then the Governor of Changsha, Sun Jian, offered himself for this service.
“You are valiant and fierce, and equal to this service！” said Yuan Shao.
the force under Sun Jian set out and presently came to River Si Pass. The guard there sent a swift rider to the capital to announce to the Prime Minister the urgency of the situation.
Ever since Dong Zhuo had secured his position, he had given himself up to luxury without stint. When the urgent news reached Adviser Li Ru, he at once went to his master, who much alarmed called a GREat council.
Lu Bu stood forth and said, “Do not fear, my father. I look upon all the lords beyond the Pass as so much stubble. And with the warriors of our fierce army, I will put everyone of them to death and hang their heads at the gates of the capital！”
“With your aid I can sleep secure！” said Dong Zhuo.
But someone behind Lu Bu broke in upon his speech, saying, “An ox-cleaver to kill a chicken！ there is no need for the General to go： I will cut off their heads as easily as I would take a thing out of my pocket！”
Dong Zhuo looked up and his eyes rested on a stalwart man of fierce mien, lithe and supple as a beast. He had round head like a leopard and shoulders like an ape’s. His name was Hua Xiong of Guanxi. Dong Zhuo rejoiced at Hua Xiong’s bold words and at once appointed him Commander of the Valiant Cavalry and gave him fifty thousand of horse and foot. Hua Xiong and three other generals——Li Su, Hu Zhen, and Zhao Cen——hastily moved toward River Si Pass.
Among the feudal lords, Bao Xin, the Lord of Jibei, was jealous lest the chosen Van Leader Sun Jian should win too GREat honors. Wherefore Bao Xin endeavored to meet the foe first, and so he secretly dispatched his brother, Bao Zhong, with three thousand by a bye road. As soon as this small force reached the Pass, they offered battle.
Fast reacting, Hua Xiong at the head of five hundred armored horsemen swept down from the Pass, crying, “Flee not, rebel！”
But Bao Zhong was afraid and turned back. Hua Xiong came on, his arm rose, the sword fell, and Bao Zhong was cut down from his horse. Most of Bao Zhong’s company were captured. Bao Zhong’s head was sent to the Prime Minister’s palace. Hua Xiong was promoted to Commander in Chief.
Sun Jian presently approached the Pass. He had four generals： Cheng Pu of Tuyin whose weapon was an iron-spined lance with snake-headed blade； Huang Gai of Lingling who wielded an iron whip； Han Dang of Lingzhi using a heavy saber； and Zu Mao of Wujun who fought with a pair of swords.
Commander Sun Jian wore a helmet of fine silver wrapped round with a purple turban. He carried across his body his sword of ancient ingot iron and rode a dappled horse with flowing mane.
then spoke the Governor of Henei, Wang Kuang, “We have been moved by a noble sense of right to assemble here. Now must we first choose a chief and bind ourselves to obedience.”
then said Cao Cao, “For four generations the highest offices of state have been filled by members of the Yuan family, and their clients and supporters are everywhere. As a descendant of ancient ministers of Han, Yuan Shao is a suitable man to be our chief lord.”
Yuan Shao again and again declined this honor. But they all said, “It must be he！ There is no other！”
And then he aGREed.
So the next day a three-story altar was built, and they planted about it the banners of all parties in five directions of space. And they set up white yaks’ tails and golden axes and emblems of military authority and the seals of leadership round about.
All being ready, the chief lord was invited to ascend the altar. Clad in ceremonial robes and girded with a sword, Yuan Shao reverently ascended. There he burned incense, made obeisance and recited the oath：
“the House of Han has fallen upon evil days, the bands of imperial authority are loosened. The rebel minister, Dong Zhuo, takes advantage of the discord to work evil, and calamity falls upon honorable families. Cruelty overwhelms simple folks. We, Yuan Shao and his confederates, fearing for the safety of the imperial prerogatives, have assembled military forces to rescue the state. We now pledge ourselves to exert our whole strength and act in concord to the utmost limit of our powers. There must be no disconcerted or selfish action. Should any depart from this pledge, may he lose his life and leave no posterity. Almighty Heaven and Universal Earth and the enlightened spirits of our forebears, be ye our witnesses！”
the reading finished, Yuan Shao smeared the blood of the sacrifice upon his lips and upon the lips of those who shared the pledge. All were deeply affected by the ceremony and many shed tears.
This done, the chief lord was supported down from the high place and led to his tent, where he took the highest place and the others arranged themselves according to rank and age. Here wine was served.
Presently Cao Cao said, “It behooves us all to obey the chief we have this day set up, and support the state. There must be no feeling of rivalry or superiority based upon numbers.”
