The last chapter told of the defeat of Lu Bu, and his gathering the remnant of his army at Dingtao. When all his generals had joined him, he began to feel strong enough to try conclusions with Cao Cao once again.
Said Chen Gong, who was opposed to this course, "Cao Cao is too strong right now. Seek some place where we can rest a time before trying."
"Suppose I went to Yuan Shao," said Lu Bu.
"Send first to make inquiries."
Lu Bu agreed.
The news of the fighting between Cao Cao and Lu Bu had reached Jizhou, and one of Yuan Shao's advisers, Shen Pei, warned him, saying, "Lu Bu is a savage beast. If he gets possession of Yanzhou, he will certainly attempt to add this region to it. For your own safety you should help to crush him."
Wherefore Yuan Shao sent Yan Liang with fifty thousand troops to destroy Lu Bu. The spies heard this and at once told Lu Bu, who was greatly disturbed and called in Chen Gong.
"Go over to Liu Bei, who has lately succeeded to Xuzhou."
Hence Lu Bu went thither.
Hearing this, Liu Bei said, "Lu Bu is a hero, and we will receive him with honor."
But Mi Zhu was strongly against receiving him, saying, "He was a cruel, bloodthirsty beast."
But Liu Bei replied, "How would misfortune have been averted from Xuzhou if he had not attacked Yanzhou? He cannot be our enemy now that he comes seeking an asylum."
"Brother, your heart is really too good. Although it may be as you say, yet it would be well to prepare," said Zhang Fei.
The new Imperial Protector with a great following met Lu Bu ten miles outside the city gates, and the two chiefs rode in side by side. They proceeded to the residence and there, after the elaborate ceremonies of reception were over, they sat down to converse.
Said Lu Bu, "After Wang Yun and I plotted to slay Dong Zhuo and my misfortune in the Li Jue and Guo Si's sedition, I drifted about from one place to another, and none of the nobles east of the Huashang Mountains seemed willing to receive me. When Cao Cao with wicked ambition invaded this region and you, Sir, came to its rescue, I aided you by attacking Yanzhou and thus diverting a portion of his force. I did not think then that I should be the victim of a vile plot and lose my leaders and my soldiers. But now if you will, I offer myself to you that we may together accomplish great designs."
Liu Bei replied, "When the late Tao Qian died, there was no one to administer Xuzhou, and so I assumed that task for a time. Now since you are here, General, it is most suitable that I step down in your favor."
Whereupon Liu Bei handed the insignia and the seal of authority to Lu Bu. Lu Bu was on the point of accepting them, when he saw Guan Yu and Zhang Fei, who stood behind the Imperial Protector, glaring at him with angry eyes.
So Lu Bu put on a smile and said, "I may be something of a fighting man, but I could not rule a great region like this."
Liu Bei repeated his offer. But Chen Gong said, "The strong guest does not oppress his host. You need not fear, Lord Liu Bei."
Then Liu Bei desisted. Banquets were held and dwelling places prepared for the guest and his retinue.
As soon as convenient, Lu Bu returned the feast. Liu Bei went with his two brothers. Half through the banquet Lu Bu requested Liu Bei to retire to one of the inner private rooms, whither Guan Yu and Zhang Fei followed him. There Lu Bu bade his wife and daughter bow as to their benefactor. Here also Liu Bei showed excessive modesty.
Lu Bu said, "Good younger brother, you need not be so very modest."
Zhang Fei heard what Lu Bu said, and his eyes glared, crying, "What sort of a man are you that dares call our brother 'younger brother'? He is one of the ruling family---a jade leaf on a golden branch. Come out, and I will fight you three hundred bouts for the insult."
Liu Bei hastily checked the impulsive one, and Guan Yu persuaded him to go away. Then Liu Bei apologized, saying, "My poor brother talks wildly after he has been drinking. I hope you will not blame him."
Lu Bu nodded, but said nothing. Soon after the guests departed. But as the host escorted Liu Bei to his carriage, he saw Zhang Fei galloping up armed as for a fray.
"Lu Bu, you and I will fight that duel of three hundred bouts!" shouted Zhang Fei.
Liu Bei bade Guan Yu check him. Next day Lu Bu came to take leave of his host.
