“What does this mean？” said Liu Bei.
Tao Qian said, “there is trouble on every side, and the kingly rule is no longer maintained. You, Sir, are a member of the family and eminently fitted to support them and their prerogatives. I am verging on senility, and I wish to retire in your favor. I pray you not to decline, and I will report my action to the court.”
Liu Bei started up from his seat and bowed before his host, saying, “Scion of the family I may be, but my merit is small and my virtue meager. I doubt my fitness even for my present post, and only a feeling of doing right sent me to your assistance. To hear such speech makes me doubt. Surely you think I came with GREed in my heart. May God help me no more if I cherished such a thought.”
“It is a poor old man’s real sentiment,” said Tao Qian.
Time after time Tao Qian renewed his offer to entrust the region of Xuzhou to Liu Bei, but Liu Bei kept refusing.
In the midst of this came Mi Zhu, saying, “The enemies had reached the wall, and something must be done to drive them off. The present matter could await a more tranquil time.”
Said Liu Bei, “I ought to write to Cao Cao to press him to raise the siege. If he refuses, we will attack forthwith.”
Orders were sent to the three camps outside to remain quiescent till the letter could reach Cao Cao.
It happened that Cao Cao was holding a council when a messenger with a war letter was announced.
the letter was brought in and handed to him and,
when he had opened and looked at it,
he found it was from Liu Bei.
This is the letter, very nearly：
Presently Liu Bei came up and went to see Kong Rong, who said, “the enemy is very powerful, and Cao Cao handles his army skillfully. We must be cautious. Let us make most careful observations before we strike a blow.”
“What I fear is famine in the city,” said Liu Bei. “They cannot hold out very long. I will put my troops with yours under your command, while I with Zhang Fei make a dash through to see Tao Qian and consult with him.”
Kong Rong approved of this, so he and Tien Kai took up positions on the ox-horn formation, with Guan Yu and Zhao Yun on either side to support them.
When Liu Bei and Zhang Fei leading one thousand troops made their dash to get through Cao Cao’s army, they got as far as the flank of his camp when there arose a GREat beating of drums, and horse and foot rolled out like billows on the ocean. The leader was Yu Jin.
Yu Jin checked his steed and called out, “You mad men from somewhere, where are you going？”
Zhang Fei heard Yu Jin but deigned no reply. He only rode straight to attack the speaker. After they had fought a few bouts, Liu Bei waved his double swords as signal for his troops to come on, and they drove Yu Jin before them. Zhang Fei led the pursuit and in this way they reached the city wall.
From the city wall, the besieged saw a huge banner embroidered in white Liu Bei of Pingyuan, and the Imperial Protector bade them open the gate for the rescuers to enter. Liu Bei was made very welcome, conducted to the residency, and a banquet prepared in his honor. The soldiers also were feasted.
Tao Qian was delighted with Liu Bei,
admiring his high-spirited appearance and clear speech.
Tao Qian bade Mi Zhu offer Liu Bei
the seal and insignia of the protectorship office.
But Liu Bei shrank back startled.
Kong Rong pressed rewards upon Taishi Ci, but he would accept nothing and departed. When his mother saw him, she was pleased at his success saying she rejoiced that he had been able to prove his gratitude, and after this he departed for Yangzhou.
Liu Bei went away to his friend Gongsun Zan and laid before Gongsun Zan his design to help Xuzhou.
“Cao Cao and you are not enemies. Why do you spend yourself for the sake of another？” said Gongsun Zan.
“I have promised,” Liu Bei replied, “and dare not break faith.”
“I will lend you two thousand horse and foot,” said Gongsun Zan.
“Also I wish to have the services of Zhao Yun,” said Liu Bei.
Gongsun Zan aGREed to this also. they marched away, Liu Bei’s own troops being in the front, and Zhao Yun, with the borrowed troops, being in rear.
In due course Mi Zhu returned saying that Kong Rong had also obtained the services of Liu Bei. The other messenger, Chen Deng, came back and reported that Tien Kai would also bring help. Then was Tao Qian’s heart set at ease.
But both the leaders, though they had promised aid, GREatly dreaded their antagonist and camped among the hills at a great distance,
fearful of coming too close to Cao Cao’s quarters.
