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CHAPTER 98. Pursuing The Shu Army, Wang Shuang Meets His Death; Raiding Chencang, Zhuge Liang Scores A Victory.

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

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Now Sima Yi spoke to the Ruler of Wei, saying, “I
have said repeatedly that Zhuge Liang would come
against us by way of Chencang; wherefore I set Hao
Zhao to guard it. If an enemy did invade, he could
easily obtain his supplies by that road; but with Hao
Zhao and Wang Shuang on guard there, he will not
dare to come that way. It is very difficult to get
supplies any other way. Therefore I can give the
invaders a month to exhaust their food. Hence their
advantage lies in forcing a battle; ours is postponing
it as long as possible. Wherefore I pray Your Majesty
order Cao Zhen to hold passes and positions
tenaciously and on no account to seek battle. In a
month the enemy will have to retreat, and that will be
our opportunity.”
Cao Rui was pleased to hear so succinct a
statement, but he said, “Since, Noble Sir, you
foresaw all this so plainly, why did you not lead an
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army to prevent it?”
“It is not because I grudged the effort, but I had to
keep the army here to guard against Lu Xun of Wu.
Sun Quan will declare himself ‘Emperor’ before long.
If he does, he will be afraid of Your Majesty’s attack,
and so he will try to invade us first. I shall be ready to
defend our frontier. The army is prepared.”
Just then one of the courtiers announced
dispatches from Cao Zhen on military affairs, and
Sima Yi closed his speech, saying, “Your Majesty
should send someone especially to caution the
general to be careful not to be tricked by Zhuge
Liang, not to pursue rashly, and never to penetrate
deeply into the enemy country.”
The Ruler of Wei gave the order, and he sent the
command by the hand of Minister Han Ji and gave
him authority to warn Cao Zhen against giving battle.
Sima Yi escorted the royal messenger out of the
city and, at parting, said, “I am giving this magnificent
opportunity to obtain glory to Cao Zhen, but do not
tell him the suggestion was mine; only quote the
royal command. Tell him that defense is the best,
pursuit is to be most cautious, and he is not to send
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any impetuous leader to follow up the enemy.”
Han Ji agreed and took leave.
Cao Zhen was deep in affairs connected with his
army when they brought news of a royal messenger,
but he went forth to bid Han Ji welcome; and when
the ceremonial receipt of the edict had come to an
end, he retired to discuss matters with Guo Huai and
Sun Li.
“That is Sima Yi’s idea,” said Guo Huai with a
“But what of the idea?” asked Cao Zhen.
“It means that the man who perfectly understands
Zhuge Liang’s plans and who will eventually have to
be called in to defeat them is our friend Sima Yi.”
“But if the Shu army holds its ground?” “We will
send Wang Shuang to reconnoiter and keep on the
move along the by−roads so that they dare not
attempt to bring up supplies. They must retreat when
they have no more to eat, and we shall be able to
beat them.”
Then said Sun Li, “Let me go out to Qishan as if
to escort a convoy from Xizhou, only the carts shall
be laden with combustibles instead of grain. We will
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sprinkle sulfur and saltpeter over wood and reeds.
The troops of Shu, who lack supplies, will surely
seize the convoy and take it to their own camp, when
we will set fire to the carts. When they are blazing,
our hidden men can attack.”
“It seems an excellent plan,” said Cao Zhen.
And he issued the requisite orders: Sun Li to
pretend to escort a convoy; Wang Shuang to prowl
about the by−roads; Guo Huai and various generals
to command in the Chi Valley, Jieting, and other
strategic points. Also Zhang Hu, son of Zhang Liao,
was made leader of the van, and Yue Chen, son of
Yue Jin, was his second. These two were to remain
on guard in the outermost camp.
Now at Qishan, Zhuge Liang sought to bring on a
battle, and daily sent champions to provoke a
combat. But the men of Wei would not come out.
Then Zhuge Liang called Jiang Wei and certain
others to him and said, “I do not know what to do.
