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.
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."
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 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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
"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:
"Since meeting you outside the pass, fate has assigned us to different quarters of the world, and I have not been able to pay my respects to you. Touching the death of your noble father, it was owing to the vicious nature of Zhang Kai and due to no fault of Tao Qian. Now while the remnant of the Yellow Scarves is disturbing the lands, and Dong Zhuo's partisans have the upper hand in the capital, I wish that you, Illustrious Sir, would regard the critical position of the court rather than your personal grievances, and so divert your forces from the attack on Xuzhou to the rescue of the state. Such would be for the happiness of that city and the whole empire."
Cao Cao gave vent to a torrent of abuse: "Who is this Liu Bei that he dares write and exhort me? Beside, he means to be satirical."
Cao Cao issued orders to put the bearer of the letter to death and to press on the siege.
But Guo Jia remonstrated, saying, "Liu Bei has come from afar to help Tao Qian, and he is trying the effect of politeness before resorting to arms. I pray you, my lord, reply with fair words that his heart may be lulled with a feeling of safety. Then attack with vigor and the city will fall."
Cao Cao found this advice good, so he spared the messenger, telling him to wait to carry back his reply. While this was going on, a horseman came with news of misfortune: "Lu Bu has invaded Yanzhou, now holding Puyang. The three counties left---Juancheng, Fanxia, and Dongjun---are under severe attacks."
[e] Zhang Yang was among the eighteen lords who rallied against Dong Zhou at the Tiger Trap Pass.
When Li Jue and Guo Si, the two partisans of Dong Zhuo, succeeded in their attack on the capital, Lu Bu had fled to Yuan Shu. However, Yuan Shu looked askance at him for his instability and refused to receive him. Then Lu Bu went to try Yuan Shao, who was a brother of Yuan Shu. Yuan Shao accepted the warrior and made use of him in an attack upon Zhang Yan in Changshan. But his success filled him with pride, and his arrogant demeanor so annoyed the other commanders that Yuan Shao was on the point of putting him to death. To escape this Lu Bu had gone away to Zhang Yang*, Governor of Shangdang, who accepted his services.
About this time Pang Shu, who had been hiding and protecting Lu Bu's family in Changan since his disappearance, restored them to him. This deed angered Li Jue and Guo Si so that they put Pang Shu to death and wrote to Lu Bu's protector to serve him the same. To escape this Lu Bu once again had to flee and this time joined himself to Zhang Miao, the Governor of Chenliu.
Lu Bu arrived just as Zhang Miao's brother, Zhang Chao, was introducing Chen Gong.
Chen Gong said to Zhang Miao, "The rupture of the empire has begun, and warriors are seizing what they can. It is strange that you, with all the advantages of population and provisions you enjoy, do not strike for independence. Cao Cao has gone on an expedition against the east, leaving his own territory defenseless. Lu Bu is one of the fighting people of the day. If you and he together attacked and got Yanzhou, you could then proceed to the dominion."
Zhang Miao was pleased and resolved to try. He ordered an attack, and soon Lu Bu was in possession of Yanzhou and its neighborhood, all but three small counties of Juancheng, Fanxia, and Dongjun, which were vigorously and desperately defended by Xun Yu and Cheng Yu in concert. Cao Cao's cousin, Cao Ren, had fought many battles but was repeatedly defeated, and the messenger with the evil tidings had come from him asking prompt help.
Cao Cao was greatly disturbed by this and said, "If my own region be lost, I have no home to return to. I must do something at once."
"The best thing would be to become friends with Liu Bei at any cost and return to Yanzhou," said Guo Jia.
Then Cao Cao wrote to Liu Bei, gave the letter to the waiting messenger and broke camp. The news that the enemy had left was very gratifying to Tao Qian, who then invited his various defenders into Xuzhou City and prepared banquets and feasts in token of his gratitude.
At one of these, when the feasting was over, he proceeded with his wish of retirement in favor of Liu Bei.
Placing Liu Bei in the seat of highest honor, Tao Qian bowed before him and then addressed the assembly, "I am old and feeble, and my two sons lack the ability to hold so important an office as this. The noble Liu Bei is a descendant of the imperial house. He is of lofty virtue and great talent. Let him then take over the rule of this region, and only too willingly I shall retire to have leisure to nurse my health."
Liu Bei replied, "I came at the request of Governor Kong Rong, because it was the right thing to do. Xuzhou is saved; but if I take it, surely the world will say I am a wicked man."