Cao Cao knew of their coming and
divided his army into parts to meet them,
so postponing the attack on the city itself.
the victors were welcomed into the city, and as soon as possible a banquet was prepared in their honor. Mi Zhu was presented to Liu Bei. Mi Zhu related the story of the murder of Cao Song by Zhang Kai, Cao Cao’s vengeful attack on Xuzhou, and his coming to beg for assistance.
Liu Bei said, “Imperial Protector Tao Qian is a kindly man of high character, and it is a pity that he should suffer this wrong for no fault of his own.”
“You are a scion of the imperial family,” said Governor Kong Rong, “and this Cao Cao is injuring the people, a strong man abusing his strength. Why not go with me to rescue the sufferers？”
“I dare not refuse, but my force is weak and I must act cautiously,” said Liu Bei.
“Though my desire to help arises from an old friendship, yet it is a righteous act as well. I do not think your heart is not inclined toward the right,” said Kong Rong.
Liu Bei said, “This being so, you go first and give me time to see Gongsun Zan from whom I may borrow more troops and horses. I will come anon.”
“You surely will not break your promise？” said the Governor.
“What manner of man think you that I am？” said Liu Bei. “the wise one said, ‘Death is common to all； the person without truth cannot maintain the self.’ Whether I get the troops or not, certainly I shall myself come.”
So the plan was aGREed to. Mi Zhu set out to return forthwith while Kong Rong prepared for his expedition.
Taishi Ci took his leave, saying,
“My mother bade me come to your aid,
and now happily you are safe.
Letters have come from my fellow townsman,
Liu Yao, Imperial Protector of Yangzhou,
calling me thither and I must go.
I will see you again.”
Thus he got clear away and rode in hot haste to Liu Bei. Taishi Ci reached Pingyuan, and after GREeting his host in proper form he told how Kong Rong was surrounded and had sent him for help. then he presented the letter which Liu Bei read.
“And who are you？” asked Liu Bei.
“I am Taishi Ci, a fellow from Laihuang. I am not related by ties of kin to Kong Rong, nor even by ties of neighborhood, but I am by the bonds of sentiment and I share his sorrows and misfortunes. The Yellow Scarves have invested his city, and he is distressed with none to turn to, and destruction is very near. You are known as humane, righteous, and eager to help the distressed. Therefore at his command I have braved all dangers and fought my way through his enemies to pray you save him.”
Liu Bei smiled, saying, “And does he know there is a Liu Bei in this world？”
So Liu Bei, together with Guan Yu and Zhang Fei, told off three thousand troops and set out to help raise the siege. When the rebel leader Guan Hai saw these new forces arriving, he led out his army to fight them, thinking he could easily dispose of so small a force.
the brothers and Taishi Ci with them sat on their horses in the forefront of their array. Guan Hai hastened forward. Taishi Ci was ready to fight, but Guan Yu had opened the combat. He rode forth and the two steeds met. The soldiers set up a GREat noise. After a few bouts Guan Yu’s green-dragon saber rose and fell, and with the stroke fell the rebel leader.
This was the signal for Zhang Fei and Taishi Ci to take a share, and they advanced side by side. With their spears ready they dashed in, and Liu Bei urged forward his force. The besieged Governor saw his doughty rescuers laying low the rebels as tigers among a flock of sheep. None could withstand them,
and he then sent out his own troops to
join in the battle so that the rebels were between two armies.
The rebels’ force was completely broken and many troops surrendered,
while the remainder scattered in all directions.
Presently said Taishi Ci, “Give me a thousand soldiers, and I will go out and drive off these fellows.”
“You are a bold warrior, but they are very numerous. It is a serious matter to go out among them,” said Kong Rong.
“My mother sent me because of your goodness to her. How shall I be able to look her in the face if I do not raise the siege？ I would prefer to conquer or perish.”
“I have heard Liu Bei is one of the heroes in the world. If we could get his help, there would be no doubt of the result. But there is no one to send.”
“I will go as soon as I have received your letter.”
So Kong Rong wrote letters and gave them to his helper.
Taishi Ci put on his armor, mounted his steed, attached his bow and quiver to his girdle, took his spear in his hand, tied his packed haversack firmly to his saddle bow, and rode out at the city gate. He went quite alone.
