news, and the bearer was fittingly
rewarded. But at that moment came the news that
Cao Rui was leading an army to Changan and had
recalled the banished Sima Yi to office. This piece of
bad news saddened Zhuge Liang not a little.
He told Ma Su, who said, “Cao Rui should not be
your worry. If he goes to Changan, we will march
there and capture him on the road, and there will be
an end of him.”
“Do you think I fear him?” said Zhuge Liang
bitterly. “But the recall of Sima Yi is another matter;
that troubles me. And Meng Da’s proposal will avail
nothing if he comes across this man. Meng Da is no
match for him. He will he captured, and, if he should
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be, the Middle Land will be hard to conquer.” “Why
not put Meng Da on his guard then?” said Ma Su.
Zhuge Liang decided to write, and the letter was
dispatched immediately.
Meng Da was then at Xincheng, anxiously
expecting the return of his last confidential
messenger, when, one day, the man returned and
gave him this letter from Zhuge Liang himself:
“Your last letter has convinced me of your loyal
rectitude, and I still remember with joy our old
friendship. If your plan
succeeds, you will certainly stand in the first rank
of most worthy ministers. But I scarcely need
impress upon you the extreme necessity for most
perfect secrecy. Be very careful whom you trust.
Fear everyone, guard against everyone. This news
of the recall of Sima Yi and the proposed junction of
armies at Changan is very serious; and if a word
reaches Sima Yi, he will come to you first. Therefore
take every precaution and do not regard this as a
matter of unimportance.”
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“They say Zhuge Liang leaves nothing to
chance,” said Meng Da, smiling as he read. “This
proves it.”
He lost no time in preparing a reply, which he
sent also by a trusty messenger. This letter was like
“I acknowledge your most valuable advice, but is
it possible that I should be remiss? For my part I do
not think the
Sima Yi’s affair need cause anxiety, for
Wancheng is three hundred miles from Luoyang and
four hundred miles from Xincheng. Should he hear
anything, it would take a month to send a memorial
to the capital and get a reply. My ramparts here are
strong and my forces posted in the best positions.
Let him come! I am not afraid of the result, so you, O
Minister, need feel no anxiety. You have only to wait
for the good news of success.”
Zhuge Liang read the letter and threw it on the
ground, stamping his foot with rage.
“Meng Da is a dead man;” said he, “a victim of
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Sima Yi.”
“Why do you say that?” said Ma Su.
“What does the Art of War say? ‘Attack before the
enemy is prepared; do what he does not expect.’
What is the use of reckoning upon a month’s delay
for sending up a memorial? Cao Rui’s commission
has already gone, and Sima Yi may strike whom he
will. He will not have to wait to memorialize the
Throne. Ten days after he hears of Meng Da’s
defection, he will be upon Meng Da with an army,
and Meng Da will be helpless.”’
The others agreed. However, Zhuge Liang sent
the messenger back again to say that if the matter
had not yet actually started, no other person was to
be told of it; for if anyone knew, it would certainly
come to nothing. And the man left for Xincheng.
In his idle retreat in Wancheng, Sima Yi had
heard of his master’s ill−success against the armies
of Shu, and the news made him very sad. He lifted
up his eyes and sighed.
He had two sons, Sima Shi the elder and Sima
Zhao, both clever and ambitious, and both earnest
students of military books. One day they were
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present when their father seemed very cast down,
and Sima Shi asked his father the reason.
“You would not understand,” said the father.
“I think you are grieving because the Ruler of Wei
does not use you,” replied Sima Shi.
“But they will send for you presently,” said Sima
Zhao. The prophecy was not long in fulfillment, for
even then the bearer of the command stood at the
gate, and the servant announced a messenger from
the court bearing a commission.
As soon as he heard its terms, Sima Yi set about
ordering the armies of Wancheng. Soon came a
messenger from Governor Shen Yi of Jincheng with
a secret message for Sima Yi. The messenger was
taken into a private chamber, and his message was
that Meng Da was on the point of rebellion. The
leakage of this news was due to Li Fu, a confidential
subordinate of Meng Da, and Deng Xian, Meng Da’s
nephew. Li Fu and Deng Xian went to confess the
plot in exchange for a promise of amnesty.
Sima Yi smote his forehead.
“This is the Emperor’s great good fortune, high as
heaven itself. Zhuge Liang’s army is at Qishan
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already, and all people’s courage is at the brink of
breakdown. The Emperor must go to Changan, and
if he does not use me soon, Meng Da will carry out
his plan; his plot will succeed and both capitals will
be lost. Meng Da is surely in league with Zhuge
Liang, and if I can seize this Meng Da before he
makes any move, that will damp Zhuge Liang’s
spirits and he will retreat.”
His elder son Sima Shi remarked, “It is necessary
to memorialize the Throne.”
“No,” replied his father, “that would take a month,
and delay would mean failure.”
Sima Yi gave orders to prepare to advance by
double−rapid marches and threatened death to all
loiterers. In order to avert suspicion, he sent letters
to Meng Da by the hand of Military Adviser Liang Ji
to tell Meng Da to prepare to join the expedition.
Sima Yi quickly followed Liang Ji. After two days’
march Sima Yi fell in with an army of General Xu
Huang over the hills.
Xu Huang got an interview with Sima Yi, and he
said, “The Emperor has arrived at Changan to lead
an expedition against Shu. Whither is the
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Commander−in−Chief going?”
Sima Yi, in a low voice, said to him, “Meng Da is
on the verge of rebellion, and I am going to seize
“Let me go as your van−leader,” said Xu Huang.