Mi Zhu said, "You may not refuse. The House of Han is falling, their realm is crumbling, and now is the time for doughty deeds and signal services. This is a fertile region, well populated and rich, and you are the man to rule over it."
"But I cannot accept," said Liu Bei.
"Imperial Protector Tao Qian is a great sufferer," said Chen Deng, "and cannot see to matters. You may not decline, Sir."
Said Liu Bei, "Yuan Shu belongs to a family of rulers, who have held the highest offices of state four times in three generations. The multitude people respects him. Why not invite him to this task?"
"Because Yuan Shu is a drying skeleton in a dark tomb: Not worth talking about. This opportunity is a gift from Heaven, and you will never cease to regret its loss," said Kong Rong.
So spoke Kong Rong, but still Liu Bei obstinately refused.
Tao Qian besought him with tears, saying, "I shall die if you leave me, and there will be none to close my eyes."
"Brother, you should accept the offer thus made," said Guan Yu.
"Why so much fuss?" said Zhang Fei. "We have not taken the place. It is he who wishes to give it you."
"You all persuade me to do what is wrong," said Liu Bei.
Seeing he could not persuade Liu Bei, Tao Qian then said, "As you are set in determination, perhaps you will consent to encamp at Xiaopei. It is only a little town, but thence you can keep watch and ward over the region."
They all with one voice prayed Liu Bei to consent, so he gave in. The feast of victory being now ended, the time came to say farewell. When Zhao Yun took his leave, Liu Bei held his hands alternately while dashing away the falling tears. Kong Rong and Tien Kai went home to their own places.
When Liu Bei and his brothers took up their abode in Xiaopei, they first repaired the defenses, and then they put out proclamations in order to calm the inhabitants.
In the meantime Cao Cao had marched toward his own region.
Cao Ren met and told him, "Lu Bu is very powerful, and he has Chen Gong as adviser. Yanzhou is as good as lost, with the exception of three counties which have been vigorously and desperately defended by Xun Yu and Cheng Yu."
Cao Cao said, "I own that Lu Bu is a bold fighter but nothing more; he has no craft. So we need not fear him seriously."
Then he gave orders to make a strong camp till they could think out some victorious plan.
Lu Bu, knowing of Cao Cao's return, called two of his subordinate generals, Xue Lan and Li Fang, to him and assigned to them the task of holding the city of Yanzhou, saying, "I have long waited for opportunity to employ your skill. Now I give you ten thousand soldiers, and you are to hold the city while I go forth to attack Cao Cao."
But Chen Gong, the strategist, came in hastily, saying, "General, you are going away; whither?"
"I am going to camp my troops at Puyang, that vantage point."
"You are making a mistake," said Chen Gong. "The two you have chosen to defend this city are unequal to the task. For this expedition remember that about sixty miles due south, on the treacherous road to the Taishan Mountains, is a very advantageous position where you should place your best men in ambush. Cao Cao will hasten homeward by double marches when he hears what has happened. If you strike when half his troops have gone past this point, you may seize him."
Said Lu Bu, "I am going to occupy Puyang and see what develops. How can you guess my big plan?"
So Lu Bu left Xue Lan in command at Yanzhou and went away.
Now when Cao Cao approached the dangerous part of the road near the Taishan Mountains, Guo Jia warned him to take care as there was doubtless an ambush.
But Cao Cao laughed, saying, "We know all Lu Bu's dispositions. Xue Lan is keeping the city. Do you think Lu Bu has laid an ambush? I shall tell Cao Ren to besiege Yanzhou, and I shall go to Puyang."
In Puyang, when Chen Gong heard of the enemy's approach, he spoke, saying, "The enemy will be fatigued with long marches, so attack quickly before they have time to recover."
Lu Bu replied, "I, a single horseman, am afraid of none. I come and go as I will. Think you I fear this Cao Cao? Let him settle his camp; I will take him after that."
Now Cao Cao neared Puyang, and he made a camp. The next day he led out his commanders, and they arrayed their armies in open country. Cao Cao took up his station on horseback between the two standards, watching while his opponents arrived and formed up in a circular area.
Lu Bu was in front, followed by eight of his generals, all strong men: Zhang Liao of Mayi, backed by Hao Meng, Cao Xing, and Cheng Lian; Zang Ba of Huaying, backed by Wei Xu, Song Xian, and Hou Cheng. They led an army of fifty thousand in total.
The drums began their thunderous roll, and Cao Cao, pointing to his opponent, said, "You and I had no quarrel, why then did you invade my land?"