Yuan Shao replied, “Unworthy as I am, yet as elected chief I must impartially reward merit and punish offenses. Let each see to it that he obeys the national laws and the army precepts. These must not be broken.”
“Only thy commands are to be obeyed！” cried all.
then Yuan Shao said, “My brother, Yuan Shu,
is appointed Chief of the Commissariat.
the Governor of Beiping, Gongsun Zan, while on his way with his force of fifteen thousand, passed through the county of Pingyuan. There he saw among the mulberry trees a yellow flag under which marched a small company. When they drew nearer, he saw the leader was Liu Bei.
“Good brother, what do you here？” asked Gongsun Zan.
“You were kind to me once, and on your recommendation I was made the magistrate of this county. I heard you were passing through and came to salute you. May I pray you, my elder brother, enter into the city and rest your steed？”
“Who are these two？” said Gongsun Zan, pointing to Liu Bei’s brothers.
“these are Guan Yu and Zhang Fei, my sworn brothers.”
“Were they fighting with you against the Yellow Scarves？” asked Gongsun Zan.
“All my success was due to their efforts,” said Liu Bei.
“And what offices do they fill？”
“Guan Yu is a mounted archer； Zhang Fei is a foot archer.”
“Thus are able people buried！” said Gongsun Zan, sighing. then he continued. “All the highest in the land are now going to destroy the rebellious Dong Zhuo. My brother, you would do better to abandon this petty place and join us in restoring the House of Han. Why not？”
“I should like to go,” said Liu Bei.
“If you had let me kill him that other time, you would not have this trouble today,” said Zhang Fei to Liu Bei and Guan Yu.
“Since things are so, let us pack and go,” said Guan Yu.
So without more ado, the three brothers, with a few horsemen, joined Gongsun Zan and marched with him to join the GREat army.
One after another the feudal lords came up and encamped.
A few days later came Cao Cao’s two cousins, Cao Ren and Cao Hong, each with one thousand followers. these two were accomplished horsemen and trained in the use of arms.
then drill began, and Wei Hong spent his treasure freely in buying clothing, armor, flags, and banners. From all sides poured in gifts of grain.
When Yuan Shao received Cao Cao’s call to arms, he collected all those under his command to the number of thirty thousand. Then he marched from Bohai to Qiao to take the oath to Cao Cao. Next a manifesto was issued：
“Cao Cao and his associates, moved by a sense of duty, now make this proclamation. Dong Zhuo defies Heaven and Earth. He is destroying the state and injuring his prince. He pollutes the Palace and oppresses the people. He is vicious and cruel. His crimes are heaped up. Now we have received a secret command to call up soldiers, and we are pledged to cleanse the empire and destroy the evil-doers. We will raise a volunteer army and exert all our efforts to maintain the dynasty and succor the people. Respond to this, O Nobles, by mustering your soldiers.”
Many from every side answered the summons as the following list shows：
1. Governor of Nanyang——Yuan Shu
2. Imperial Protector of Jizhou Region——Han Fu
3. Imperial Protector of Yuzhou Region——Kong Zhou
4. Imperial Protector of Yanzhou Region——Liu Dai
5. Governor of Henei——Wang Kuang
6. Governor of Chenliu——Zhang Miao
7. Governor of Dongjun——Qiao Mao
8. Governor of Shanyang——Yuan Yi
9. Lord of Jibei——Bao Xin
10. Governor of Beihai——Kong Rong
11. Governor of Guangling ——Zhang Chao
12. Imperial Protector of Xuzhou Region——Tao Qian
13. Governor of Xiliang——Ma Teng
these contingents varied in size, from ten thousand to thirty thousand, but each was complete in itself with its officers, civil and military, and battle-leaders. They were heading for Capital Luoyang.
At the close of the last chapter, Chen Gong was about to slay Cao Cao. But Chen Gong reflected, “I joined him to do righteous things. Now if I killed him, I would only do unrighteousness, and the people would condemn me. I rather leave in silence.”
Rising from his bed before the sunrise, Chen Gong mounted his horse and rode away eastward to his home county of Dongjun.
Cao Cao awoke with the day and missed his companion. Thought he, “Chen Gong thinks me brutal because of a couple of egoistic phrases I used, and so he has gone. I ought to push on too and not linger here.”
So Cao Cao traveled as quickly as possible toward Qiao. When he saw his father, he related what had happened and said he wanted to dispose of all the family property and enlist soldiers with the money.
“Our possessions are but small,” said his father, “and not enough to do anything with. However, there is a graduate here, one Wei Hong, careless of wealth but careful of virtue, whose family is very rich. With his help we might hope for success.”
A feast was prepared, and Wei Hong was invited.