"You, O Lord, kindly received me, but I fear your brothers and I cannot agree. So I will seek some other asylum."
"General, if you go, the blame is mine. My rude brother has offended and must eventually apologize. In the meantime what think you of a temporary sojourn at the town where I was encamped for some time, Xiaopei? The place is small and mean, but it is near, and I will see to it that you are supplied with all you need."
Lu Bu thanked him and accepted this offer. He led his troops there and took up residence. After he had gone, Liu Bei buried his annoyance, and Zhang Fei did not again refer to the matter.
That Cao Cao had subdued the east of the Huashang Mountains has been stated before. He memorialized the Throne and was rewarded with the title of General Who Exhibits Firm Virtue and Lord of Feiting. At this time the rebellious Li Jue was commanding the court, and he had made himself Regent Marshal, and his colleague Guo Si styled himself Grand Commander. Their conduct was abominable but no one dared to criticize them.
Imperial Guardian Yang Biao and Minister Zhu Jun privately talked with Emperor Xian and said, "Cao Cao has two hundred thousand troops and many capable advisers and leaders. It would be well for the empire if he would lend his support to the imperial family and help to rid the government of this evil party."
His Majesty wept, "I am weary of the insults and contempt of these wretches and should be very glad to have them removed."
"I have thought of a plan to estrange Li Jue and Guo Si and so make them destroy each other. Then Cao Cao could come and cleanse the court," said Yang Biao.
"How will you manage it?" asked the Emperor.
"Guo Si's wife, Lady Qiong, is very jealous, and we can take advantage of her weakness to bring about a quarrel."
So Yang Biao received instruction to act, with a secret edict to support him. Yang Biao's wife, Lady Kai, made an excuse to visit Lady Qiong at her palace and, in the course of conversation, said "There is talk of secret liaison between the General, your husband, and the wife of Minister Li Jue. It is a great secret, but if Minister Li Jue knew it, he might try to harm your husband. I think you ought to have very little to do with that family."
Lady Qiong was surprised but said, "I have wondered why he has been sleeping away from home lately, but I did not think there was anything shameful connected with it. I should never have known if you had not spoken. I must put a stop to it."
By and by, when Lady Kai took her leave, Lady Qiong thanked her warmly for the information she had given.
Some days passed, and Guo Si was going over to the dwelling of Li Jue to a dinner.
Lady Qiong did not wish him to go and she said, "This Li Jue is very deep, and one cannot fathom his designs. You two are not of equal rank, and if he made away with you, what would become of your poor handmaid?"
Guo Si paid no attention, and his wife could not prevail on him to stay at home. Late in the afternoon some presents arrived from Li Jue's palace, and Lady Qiong secretly put poison into the delicacies before she set them before her lord.
Guo Si was going to taste at once but she said, "It is unwise to consume things that come from outside. Let us try on a dog first."
They did and the dog died. This incident made Guo Si doubt the kindly intentions of his colleague.
One day, at the close of business at court, Li Jue invited Guo Si to his palace. After Guo Si arrived home in the evening, rather the worse for too much wine, he was seized with a colic. His wife said she suspected poison and hastily administered an emetic, which relieved the pain.
Guo Si began to feel angry, saying, "We did everything together and helped each other always. Now he wants to injure me. If I do not get in the first blow, I shall suffer some injury."
So Guo Si began to prepare his guards for any sudden emergency.
This was told to Li Jue, and he in turn grew angry, saying, "So Guo Si is doing so and so!"
Then Li Jue got his guards under way and came to attack Guo Si. Both houses had ten thousand, and the quarrel became so serious that they fought a pitched battle under the city walls. When that was over both sides turned to plunder the people.
Then a nephew of Li Jue, Li Xian, suddenly surrounded the Palace, put the Emperor and Empress in two carriages, and assigned Jia Xu and Zuo Ling to carry them off. The Palace attendants were made to follow on foot. As they went out of the rear gate, they met Guo Si's army who began to shoot at the cavalcade with arrows. They killed many attendants before Li Jue's army came up and forced them to retire.
The carriages were got out of the Palace and eventually reached Li Jue's camp, while Guo Si's soldiers plundered the Palace and carried off all the women left there to their camp. Then the Palace was set on fire.