The enemy refuse battle, because they know we are
short of food. We can get none by way of Chencang,
and all other roads are very difficult. I reckon the
grain we brought with us will not last a month.”
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While thus perplexed, they heard that many carts
of provisions for Wei were passing by from Xizhou,
and the convoy was commanded by Sun Li.
“What is known of this Sun Li?” asked Zhuge
A certain man of Wei replied, “He is a bold man.
Once he was out hunting with the Ruler of Wei on
Great Rock Hill, and a tiger suddenly appeared in
front of his master’s chariot. He jumped off his horse
and dispatched the beast with his sword. He was
rewarded with a leadership. He is an intimate friend
of Cao Zhen.”
“This is a ruse,” said Zhuge Liang. “They know we
are short of food, and those carts are only a
temptation. They are laden with combustibles. How
can they imagine that I shall be deceived by this sort
of thing, when I have fought them with fire so many
times? If we go to seize the convoy, they will come
and raid our camp. But I will meet ruse with ruse.”
Then Zhuge Liang sent Ma Dai with order: “You
and three thousand troops are to make your way to
the enemy’s store camp and, when the wind serves,
to start a fire. When the stores are burning, the
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soldiers of Wei will come to surround our camp. That
is how we will provoke a battle.”
He also sent Ma Zhong and Zhang Ni with five
thousand troops each to halt near the camp so that
they might attack from without.
These having gone, he called Guan Xing and
Zhang Bao, and said, “The outermost camp of Wei is
on the main road. This night, when the enemy see a
blaze, our camp will be attacked, so you two are to
lie in wait on the two sides of the Wei camp and
seize it when they have left.”
Calling Wu Ban and Wu Yi, he said, “You are to
lie in wait outside the camp to cut off the retreat of
the force of Wei.” All these arrangements made,
Zhuge Liang betook himself to the summit of the
Qishan Mountains to watch the results.
The soldiers of Wei heard that their enemies were
coming to seize the grain convoy and ran to tell Sun
Li, who sent on a message to Cao Zhen. Cao Zhen
sent to the chief camp to Zhang Hu and Yue Chen
and told them to look out for a signal blaze; that
would mean the coming of the army of Shu, and then
they were to raid the Shu camp immediately.
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Watchers were sent on the tower to look out for the
promised blaze.
Meanwhile Sun Li marched over and hid in the
west hills to await the coming of the men of Shu.
That night, at the second watch, Ma Dai came with
his three thousand troops all silent, the soldiers with
gags, the horses with a lashing round their muzzles.
They saw tier after tier of carts on the hills, making
an enclosure like a walled camp, and on the carts
were planted many flags.
They waited. Presently the southwest wind came
up, and then they launched the fire. Soon all the
carts were in a blaze that lit up the sky. Sun Li saw
the blaze and could only conclude that the troops of
Shu had arrived and his own side were giving the
signal, so he dashed out to attack. But soon two
parties of soldiers were heard behind him closing in.
These were Ma Zhong and Zhang Ni, who soon had
Sun Li as in a net. Then he heard a third ominous roll
of drums, which heralded the approach of Ma Dai
from the direction of the blaze.
Under these several attacks, the troops of Wei
quailed and gave way. The fire grew more and more
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fierce. Soldiers ran and horses stampeded, and the
dead were too many to count. Sun Li made a dash
through the smoke and fire of the battle and got
When Zhang Hu and Yue Chen saw the fire, they
threw open the gates of their camp and sallied forth
to help defeat the army of Shu by seizing their camp.
But when they reached the Shu camp, they found it
empty. So they hurried to set out to return. That was
the moment for Wu Ban and Wu Yi to appear and cut
off their retreat. However, they fought bravely and
got through. But when at length they reached their
own camp, they were met by arrows flying thick as
locusts. For Guan Xing and Zhang Bao had taken
possession in their absence.