"The empire of Han is the possession of all. What is your special claim?" said Lu Bu.
So saying, Lu Bu ordered Zang Ba to ride forth and challenge. From Cao Cao's side the challenge was accepted by Yue Jing. The two steeds approached each other; two spears were lifted both together, and they exchanged near thirty blows with no advantage to either. Then Xiahou Dun rode out to help his colleague and, in reply, out went Zhang Liao from Lu Bu's side. And they four fought.
Then fierce anger seized upon Lu Bu. Setting his trident halberd, he urged his Red Hare forward to where the fight was waging. Seeing him approach, Xiahou Dun and Yue Jing both fled, but Lu Bu pressed on after them, and Cao Cao's army lost the day. Retiring ten miles, they made a new camp. Lu Bu called in and mustered his troops.
The day having gone against him, Cao Cao called a council, and Yu Jin said, "From the hill tops today I saw a camp of our enemies on the west of Puyang. They were but few men therein, and tonight after today's victory, it will not be defended. Let us attack; and if we can take the camp, we shall strike fear into the heart of Lu Bu. This is our best plan."
Cao Cao thought so too. He and six of his generals---Cao Hong, Li Dian, Mao Jie, Lu Qian, Yu Jin, and Dian Wei---and twenty thousand horse and foot left that night by a secret road for the camp.
In his camp Lu Bu was rejoicing for that day's victory, when Chen Gong reminded him, saying, "The western camp is importance point, and it might be attacked."
But Lu Bu replied, "The enemy will not dare approach after today's defeat."
"Cao Cao is a very able commander," replied Chen Gong. "You must keep a good lookout for him lest he attack our weak spot."
So arrangements were made for defense. Generals Gao Shun, Wei Xu, and Hou Cheng were ordered to march there.
At dusk Cao Cao reached the camp and began an immediate attack on all four sides. The defenders could not hold him off. They ran in all directions, and the camp was captured. Near the fourth watch, when the defending party came, Cao Cao sallied forth to meet them and met Gao Shun. Another battle then began and waged till dawn. About that time a rolling of drums was heard in the west, and they told Cao Cao that Lu Bu himself was at hand. Thereupon Cao Cao abandoned the attack and fled.
Gao Shun, Wei Xu, and Hou Cheng pursued him, Lu Bu taking the lead. Cao Cao's two generals, Yu Jin and Yue Jing, attacked the pursuers but could not check them. Cao Cao went away north. But from behind some hills came out Zhang Liao and Zang Ba to attack. Lu Qian and Cao Hong were sent to stop the attackers, but Lu Qian and Cao Hong were both defeated. Cao Cao sought safety in the west. Here again his retreat was met by Lu Bu's four generals, Hao Meng, Cao Xing, Cheng Lian, and Song Xian.
The fight became desperate. Cao Cao dashed at the enemy's array. The din was terrible. Arrows fell like pelting rain upon them, and they could make no headway.
Cao Cao was desperate and cried out in fear, "Who can save me?"
Then from the crush dashed out Dian Wei with his double spears, crying, "Fear not, my lord!"
Dian Wei leapt from his steed, leaned his double spears against a wall and laid hold of a handful of battle-axes. Turning to his followers he said, "When the ruffians are at ten paces, call out to me."
Then he set off with mighty strides, plunging forward, careless of the flying arrows. Lu Bu's horsemen followed, and when they got near, Dian Wei's followers shouted, "Ten paces!"
"Five, then call!" shouted back Dian Wei, and went on.
Presently, "Five paces!"
Then Dian Wei spun round and flung the battle-axes. With every fling a man fell from the saddle and never a battle-ax missed.
Having thus slain ten or so the remainder fled, and Dian Wei quickly remounted his steed, set his twin spears and rushed again into the fight with a vigor that none could withstand. One by one his opponents yielded, and he was able to lead Cao Cao safely out of the press of battle. Cao Cao and his commanders went to their camp.
But as evening fell, the noise of pursuit fell on their ears, and soon appeared Lu Bu himself.
"Cao Cao, you rebel, do not flee!" shouted Lu Bu as he approached with his halberd ready for a thrust.
All stopped and looked in each others' faces: The soldiers were weary, their steeds spent. Fear smote them, and they looked around for some place of refuge.
[hip, hip, hip]
You may lead your lord safely out of the press,
But what if the enemy follow?
[yip, yip, yip]
We cannot say here what Cao Cao's fate was, but the next chapter will relate.