Along the moat a large party of the besiegers were gathered, and they came to intercept the solitary rider. But Taishi Ci dashed in among them and cut down several and so finally fought his way through.
Guan Hai, hearing that a rider had left the city, guessed what his errand would be and followed Taishi Ci with a party of horsemen. Guan Hai spread them out so that the messenger rider was entirely surrounded. Then Taishi Ci laid aside his spear, took his bow,
adjusted his arrows one by one and
shot all round him. And as a rider fell
from his steed with every twang of Taishi Ci’s bowstring,
the pursuers dared not close in.
Kong Rong shouted back, “I am a servant of the GREat Hans, entrusted with the safety of their land. Think you I will feed rebels ？”
Guan Hai whipped his steed, whirled his sword around his head and rode forward. Zong Bao, one of Kong Rong’s generals, set his spear and rode out to give battle, but after a very few bouts Zong Bao was cut down. Soon the soldiers fell into panic and rushed pell-mell into the city for protection. The rebels then laid siege to the city on all sides. Kong Rong was very down-hearted； and Mi Zhu, who now saw no hope for the success of his mission, was grieved beyond words.
the sight from the city wall was exceeding sad, for the rebels were there in enormous numbers. One day standing on the wall, Kong Rong saw afar a man armed with a spear riding hard in among the Yellow Scarves and scattering them before him like chaff before the wind.
Before long the man had reached the foot of the wall and called out, “Open the gate！”
But the defenders would not open to an unknown man, and in the delay a crowd of rebels gathered round the rider along the edge of the moat. Suddenly wheeling about, the warrior dashed in among them and bowled over a dozen at which the others fell back. At this Kong Rong ordered the wardens to open the gates and let the stranger enter. As soon as he was inside, he dismounted, laid aside his spear, ascended the wall, and made humble obeisance to the Governor.
“My name is Taishi Ci, and I am from the county of Laihuang. I only returned home yesterday from the north to see my mother, and then I heard that your city was in danger from a rebel attack. My mother said you had been very kind to her and told me I should try to help. So I set out all alone, and here I am.”
This was cheering. Kong Rong already knew Taishi Ci by reputation as a valiant fighting man, although they two had never met. The son being far away from his home, Kong Rong had taken his mother, who dwelt a few miles from the city, under his especial protection and saw that she did not suffer from want. This had won the old lady’s heart and she had sent her son to show her gratitude.
Kong Rong showed his appreciation
by treating his guest with the GREatest respect,
making him presents of clothing and armor,
saddles and horses.
Presently High Minister Chen Wei visited, to whom Li Ying told the story of his youthful guest.
“He is a wonder, this boy,” said Li Ying, pointing to Kong Rong.
Chen Wei replied, “It does not follow that a clever boy grows up into a clever man.”
the lad took him up at once saying, “By what you say, Sir, you were certainly one of the clever boys.”
the minister adviser and the governor all laughed, saying, “The boy is going to be a noble vessel.”
Thus from boyhood Kong Rong was famous. As a man he rose to be an Imperial Commander and was sent as Governor to Beihai, where he was renowned for hospitality. He used to quote the lines：
[hip, hip, hip]“Let the rooms be full of friends, And the cups be full of wine. That is what I like.”[yip, yip, yip]
After six years at Beihai the people were devoted to him. The day that Mi Zhu arrived, Kong Rong was, as usual, seated among his guests, and the messenger was ushered in without delay. In reply to a question about the reason of the visit, Mi Zhu presented Tao Qian’s letter which said that Cao Cao was pressing on Xuzhou City and the Imperial Protector prayed for help.
then said Kong Rong, “Your master and I are good friends, and your presence here constrains me to go to his aid. However, I have no quarrel with Cao Cao either, so I will first write to him to try to make peace. If he refuses my offer, then I must set the army in motion.”
“Cao Cao will not listen to proposals of peace： He is too certain of his strength,” said Mi Zhu.
Kong Rong wrote his letter and also gave orders to muster his troops. Just at this moment happened another rising of the Yellow Scarves, ten thousand of them, and the ruffians began to rob and murder at Beihai. It was necessary to deal with them first, and Kong Rong led his army outside the city.
the rebel leader, Guan Hai, rode out to the front, saying,
“I know this county is fruitful and can well
spare ten thousand carts of grain. Give me that and we retire；
refuse, and we will batter down the
city walls and destroy every soul.”