They could only set out for headquarters to report
their mishap. As they neared Cao Zhen’s camp, they
met another remnant marching up. They were Sun
Li’s soldiers, and the two parties went into camp
together and told the tale of their victimization. Cao
Zhen thereafter looked to his defenses and attacked
no more.
Thus victorious, the soldiers of Shu went to
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Zhuge Liang, who at once dispatched secret
directions to Wei Yan. Then Zhuge Liang gave
orders to break camp and retreat.
This move was not understood, and Yang Yi
asked the leader, “O Minister, you have just scored a
victory, and the enemy have lost their bravery; why
“Because we are short of food,” said Zhuge
Liang. “Our success lay in swift victory, but the
enemy will not fight, and thus they weaken us day by
day. Though we have worsted them now, they will
soon be reinforced, and their light horse can cut off
our provisions. Then we could not retreat at all. For a
time they will not dare look at us, and we must take
the occasion to do what they do not expect, and
retreat. But I am solicitous about Wei Yan, who is on
the Chencang road to keep off Wang Shuang. I fear
he cannot get away. I have sent him certain orders to
slay Wang Shuang, and then the force of Wei will not
dare to pursue.”
So the retreat began, but to deceive the enemy
the watchmen were left in the empty camp to beat
the watches through the night. Cao Zhen was
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depressed at his recent misfortune. Then they told
him Zhang He had come. Zhang He came up to the
gate, dismounted, and entered.
When he saw Cao Zhen, he said, “I have
received a royal command to come and to be into
your arrangements.”
“Did you take leave of friend Sima Yi?” asked Cao
Zhang He said, “His instructions to me were to
stay away if you were victor, to come if you were not.
It seems that our side has missed success. Have
you since found out what the troops of Shu are
“Not yet.”
So Cao Zhen sent out some scouts, and they
found empty camps. There were flags flying, but the
army had been gone two days. Cao Zhen was
When Wei Yan received his secret orders, he
broke up camp that night and hastened toward
Hanzhong. Wang Shuang’s scouts heard this and
told their chief, who hurried in pursuit. After about
seven miles, he came in sight of Wei Yan’s ensigns.
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As soon as he got within hailing distance, he
shouted, “Do not flee, Wei Yan!”
But no one looked back, so he again pressed
Then he heard one of his guards behind him
shouting, “There is a blaze in the camp outside the
wall; I think it is some wile of the enemy.”
Wang Shuang pulled up and, turning, saw the
fire. He therefore tried to draw off his troops. Just as
he passed a hill, a horseman suddenly came out of a
“Here is Wei Yan!” shouted the horseman.
Wang Shuang was too startled to defend himself
and fell at the first stroke of Wei Yan’s blade. Wang
Shuang’s troops thought this was only the beginning
of an ambush and serious attack, so they scattered;
but really Wei Yan only had thirty men with him, and
they moved off leisurely toward Hanzhong.
No man could better Zhuge Liang’s foresight
Brilliant as a comet where it flashed:
Back and forth at will his soldiers dashed,
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And Wang Shuang’s dead body marked where
they had been.
The secret orders sent to Wei Yan was that he
was to keep back thirty men and hide beside Wang
Shuang’s camp till that warrior left. Then the camp
was to be set on fire. After that the thirty were to wait
till Wang Shuang’s return to fall upon him. The plan
being successfully carried out, Wei Yan followed the
retreating army into Hanzhong and handed over his
The Shu army having retreated safely to
Hanzhong, feastings were held in celebration of the
Zhang He, who, failing to come up with the
retiring enemy, presently returned to camp. Hao
Zhao sent a letter to say that Wang Shuang had met
his end. This loss caused Cao Zhen deep grief, so
that he became ill and had to return to Luoyang. He
left Zhang He, Sun Li, and Guo Huai to guard the
approaches to Changan.
At a court held by Sun Quan, the Prince of Wu, a
certain spy reported the doings in the west and the
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damages Wei had suffered in Zhuge Liang’s
expeditions. Thereupon certain ministers urged on
Sun Quan that he should attack Wei and try to gain
the Middle Land.