As soon as Guo Si heard of the whereabouts of the Emperor, he came over to attack the camp of Li Jue. The Emperor between these two opposing factions was greatly alarmed. Indeed:
[hip, hip, hip]
Slowly the Hans had declined but renewed their vigor with Liu Xiu,
Twelve were the rulers before him, followed him also twelve others.
Foolish were two of the latest, dangers surrounded the altars,
These were degenerate days, with authority given to eunuchs.
Then did He Jin the simple, the inept, who commanded the army,
Warriors call to the capital, wishing to drive out the vermin;
Though they drove out the leopards, tigers and wolves quickly entered.
All kinds of evil were wrought by a low class creature from Xizhou.
Wang Yun, honest of heart, beguiled this wretch with a woman,
Much desired of his henchman, thus sowing seeds of dissension.
Strife resulted, and peace no longer dwelt in the empire.
No one suspected that Li Jue and Guo Si would continue the evil,
Much to the sorrow of the Middle Kingdom; yet they stove for a trifle.
Famine stalked in the Palace, grief for the clashing of weapons;
Why did the warriors strive? Why was the land thus partitioned?
They had turned aside from the way appointed of Heaven.
Kings must ponder these things; heavy the burden lies on them,
Chiefest in all the realm theirs is no common appointment,
Should the King falter or fail, calamities fall on the multitude people,
The empire is drenched with their blood, grisly ruin surrounds them.
Steeped in sorrow and sad, read you the ancient records;
Long is the tale of years; the tale of sorrow is longer.
Wherefore one who would rule, chiefly must exercise forethought.
This and a keen-edged blade, these must suffice to maintain one.
[yip, yip, yip]
Guo Si's army arrived, and Li Jue went out to give battle. Guo Si's troops had no success and retired. Then Li Jue removed the imperial captives to Meiwo with his nephew Li Xian as gaoler. Supplies were reduced, and famine showed itself on the faces of the eunuchs. The Emperor sent to Li Jue to request five carts of rice and five sets of bullock bones for his attendants.
Li Jue angrily replied, "The court gets food morning and evening. Why do they ask for more?"
He sent putrid meat and rotten grain, and the Emperor was very vexed at the new insult.
Imperial Counselor Yang Qi counseled patience, saying, "Li Jue is a base creature but, under the present circumstances, Your Majesty must put up with it. You may not provoke him."
The Emperor bowed and was silent, but the tears fell on his garments. Suddenly someone came in with the tidings that a force of cavalry, their sabers glittering in the sun, was approaching to rescue them. Then they heard the gongs beat and the roll of the drums.
The Emperor sent to find out who it was. But it was Guo Si, and the sadness fell again. Presently arose a great din. For Li Jue had gone out to do battle with Guo Si, whom he abused by name.
"I treated you well, and why did you try to kill me?" said Li Jue.
"You are a rebel, why should I not slay you?" cried Guo Si.
"You call me rebel when I am guarding the Emperor?"
"You have abducted him: Do you call that guarding?"
"Why so many words? Let us forgo a battle and settle the matter in single combat, the winner to take the Emperor and go."
The two generals fought in front of their armies, but neither could prevail over the other.
Then they saw Yang Biao come riding up to them, crying, "Rest a while, O Commanders! For I have invited a party of officers to arrange a peace."
Wherefore the two leaders retired to their camps. Soon Yang Biao, Zhu Jun, and sixty other officials came up and went to Guo Si's camp. They were all thrown into confinement.
"We came with good intentions," they moaned, "and we are treated like this."
"Li Jue has run off with the Emperor; I have to have the officers," said Guo Si.
"What does it mean? One has the Emperor, the other his officers. What do you want?" said Yang Biao.
Guo Si lost patience and drew his sword, but Commander Yang Mi persuaded him not to slay the speaker. Then Guo Si released Yang Biao and Zhu Jun but kept the others in the camp.
"Here are we two officers of the Throne, and we cannot help our lord. We have been born in vain," said Yang Biao to Zhu Jun.
Throwing their arms about each other, they wept and fell swooning to the earth. Zhu Jun went home, fell seriously ill and died.
Thereafter the two adversaries fought every day for nearly three months, each losing many soldiers.