Cao Cao made him a speech： “the Hans have lost their lordship, and Dong Zhuo is really a tyrant. He flouts his prince and is cruel to the people, who gnash their teeth with rage. I would restore the Hans, but my means are insufficient. Sir, I appeal to your loyalty and public spirit.”
Wei Hong replied, “I have long desired this but, so far, have not found a person fit to undertake the task. Since you, Cao Cao, have so noble a desire, I willingly devote all my property to the cause.”
This was joyful news, and the call to arms was forthwith prepared and sent far and near. So they established a corps of volunteers and set up a large white recruiting banner with the words Loyalty and Honor inscribed thereon. The response was rapid, and volunteers came in like rain drops in number.
[e] Xiahou Ying （？-173） a major general of Liu Bang. Ennobled as the Marquis of Ruyin and commonly called the Lord of Tang. ……
One day came a certain Yue Jing from Yangping and another Li Dian from Julu. These two were appointed to Cao Cao’s personal staff. Another was one Xiahou Dun from Qiao. He was descended from Xiahou Ying* of old. Xiahou Dun had been trained from his early boyhood to use the spear and the club. When only fourteen he had been attached to a certain master-in-arms. One day one person spoke disrespectfully of his master, and Xiahou Dun killed that person. For this deed, however, he had to flee and had been an exile for some time. Now he came to offer his services, accompanied by his cousin Xiahou Yuan. Each brought a thousand trained soldiers. Really these two were brothers of Cao Cao by birth,
Cao Cao paid no heed, urging his horse forward.
But he suddenly drew his sword and rode back after Lu Boshe.
“Who is that coming along？” called Cao Cao.
Lu Boshe turned and looked back, and Cao Cao at the same instant cut Lu Boshe down.
Chen Gong was frightened.
“We were wrong enough before,” cried Chen Gong. “What now is this？”
“When he got home and saw his family killed, think you he would bear it patiently？ If he had raised an alarm and followed us, we should have been killed.”
“To kill deliberately is very wrong,” said Chen Gong.
[e] Karl, a reader： “True, true…… [Cao Cao] has to do what he can to preserve the life of his saviour [Chen Gong], and continue the grand task, which is much more important than the lives of a few friends of his father. More lives will be lost in affairs of the state. Cao Cao is realistic, logical. Throughout the story, he just demonstrates the most appropriate path, for the grander purposes.” ……
[e] Matteo, a reader： “I think that Cao Cao is the Machiavelli’s Prince…… We cannot say he was cruel or evil…… He is, and Luo Guanzhong said the same in the first chapter of the book, the man for this moment of war and revolt…… that’s all.” ……
“Rather we let down the world than the world let us down！” was the reply.*
Chen Gong only thought. they rode on some distance by moonlight and presently knocked up an inn for shelter. Having first fed their horses, Cao Cao was soon asleep, but Chen Gong lay thinking.
Cao Cao told him and said, “Had it not been for this man here with me,
I should have been already hacked to pieces.”
Lu Boshe bowed low to Chen Gong, saying, “You are the salvation of the Cao family. But be at ease and rest, I will find you a bed in my humble cottage.”
Lu Boshe then rose and went into the inner chamber where he stayed a long time. When he came out, he said, “There is no good wine in the house. I am going over to the village to get some for you.”
And he hastily mounted his donkey and rode away. the two travelers sat a long time. Suddenly they heard at the back of the house the sound of sharpening a knife.
Cao Cao said to Chen Gong, “He is not my real uncle. I am beginning to doubt the meaning of his going off. Let us listen.”
So they silently stepped out into a straw hut at the back.
Presently someone said, “Bind before killing, eh？”
“As I thought,” said Cao Cao. “Now unless we strike first, we shall be taken！”
Suddenly Cao Cao and Chen Gong dashed in, sword in hand, and slew the whole household male and female, in all eight persons.
After this they searched the house. In the kitchen they found a pig bound ready to kill.
“You were too suspicious,” said Chen Gong, “and we have slain honest folks！”
Cao Cao and Chen Gong at once mounted and rode away. Soon they met their host Lu Boshe coming home, and over the saddle in front of him they saw two vessels of wine. In his hands he carried fruits and vegetables.
“Why are you going, Sirs？” Lu Boshe called to them.
the Magistrate ordered Cao Cao to the prison till the morrow when
he could send Cao Cao to the capital and claim the reward. He gave the soldiers wine and food as a reward.
About midnight the Magistrate sent a trusty servant to bring the prisoner into his private rooms for interrogation.
“they say the Prime Minister treated you well. Why did you try to harm him？” said Magistrate.
“How can swallows and sparrows understand the flight of the crane and the wild goose？ I am your prisoner and to be sent to the capital for a reward. Why so many questions？”
the Magistrate sent away the attendants and turning to the prisoner said, “Do not despise me. I am no mere hireling； only I have not yet found the lord to serve.”