However, Sun Quan could not make up his mind,
and Zhang Zhao endeavored to prove to him that his
hour was come by this memorial:
“I have heard that a phoenix has lately appeared
in the hills east of Wuchang and bowed; that a yellow
dragon has
been seen in the Great River. My lord, your virtue
matches that of Kings Tang and Yu, and your
understanding is on a level with that of Kings Wu and
Wen. Wherefore you should now proceed to the
imperial style and then raise an army to maintain
your authority.”
And many other officers supported Zhang Zhao’s
proposal. They finally persuaded Sun Quan to
decide upon the ‘tiger’ day in the forth month, in
summer. They prepared an altar on the south of
Wuchang, and on that day his courtiers formally
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requested him to ascend to the high place and
assume the style of “Emperor.”
“Yellow Dragon” was chosen as the style of the
reign. Sun Jian, the deceased father of the new
Emperor, was given the title of the Martially Glorious
Emperor, his mother Empress Wu, and his elder
brother, Sun Ce, was made posthumously Prince of
Changsha, and his son, Sun Deng, was styled Heir
Apparent. The rank of Left Companion of the Heir
Apparent was conferred upon the eldest son of
Zhuge Jin, Zhuge Ke. The rank of Right Companion
of the Heir Apparent was bestowed upon the second
son of Zhang Zhao, Zhang Xiu.
This son of Zhuge Jin was a person below middle
height, but very clever, and especially apt at capping
verses. Sun Quan liked him much. When Zhuge Ke
was six, he went with his father to a banquet. Sun
Quan noticed that Zhuge Jin had a long face, so he
bade a man lead in a donkey, and he wrote on it with
chalk, “My friend Zhuge Jin.” Every one roared with
laughter. But the youngster ran up and added a few
strokes making it read, “My friend Zhuge Jin’s
donkey.” The guests were astonished at his ready
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wit, and praised him. Sun Quan was also pleased
and made him a present of the donkey.
Another day, at a large official banquet, Sun
Quan sent the boy with a goblet of wine to each
courtier. When he came to Zhang Zhao, the old man
declined it, saying, “This is not the proper treatment
for old age.”
“Can you not make him drink?” said Sun Quan.
Then said Zhuge Ke to the old gentleman, “You
remember Father Lu Wang; he was ninety and yet
gripped the signaling flags and wielded the axes of
an army commander in the field. He never spoke of
age. Nowadays in battle we put seniors behind, but
at the banquet board we give them a front place.
How can you say we do not treat old age properly?”
Zhang Zhao had no reply ready, and so had to
drink. This sort of precocity endeared the boy to Sun
Quan, and now Sun Quan made him the Left
Companion to the Heir Apparent.
Zhang Zhao’s son, Zhang Xiu, was chosen for
honor on account of the eminent services of his
father. Then Gu Yong became Prime Minister and Lu
Xun, Regent Marshal. And Lu Xun assisted the Heir
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Apparent in the custody of Wuchang.
As Sun Quan seemed powerful and well
established, the whole of his court turned their
thoughts toward the suppression of Wei. Only Zhang
Zhao opposed it and tendered counsels of internal
“It is not well to begin Your Majesty’s new reign
with fighting; rather improve learning and hide the
sword; establish schools and so give the people the
blessings of peace. Make a treaty with Shu to share
the empire, and lay your plans slowly and carefully.”
Sun Quan saw the wisdom of the advice. He sent an
envoy into the Lands of Rivers to lay the scheme of
an alliance before the Latter Ruler. The Latter Ruler
called his courtiers to discuss it. Many were opposed
to Sun Quan as an upstart usurper and advised
rejection of any friendly proposals from him. Then
Jiang Wan said they might get the opinion of Zhuge
So they sent and put the matter before the Prime
Zhuge Liang said, “Send an envoy with presents
and felicitations and ask Sun Quan to send Lu Xun
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against Wei. Then Sima Yi will be engaged with Wu,
and I may once more march to Qishan and attempt
Capital Changan.”