Now Li Jue was irreligious and practiced magic. He often called witches to beat drums and summon spirits, even when in camp. Jia Xu used to remonstrate with him, but quite uselessly.
Yang Qi said to the Emperor, "That Jia Xu, although a friend of Li Jue, never seems to have lost the sense of loyalty to Your Majesty."
Soon after Jia Xu himself arrived.
The Emperor sent away his attendants and said to Jia Xu, weeping the while, "Can you not pity the Hans and help me?"
Jia Xu prostrated himself, saying, "That is my dearest wish. But, Sire, say no more: Let thy servant work out a plan."
The Emperor dried his tears, and soon Li Jue came in. He wore a sword by his side and strode straight up to the Emperor, whose face became the color of clay.
Then Li Jue spoke, "Guo Si has failed in his duty and imprisoned the court officers. He wished to slay Your Majesty, and you would have been captured but for me."
The Emperor joined his hands together in salute and thanked Li Jue. Li Jue went away.
Before long Huangfu Li entered. The Emperor, knowing him as a man of persuasive tongue and that he came from the same county as Li Jue, bade him go to both factions to try to arrange peace.
Huangfu Li accepted the mission and first went to Guo Si, who said, "I would release the officers if Li Jue would restore the Emperor to full liberty."
Huangfu Li then went to the other side. To Li Jue he said, "Since I am a Xiliang man, the Emperor and the officers have selected me to make peace between you and your adversary. Guo Si has consented to cease the quarrel. Will you agree to peace?"
"I overthrew Lu Bu; I have upheld the government for four years and have many great services to my credit as all the world knows. That other fellow, that horse-thief, has dared to seize the officers of state and to set himself up against me. I have sworn to slay him. Look around you. Do you not think my army large enough to break him?"
"It does not follow," said Huangfu Li. "In ancient days in Youqiong, Hou Yi, proud of and confident in his archer's skill, gave no thought to others and governed alone, and he so perished. Lately you yourself have seen the powerful Dong Zhuo betrayed by Lu Bu, who had received many benefits at his hands. In no time Dong Zhuo's head was hanging over the gate. So you see mere force is not enough to ensure safety. Now you are a general, with the axes and whips and all the symbols of rank and high office; your descendants and all your clan occupy distinguished positions. You must confess that the state has rewarded you liberally. True, Guo Si has seized the officers of state, but you have done the same to the 'Most Revered.' Who is worse than the other?"
Li Jue angrily drew his sword and shouted, "Did the Son of Heaven send you to mock and shame me?"
But his commander, Yang Feng, checked him.
"Guo Si is still alive," said Yang Feng, "and to slay the imperial messenger would be giving him a popular excuse to raise an army against you. And all the nobles would join him."
Jia Xu also persuaded Li Jue, and gradually his wrath cooled down. Huangfu Li was urged to go away.
But Huangfu Li would not be satisfied with failure. As he went out of the camp, he cried loudly, "Li Jue will not obey the Emperor's command. He will kill his prince to set up himself!"
Counselor Hu Miao tried to shut Huangfu Li's mouth, saying, "Do not utter such words. You will only bring hurt upon yourself."
But Huangfu Li shrieked at him also, saying, "You also are an officer of state, and yet you even back up the rebel. When the prince is put to shame, the minister dies. That is our code. If it be my lot to suffer death at the hands of Li Jue, so be it!"
And Huangfu Li maintained a torrent of abuse. The Emperor heard of the incident, called in Huangfu Li and sent him away to his own country Xiliang.
Now more than half Li Jue's troops were from Xiliang, and he had also the assistance of the Qiangs, the northern tribespeople beyond the border. When Huangfu Li spread that Li Jue was a rebel and so were those who helped him, and that there would be a day of heavy reckoning, those stories disturbed the soldiers.
Li Jue sent one of his officers, General Wang Chan of the Tiger Army, to arrest Huangfu Li; but Wang Chan had a sense of right and esteemed Huangfu Li as an honorable man. Instead of carrying out the orders, Wang Chan returned to say Huangfu Li could not be found.
Jia Xu tried to work on the feelings of the barbarian tribes. He said to them, "The Son of Heaven knows you are loyal to him and have bravely fought and suffered. He has issued a secret command for you to go home, and then he will reward you."