It was one Mi Zhu who said he knew how to defeat Cao Cao utterly.
Mi Zhu came of a wealthy family of merchants in Donghai and trading in Luoyang. One day traveling homeward from that city in a carriage, he met an exquisitely beautiful lady trudging along the road, who asked him to let her ride. He stopped and yielded his place to her. She invited him to share the seat with her. He mounted, but sat rigidly upright, never even glancing in her direction. They traveled thus for some miles when she thanked him and alighted.
Just as she left she said, “I am the Goddess of Fire from the Southern Land. I am on my way to execute a decree of the Supreme God to burn your dwelling, but your extreme courtesy has so deeply touched me that I now warn you. Hasten homeward, remove your valuables, for I must arrive tonight.”
thereupon she disappeared. Mi Zhu hastily finished his journey and, as soon as he arrived, moved everything out of his house. Sure enough that night a fire started in the kitchen and involved the whole house. After this he devoted his wealth to relieving the poor and comforting the afflicted. Tao Qian gave him the magistracy office he then held.
the plan Mi Zhu proposed was this： “I will go to Beihai and beg Governor Kong Rong to help. Another should go to Qingzhou on a similar mission to get the help from Imperial Protector Tien Kai. If the armies of these two places march on Cao Cao, he will certainly retire.”
Tao Qian accepted the plan and wrote two letters. He asked for a volunteer to go to Qingzhou, and a certain Chen Deng offered himself and, after he had left, Mi Zhu was formally entrusted with the mission to the north. Meanwhile Tao Qian and his generals would hold the city as they could.
Kong Rong was a native of Qufu in the old state of Lu. He was one of the twentieth generation in descent from the GREat Teacher Confucius. Kong Rong had been noted as a very intelligent lad, somewhat precocious. When ten years old he had gone to see Li Ying, the Governor of Henan, but the doorkeeper demurred to letting him in.
But when Kong Rong said, “I am Minister Li Ying’s intimate friend,” he was admitted.
Li Ying asked Kong Rong what relations had existed between their families that might justify the term intimate.
the boy replied,
“Of old my ancestor Confucius questioned your ancestor,
the Taoist sage Laozi, concerning ceremonies.
So our families have known each other for many generations.”
Li Ying was astonished at the boy’s ready wit.
He called together his officials to consult.
One of them, Cao Bao, said, “Now the enemy is upon us： We cannot sit and await death with folded hands. I for one will help you to make a fight.”
Tao Qian reluctantly sent the army out. From a distance he saw Cao Cao’s army spread abroad like frost and rushed far and wide like snow. In their midst was a large white flag and on both sides was written Vengeance.
When he had ranged his troops, Cao Cao rode out dressed in mourning white and abused Tao Qian.
But Tao Qian advanced, and from beneath his ensign he bowed low and said, “I wished to make friends with you, Illustrious Sir, and so I sent Zhang Kai to escort your family. I knew not that his rebel heart was still unchanged. the fault does not lie at my door as you must see.”
“You old wretch！ You killed my father, and now you dare mumble this nonsense,” said Cao Cao.
And he asked who would go out and seize Tao Qian.
Xiahou Dun undertook this service and rode out. Tao Qian fled to the inner portion of his array； and as Xiahou Dun came on, Cao Bao went to meet him. But just as the two horses met, a hurricane burst over the spot, and the flying dust and pebbles threw both sides into the utmost confusion. Both drew off.
Tao Qian retired into the city and called his officers to council.
“the force against us is too strong,” said he. “I will give myself up as a prisoner and let him wreak his vengeance on me. I may save the people.”
But a voice was heard saying, “You have long ruled here, and the people love you. Strong as the enemy are, they are not necessarily able to break down our walls, especially when defended by you and your people. I have a scheme to suggest that I think will make Cao Cao die in a place where he will not find burial.”
these bold words startled the assembly, and they eagerly asked what the scheme was.
[hip, hip, hip] Making overtures for friendship,
Tao Qian encountered deadly hate. But,
where danger seemed most threatening,
he discovered safety’s gate. [yip, yip, yip]
the next chapter will disclose who the speaker was