Wherefore the Chair of the Secretariat, Chen
Zhen, was sent with presents of horses, and a
jeweled belt, and gold and pearls and precious
things into the South Land to congratulate the Ruler
of Wu on his newly assumed dignity. And the
presents were accepted, and the bearer thereof
honored and allowed to return.
When this was all over, Sun Quan called in Lu
Xun and asked his opinion about the concerted
attack on Wei. Lu Xun saw through the scheme at
“We owe this to Zhuge Liang’s fear of Sima Yi,”
said he. “However, we must consent since Shu asks
it. We will make a show of raising an army and in a
measure support them. When Zhuge Liang has
actually attacked Wei, we will make for the Middle
Land ourselves.”
Orders went forth for enlisting and training
Jingzhou soldiers ready for an expedition to start
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When Chen Zhen returned to Hanzhong and
reported to the Prime Minister, Zhuge Liang was still
worried that he could not advanced by the road
through Chencang. Soon after this, however, scouts
brought the news that the able defender of the city,
Hao Zhao, was very ill.
“That means success for me,” cried he, cheering.
He called in Wei Yan and Jiang Wei, and said,
“Take five thousand troops and hasten to Chencang.
If you see a blaze, then attack.”
They could hardly believe the order was meant,
and came again to see their chief and asked the
exact date of departure.
“In three days you should be ready to march. Do
not come to take leave of me, but set out as soon as
After they had left his tent, he summoned Guan
Xing and Zhang Bao and gave them secret
Now when Guo Huai heard that the commander
of Chencang was ill, he and Zhang He talked over
the matter.
Guo Huai said, “Hao Zhao is very ill; you would
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better go and relieve him. I will report to the capital
what we have done that they may arrange.”
So Zhang He started with his three thousand
troops to relieve the sick man. Hao Zhao was indeed
at the point of death, and suddenly they told him that
the army of Shu had reached the walls. Hao Zhao
roused himself and bade them go on the ramparts.
But then fire broke out at each gate, a panic spread
in the city and the noise of the confusion startled the
dying man so that he passed away just as the troops
of Shu were bursting in.
When Wei Yan and Jiang Wei reached the walls,
they were perplexed to find no sign of life. No flags
were flying and no watchmen struck the hours. They
delayed their attack for a time. Then they heard a
bomb, and suddenly the wall was thick with flags,
and there appeared the well−known figure of the
“You have come too late,” cried Zhuge Liang.
Both dropped out of the saddle and prostrated
“Really, you are supernatural, O Minister!” they
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They entered the city, and then he explained to
them, saying, “I heard the news that Hao Zhao was
seriously sick, so I sent you with the deadline of
three days as a blind to calm the people of this city.
Then I hid myself in the ranks of another force under
Guan Xing and Zhang Bao, which came to
Chencang by double marches. Also, I had sent spies
into the city to start the fires and throw the defenders
into confusion. An army without a leader could never
fight, and I could take the city easily. This is an
instance of the rule of war: ‘Do the unexpected;
attack the unprepared.’“
They bowed. In commiseration Zhuge Liang sent
all the family of Hao Zhao, and his coffin, over to
Wei, thus showing his sense of the dead man’s
Turning once more to Wei Yan and Jiang Wei, he
said, “But do not divest yourself of your armor. Go
and attack San Pass and drive away the guards
while they are in a state of surprise. If you delay, Wei
will have sent reinforcements.”
They went. Surely enough the capture of San
Pass was easy as the Wei soldiers scattered. But
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when they went up to look around, they saw a great
c l o u d o f d u s t m o v i n g t o w a r d t h e m ; t h e
reinforcements were already near.
They remarked to each other, “The Prime
Minister’s foresight was superhuman.”