The tribesmen had a grievance against Li Jue for not paying them, so they listened readily to the insidious persuasions of Jia Xu and deserted.
Then Jia Xu advised the Emperor, "Li Jue is covetous in nature. He is deserted and enfeebled. A high office should be granted to him to lead him astray."
So the Emperor officially appointed Li Jue Regent Marshal. This delighted him greatly, and he ascribed his promotion to the potency of his wise witches' prayers and incantations. He rewarded those people most liberally.
But his army was forgotten. Wherefore his commander, Yang Feng, was angry.
Yang Feng said to General Song Guo, "We have taken all the risks and exposed ourselves to stones and arrows in his service, yet instead of giving us any reward he ascribes all the credit to those witches of his."
"Let us put him out of the way and rescue the Emperor," said Song Guo.
"You explode a bomb within as signal, and I will attack from outside."
So the two agreed to act together that very night in the second watch. But they had been overheard, and the eavesdropper told Li Jue. Song Guo was seized and put to death. That night Yang Feng waited outside for the signal and while waiting, out came Li Jue himself. Then a melee began, which lasted till the fourth watch. But Yang Feng got away and fled to Xian.
But from this time Li Jue's army began to fall away, and he felt more than ever the losses caused by Guo Si's frequent attacks. Then came news that Zhang Ji, at the head of a large army, was coming down from Shanxi to make peace between the two factions. Zhang Ji vowed he would attack the one who was recalcitrant. Li Jue tried to gain favor by hastening to send to tell Zhang Ji he was ready to make peace. So did Guo Si.
So the strife of the rival factions ended at last, and Zhang Ji memorialized asking the Emperor to go to Hongnong near Luoyang.
The Emperor was delighted, saying, "I have longed to go back to the east."
Zhang Ji was rewarded with the title of Commander of the Flying Cavalry and was highly honored. Zhang Ji saw to it that the Emperor and the court had good supplies of necessaries. Guo Si set free all his captive officers, and Li Jue prepared transport for the court to move to the east. Li Jue told off companies of his Royal Guard to escort the cavalcade.
The progress had been without incident as far as Xinfeng. Near Baling Bridge the west wind of autumn came on to blow with great violence, but soon above the howling of the gale was heard the trampling of a large body of force. They stopped at a bridge and barred the way.
"Who comes?" cried a voice.
"The Imperial Chariot is passing, and who dares stop it?" said Yang Qi, riding forward.
Two leaders of the barring party advanced to Yang Qi, saying, "General Guo Si has ordered us to guard the bridge and stop all spies. You say the Emperor is here: We must see him, and then we will let you pass."
So the pearl curtain was raised and the Emperor said, "I, the Emperor, am here. Why do you not retire to let me pass, gentlemen?"
They all shouted, "Wan shui! Long Life! Long Life!" and fell away to allow the cortege through.
But when they reported what they had done, Guo Si was very angry, saying, "I meant to outwit Zhang Ji, seize the Emperor, and hold him in Meiwo. Why have you let him get away?"
He put the two officers to death, set out to pursue the cavalcade, and overtook it just at the county of Huaying. The noise of a great shouting arose behind the travelers, and a loud voice commanded, "Stop the train!"
The Emperor burst into tears.
"Out of the wolf's den into the tiger's mouth!" said he.
No one knew what to do; they were all too frightened. But when the rebel army was just upon them, they heard the beating of drums and from behind some hills came into the open a cohort of one thousand soldiers preceded by a great flag bearing the name Han General Yang Feng.
Having defeated by Li Jue, Yang Feng fled to the foothills of the Xian; and he came up to offer his services as soon as he heard the Emperor's journey. Seeing it was necessary to fight now, he drew up his line of battle.
Guo Si's general, Cui Yong, rode out and began a volley of abuse.
Yang Feng turned and said, "Where is Xu Huang?"
In response out came a valiant warrior gripping a heavy battle-ax. He galloped up on his fleet bay, making directly for Cui Yong, whom he felled at the first blow. At this the whole force dashed forward and routed Guo Si. The defeated army went back some seven miles.