So Xu Huang’s troops were joined to the
expedition and marched in the van. Sima Yi
commanded the center, and his sons brought up the
Two days farther on, some of the scouts captured
Meng Da’s confidential messenger, and with him
Zhuge Liang’s reply. Sima Yi promised the man his
life if he would tell all he knew. So the messenger
told all about the letters and messages he had taken
from one to the other.
When Sima Yi read, he remarked, “All able
people think the same way. Our plan would have
been foiled by Zhuge Liang’s cleverness unless, by
the good luck of the Emperor, this messenger had
been captured. Now Meng Da will be helpless.”
The army pressed on still more rapidly.
Meng Da had arranged for his stroke with
Governor Shen Yi of Jincheng and Governor Shen
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Dan of Shangyong and was awaiting the day he had
fixed. But Shen Yi and Shen Dan were only
pretending to abet him, although they went on
training and drilling their troops to keep up
appearances till the soldiers of Wei could arrive. To
Meng Da they pretended delay in their transport as
the reason for being unable to start. And he believed
Just then Liang Ji came, and when he had been
ceremoniously received, he produced the order from
Sima Yi and said, “The Commander−in−Chief has
received the edict of the Emperor to call in all the
forces in this area, and he has sent me to direct you
to hold your troops in readiness to march.”
“On what day does the Commander−in−Chief
start?” asked Meng Da.
“He is just about starting now, and is on the way
to Changan” replied Liang Ji.
Meng Da smiled inwardly, for, this being so, he
saw success before him. He gave a banquet to Liang
Ji; and after Liang Ji took his leave, Meng Da sent to
his fellow conspirators—Shen Yi and Shen Dan—to
say the first step must be taken next day by
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exchanging the banners of Wei for those of Han and
marching to attack Luoyang.
Then the watchmen reported a great cloud of dust
in the distance as though an army was coming.
Meng Da was surprised and went up on the ramparts
to see for himself. Soon he made out the banner of
Xu Huang leading. He ran down from the wall and in
a state of trepidation ordered the raising of the
drawbridge. Xu Huang still came on and in due time
stood on the bank of the moat.
Then Xu Huang called out, “Let the traitor Meng
Da yield quickly!”
Meng Da, in a rage, opened upon him with
arrows, and Xu Huang was wounded in the
forehead. He was helped to a place of safety while
the arrows flew down in great numbers. When the
soldiers of Wei retired, Meng Da opened the gates
and went in pursuit. But the whole of Sima Yi’s army
soon came up, and the banners stood so thick that
they hid the sun.
“This is what Zhuge Liang foresaw!” said Meng
Da despairingly. The gates were closed and barred.
Meanwhile the wounded general, Xu Huang, had
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been borne to his tent, where the arrow head was
extracted and the physician attended to him. But that
night he died. He was fifty−nine. His body was sent
to Luoyang for burial.
Next day, when Meng Da went up on the wall, he
saw the city was entirely surrounded as with a girdle
of iron. He was greatly perturbed and could not
decide what to do. Presently he saw two bodies of
troops coming up, their banners bearing the names
of his fellow conspirators—Shen Yi and Shen Dan.
He could only conclude that they had come to his
help, so he opened the gates to them and went out
to fight.
“Rebel, stay!” cried they both as they came up.
Realizing that they had been false, he turned and
galloped toward the city, but a flight of arrows met
him, and the two who had betrayed him, Li Fu and
Deng Xian, began to revile him.
“We have already yielded the city!” they cried.
Then Meng Da fled. But he was pursued, and as
he and his horse were both exhausted, he was
speedily overtaken and slain. They exposed his
head, and his soldiers submitted. Sima Yi was
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welcomed at the open gates. The people were
pacified, the soldiers were rewarded and, this done,
a report of their success was sent to Cao Rui. Cao
Rui ordered the body of Meng Da to be exposed in
the market place of Luoyang, and he promoted Shen
Yi and Shen Dan and gave them posts in the army of
Sima Yi. He gave Li Fu and Deng Xian command of
the cities of Xincheng and Shangyong.
Then Sima Yi marched to Changan and camped.
The leader entered the city to have audience with his
master, by whom he was most graciously received.
“Once I doubted you;” said Cao Rui, “but then I
d i d n o t u n d e r s t a n d , a n d I l i s t e n e d t o
mischief−makers. I regret it. You have preserved
both capitals by the punishment of this traitor.”
Sima Yi replied, “Shen Yi gave the information of
the intended revolt and thought to memorialize Your
Majesty. But there would have been a long delay,
and so I did not await orders, but set forth at once.
Delay would have played into Zhuge Liang’s hands.”
Then Sima Yi handed in Zhuge Liang’s letter to
Meng Da, and when the Emperor had read that, he
said, “You are wiser than both the great strategists of
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old—Wu Qi and Sun Zi.”
The Ruler of Wei conferred upon the successful
leader a pair of golden axes and the privilege of
taking action in important matters without first
obtaining his master’s sanction.
When the order was given to advance against the
enemy, Sima Yi asked permission to name his
leader of the van, and nominated Zhang He, General
of the Left Army.
“Just the man I wished to send,” said Cao Rui,
smiling. And Zhang He was appointed.
Sima Yi took his army off Changan and marched
it to the camp of the Shu army.
By strategy the leader shows his skill;
He needs bold fighting men to work his will.
The result of the campaign will appear in the next
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Click here to see all Games for Sale!

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