When they had looked a little longer, they saw the
leader of the Wei army then approaching was Zhang
They then divided their soldiers to hold the
approaches. When Zhang He saw that all was
prepared, he retired. Wei Yan followed and fought a
battle, defeating Zhang He heavily.
Wei Yan sent to report his success, but Zhuge
Liang had already left Chencang and had gone into
the Xie Valley to capture the county of Jianwei. Other
armies from Shu followed. Moreover, the Latter Ruler
sent Chen Shi to assist in the campaign. Zhuge
Liang then marched his main force to Qishan and
there made a camp. Then he called an assembly of
“Twice have I gone out by Qishan without
success, but at last I am here. I think Wei will resume
the former battle ground and oppose us. If so, they
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will assume that I shall attack Yongcheng and
Meicheng and send armies to defend them. But I see
Yinping and Wudu are connected with Hanzhong;
and if I can win these, I can drive a wedge into the
Wei force. Who will go to take these places?”
Jiang Wei and Wang Ping offered themselves.
The former was sent with ten thousand troops to
capture Wudu; the latter, with an equal force, went to
Zhang He went back to Changan and saw Guo
Huai and Sun Li, to whom he said, “Chencang is lost,
Hao Zhao is dead, San Pass is taken, and Zhuge
Liang is again at Qishan; and thence has sent out
two armies.”
Guo Huai was frightened, saying, “In that case,
Yongcheng and Meicheng are in danger.”
Leaving Zhang He to guard Changan, he sent
Sun Li to Yongcheng, and he himself set out at once
for Meicheng. He sent an urgent report to Luoyang.
At Wei’s next court the Emperor was informed of
all the misfortunes in the west and the threats in the
Man Chong said, “Sun Quan has declared himself
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‘Emperor,’ and Lu Xun is drilling his army in
Wuchang. An invasion from the east can be
expected soon.”
Cao Rui was embarrassed and frightened. Cao
Zhen, being ill, could not be consulted, and Sima Yi
was called. He was ready with a proposal.
“In my humble opinion, Wu will not attack us,”
said Sima Yi.
“What makes you think so?” asked the Ruler of
“Because Zhuge Liang still resents, and wishes to
avenge, the event at Xiaoting. He never ceases to
desire to absorb Wu. His only fear is that we may
swoop down upon Shu. That is why there is an
alliance with Wu. Lu Xun knows it also quite well,
and he is only making a show of raising an army as
they arranged. The truth is he is sitting on the fence.
Hence Your Majesty may disregard the menace on
the east, and only protect yourself against Shu.”
“Your insight is very profound,” said the Ruler of
Sima Yi was created Commander−in−Chief of all
the forces in the west, and the Ruler of Wei directed
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a courtier to go to Cao Zhen for the seal.
“I would rather go myself,” said Sima Yi. So he
left the audience and went to the palace of Cao
Zhen, where presently he saw the invalid. First he
asked after his health and then gradually opened his
“Shu and Wu have made an alliance to invade us,
and Zhuge Liang is at Qishan. Have you heard,
Illustrious Sir?”
“My people have kept back all news as I am ill,”
said he, startled. “But if this is true, the country is in
d a n g e r . W h y h a v e t h e y n o t m a d e y o u
Commander−in−Chief to stop this invasion?”
“I am unequal to the post,” said Sima Yi.
“Bring the seal and give it to him,” said Cao Zhen
to his attendants.
“You are anxious on my account; really I am only
come to lend you an arm. I dare not accept the seal.”
Cao Zhen started up, saying, “If you do not take
it, I shall have to go to see the Emperor, ill as I am.
The Middle Land is in danger.”
“Really the Emperor has already shown his
kindness, but I dare not accept his offer.” “If you
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have been appointed, then Shu will be driven off.”
Thrice Sima Yi declined the seal, but eventually
he received it into his hands as he knew Cao Zhen
was sincere. Then he took leave of the Ruler of Wei
and marched to Changan.
The seal of office changes hands,
Two armies now one force become.
Sima Yi’s success or failure will be told in the next

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