Yang Feng rode forward to see the Emperor who graciously said, "It is a great service you have rendered: You have saved my life."
Yang Feng bowed and thanked him, and the Emperor asked to see the actual slayer of the rebel leader. So Xu Huang was led to the chariot where he bowed and was presented as Xu Huang of Hedong.
The Emperor recognized the achievement of the warrior.
Then the cavalcade went forward, Yang Feng acting as escort as far as the city of Huaying, the halting place for the night. The Commander of the place, Duan Wei, supplied them with clothing and food. And the Emperor passed the night in Yang Feng's camp.
Next day Guo Si, having mustered his troops, appeared in front of the camp, and Xu Huang rode out to engage. But Guo Si threw his army out so that they entirely surrounded the camp, and the Emperor was in the middle. The position was very critical, when help appeared in the person of a galloping general from the southeast, and the rebels fell away at his assault. Then Xu Huang smote them and so scored a victory.
When they had time to see their helper, they found him to be Dong Cheng, the uncle of the Emperor or the "State Uncle". The Emperor wept as he related his sorrows and dangers.
Said Dong Cheng, "Be of good courage, Sire. General Yang Feng and I have pledged ourselves to kill both the rebels Li Jue and Guo Si and so purify the world."
The Emperor bade them travel east as soon as possible, and so they went on night and day till they reached their destination Hongnong.
Guo Si led his defeated army back. Meeting Li Jue, he told Li Jue of the rescue of the Emperor and whither they was going.
"If they reach the Huashang Mountains and get settled in the east, they will send out proclamations to the whole country, calling up the nobles to attack us, and we and our families will be in danger," said Guo Si.
"Zhang Ji is holding Changan, and we must be careful. There is nothing to prevent a joint attack on Hongnong, when we can kill the Emperor and divide the empire between us," said Li Jue.
Guo Si found this a suitable scheme, so their armies came together again in one place and united in plundering the countryside. As they proceeded to Hongnong, they left destruction behind them.
Yang Feng and Dong Cheng heard of the rebels' approach when they were yet a long way off, so Yang Feng and Dong Cheng turned back and decided to meet them at Dongjian.
Li Jue and Guo Si had previously made their plan. Since the loyal troops were few as compared with their own horde, they would overwhelm the loyal troops like a flood. So when the day of battle came, they poured out covering the hills and filling the plains. Yang Feng and Dong Cheng devoted themselves solely to the protection of the Emperor and Empress. The officials, the attendants, the archives and records, and all the paraphernalia of the court were left to care for themselves. The rebels ravaged Hongnong, but the two protectors got the Emperor safely away into Shanbei.
When the rebel generals showed signs of pursuit, Yang Feng and Dong Cheng had to play a double-edged sword. They sent to offer to discuss terms of peace with Li Jue and Guo Si; at the same time they sent a secret edict to enlist the help from the leaders of the White Wave rebels---Han Xian, Li Yue, and Hu Cai. The White Wave was a branch of the Yellow Scarves, and Li Yue was actually a brigand and had inspired rebels throughout the country. But the need for help was so desperate.
These three, being promised pardon for their faults and crimes and a grant of official rank, naturally responded to the call, and thus the loyal side was strengthened so that Hongnong was recaptured. But meanwhile Li Jue and Guo Si laid waste whatever place they reached, slaying the aged and weakly, forcing the strong to join their ranks. When going into a fight they forced these people-soldiers to the front, and they called them the "Dare-to-Die" soldiers.
Li Jue and Guo Si's force was overwhelming. When Li Yue, the White Wave leader, approached with his army, Guo Si bade his soldiers scatter clothing and valuables along the road. The late robbers could not resist the temptation, so a scramble began. Then Guo Si's soldiers fell upon the disordered ranks and did much damage. Yang Feng and Dong Cheng had to take the Emperor away to the north.
Li Jue and Guo Si pursued.
Li Yue said, "The danger is grave. I pray Your Majesty mount a horse and go in advance."
The Emperor replied, "I cannot bear to abandon my officers."
They wept and struggled on as best they could. The White Wave leader Hu Cai was killed in one attack.