Said Cao Cao, “My ancestors enjoyed the bounty of Han, and should I differ from a bird or a beast if I did not desire to repay them with gratitude？ I have bowed the knee to Dong Zhuo that thereby I might find an opportunity against him, and so remove this evil from the state. I have failed for this time. Such is the will of Heaven.”
“And where are you going？”
“Home to my county. thence I shall issue a summons calling all the bold people to come with forces to kill the tyrant. This is my desire.”
thereupon the Magistrate himself loosened the bonds of the prisoner, led him to the upper seat, and bowed, saying, “I am called Chen Gong. My aged mother and family are in the east county of Dongjun. I am deeply affected by your loyalty and uprightness, and I will abandon my office and follow you！”
Cao Cao was delighted with this turn of affairs. Chen Gong at once collected some money for the expenses of their journey and gave Cao Cao a different dress. Then each took a sword and rode away toward Qiao.
Three days later at eventide they reached Chenggao. Cao Cao pointed with his whip to a hamlet deep in the woods and said, “There lives my uncle, Lu Boshe, a sworn-brother of my father. Suppose we go and ask news of my family and seek shelter for the night？”
“Excellent！” said his companion Chen Gong, and they rode over, dismounted at the farm gate and entered.
Lu Boshe GREeted them and said to Cao Cao,
then they went out to look at the horse. Cao Cao was profuse
in his thanks and said he would like to try the horse. So Dong Zhuo bade the guards bring saddle and bridle. Cao Cao led the creature outside, leapt into the saddle, laid on his whip vigorously, and galloped away eastward.
Lu Bu said, “Just as I was coming up, it seemed to me as if that fellow was going to stab you, only a sudden panic seized him and he presented the weapon instead.”
“I suspected him too！” said Dong Zhuo.
Just then Li Ru came in and they told him.
“Cao Cao has no family here in the capital but lodges quite alone and not far away,” said Li Ru. “Send for him. If he comes forthwith, the sword was meant as a gift. But if he makes any excuses, he had bad intentions. And you can arrest him.”
they sent four prison warders to call Cao Cao.
they were absent a long time and then came back, saying, “Cao Cao had not returned to his lodging but rode in hot haste out of the eastern gate. To the gate commander’s questions he replied that he was on a special message for the Prime Minister. He went off at full speed.”
“His conscience pricked him and so he fled. there is no doubt that he meant assassination！” said Li Ru.
“And I trusted him so well！” said Dong Zhuo in a rage.
“there must be a conspiracy afoot. When we catch him, we shall know all about it,” said Li Ru.
Letters and pictures of the fugitive Cao Cao were sent everywhere with orders to catch him. A large reward in money was offered and a patent of nobility, while those who sheltered him would be held to share his guilt.
Cao Cao traveled in hot haste toward Qiao, his home county. On the road at Zhongmou, he was recognized by the guards at the gate and made prisoner. They took him to the Magistrate. Cao Cao declared he was a merchant, named Huang Fu. The Magistrate scanned his face most closely and remained in deep thought.
“What good fortune for the world that this is so！” said Wang Yun.
With this Wang Yun himself poured out a goblet for Cao Cao
who drained it and swore an oath. After this the treasured
sword was brought out and given to Cao Cao who hid it under
his dress. He finished his wine, took leave of the guests, and left the hall. Before long the others dispersed.
the next day Cao Cao, with this short sword girded on, came to the palace of the Prime Minister.
“Where is the Prime Minister？” asked he.
“In the small guest room,” replied the attendants.
So Cao Cao went in and found his host seated on a couch. Lu Bu was at his side.
“Why so late, Cao Cao？” said Dong Zhuo.
“My horse is out of condition and slow,” replied Cao Cao.
Dong Zhuo turned to his henchman Lu Bu.
“Some good horses have come in from the west. You go and pick out a good one as a present for him.”
And Lu Bu left.
“This traitor is doomed！” thought Cao Cao. He ought to have struck then, but Cao Cao knew Dong Zhuo was very powerful, and he was afraid to act. He wanted to make sure of his blow.
Now Dong Zhuo’s corpulence was such that he could not remain long sitting, so he rolled over couch and lay face inwards.
“Now is the time,” thought the assassin, and he gripped the good sword firmly.
But just as Cao Cao was going to strike, Dong Zhuo happened to
look up and in a mirror he saw the reflection of Cao Cao behind him with a sword in the hand.
“What are you doing, Cao Cao？” said Dong Zhuo turning suddenly. And at that moment Lu Bu came along leading a horse.
Cao Cao in a flurry dropped on his knees and said, “I have a precious sword here which I wish to present to Your Benevolence.”
Dong Zhuo took it.