The enemy came very near, and the Emperor left his carriage and went on foot. Yang Feng and Dong Cheng escorted him to the bank of the Yellow River. Li Yue sought a boat to ferry him to the other side. The weather was very cold and the Emperor and Empress cuddled up close to each other shivering. They reached the river but the banks were too high, and they could not get down into the boat. So Yang Feng proposed to fasten together the horses' bridles and lower down the Emperor slung by the waist. However, the Empress' brother, Fu De, found some rolls of white silk from dead soldiers, and they rolled up the two imperial personages in the silk, and thus they lowered them down near the boat. Then Li Yue took up his position in the prow leaning on his sword. Fu De carried the Empress on his back into the boat.
The boat was too small to carry everybody, and those unable to get on board clung to the cable, but Li Yue cut them down, and they fell into the water. They ferried over the Emperor and then sent back the boat for the others. There was a great scramble to get on board, and they had to chop off the fingers and hands of those who persisted in clinging to the boat. The lamentation rose to the heavens.
When they mustered on the farther bank, many were missing, only a dozen of the Emperor's suite were left. Yang Feng found a bullock cart and transported the Emperor and Empress to Dayang. They had no food and at night sought shelter in a poor, tile-roofed house. The cottagers gave them some boiled millet but it was too coarse to be swallowed.
Next day the Emperor conferred titles on those who had protected him. Li Yue was made General Who Conquers the North, and Han Xian was appointed General Who Conquers the East.
The flight continued. Soon two officers of rank came up with the cortege, and they bowed before His Majesty with many tears. They were Imperial Guardian Yang Biao and Minister Han Rong. The Emperor and Empress lifted up their voices and wept with them.
Said Han Rong to his colleague, "The rebels have confidence in my words. You stay as guard of the Emperor, and I will take my life in my hands and try to bring about peace."
After Han Rong had gone, the Emperor rested for a time in Yang Feng's camp. But Yang Biao requested the Emperor to head for Anyi and make the capital there. When the train reached the town, they found it containing not a single lofty building, and the court lived in grass huts devoid even of doors. They surrounded these with a fence of thorns as a protection, and within this the Emperor held counsel with his ministers. The soldiers camped round the fence.
Now Li Yue and his fellow ruffians showed their true colors. They wielded the powers of the Emperor as they wished, and officials who offended them were beaten or abused even in the presence of the Emperor. They purposely provided thick wine and coarse food for the Emperor's consumption. He struggled to swallow what they sent. Li Yue and Han Xian joined in recommending to the Throne the names of convicts, common soldiers, sorcerers, leeches, and such people who thus obtained official ranks. There were more than two hundred of such people. As seals could not be engraved, pieces of metal were hammered into some sort of a shape. Court affairs had never degraded to such a low point.
Now Han Rong went to see Li Jue and Guo Si. After listening to his vigorous persuasions, the two rebel generals agreed to set free the officials and Palace people.
A famine occurred that same year and people were reduced to eating grass from the roadside. Starving, they wandered hither and thither. But food and clothing were sent to the Emperor from the governor of Henei, Zhang Yang, and the governor of Hedong, Wang Yi, and the court began to enjoy a little repose.
Dong Cheng and Yang Feng sent laborers to restore the palaces in Luoyang with the intention of moving the court thither. Li Yue was opposed to this.
Dong Cheng argued, "Luoyang is the original capital as opposed to the paltry town of Anyi. Removal would be but reasonable."
Li Yue wound up by saying, "You may get the court to remove, but I shall remain here."
But when the consent of the Emperor had been given and a start made, Li Yue secretly sent to arrange with Li Jue and Guo Si to capture the Emperor. However, this plot leaked out and the escort so arranged as to prevent such a thing, and they pressed on to the pass at Zhiguan Hills as rapidly as possible. Li Yue heard this, and without waiting for his rebel colleagues to join him set out to act alone.
About the fourth watch, just as the cavalcade was passing Zhiguan Hills, a voice was heard shouting, "Stop those carriages! Li Jue and Guo Si are here!"
This frightened the Emperor greatly, and his terror increased when he saw the whole mountain side suddenly light up. Indeed:
[hip, hip, hip]
The rebel party, erstwhile split in twain,
To work their wicked will now join three again.
[yip, yip, yip]
How the Son of Heaven escaped this peril will be told in the next chapter.