Saturday, December 31, 2011

Book XXII : The Road to Changsha


Now, it was time for Kung Ming to capture the four cities immediately south of Chingchou. Due to Chou Yu’s sickness and Ts’ao Ren’s shameful defeat, neither Wei nor Wu tried to interfere. The secret was to act fast, before the enemies could recover.

First, it was Chang Fei who attacked Lumkun. The city used to be a major stronghold that held nominal allegiance to Wei. It was easily defeated by Chang Fei. Next, Kung Ming sent Chao Yun to invade the city of Wu Ling. The governor of Wu Ling was a great admirer of Chao Yun. He immediately surrendered when the armies of Chingchou reached the gates of Wu Ling.

Seeing that Chao Yun was both gallant and handsome, he offered to let his widowed sister-in-law, a beautiful maiden, marry Chao Yun. Upon hearing this, Chao Yun beat up the governor of Wu Ling. The governor, who was previously well disposed to Chao Yun, now hated him and led a rebellion. Again, he was no match for the “Gentleman of Sian Sa”, who easily defeated him.

Chao Yun bought the governor before his master Liu Pei, and the governor, bitter and downtrodden, told the entire story to the Imperial Uncle, ending with, “All I wanted to do was honor Chao Yun, but he treats me like a dog. I thought of the Chingchou army as deliverers of Wu Ling, but he made feel that you are a tyrant.”

Upon hearing this, Liu Pei sympathized with the governor and decided to sort it out with Chao Yun for him, so he summoned Chao Yun and said, “Chao Yun, you are the most valiant general I have known, and you are not married. Today, the governor of Wu Ling offers a woman of exquisite beauty. Why did you beat him up? Let us be friends. I will act as the host for this wedding, and we will put everything behind us. Is this acceptable?”

But Noble Chao Yun replied, “Imperial Uncle, this must not be! If others hear that I have taken this woman for my own, they will gossip on you, and say that Liu Pei has invaded Wu Ling only to find a good bride for his general. Then, they will really see you as a tyrant, which you are not. I would rather be without a bride than to dirty Thy Name.”

And so, both Kung Ming and Liu Pei were impressed by his nobility. Liu Pei explained the situation to the former governor of Wu Ling and compensated him with gold. The governor and Chao Yun made peace, and Chao Yun maintained his nobility by not marrying the beautiful maiden.

In the battle of Ling Ling, Kung Ming knew this governor was arrogant. He pretended to approach the battlefield on a wheelchair. The Lord of Ling Ling thought he would capture the Sleeping Dragon alive and pursued him, but was ambushed and slain by Chang Fei. Once again, the city of Ling Ling fell to Liu Pei.

Finally, it was time to invade Changsha. Changsha was the original hometown of Sun Jian, whose family now ruled Wu. At the time, Changsha was ruled by a tyrant, but this tyrant hath two valiant generals, namely Huang Zhong (who was noble but old) and Wei Yan (who was wicked and cunning). Kung Ming ordered Kuan Yu to invade Changsha.

In the first battle between Kuan Yu and Huang Zhong, the latter’s horse slipped on a stone, causing Huang Zhong to fall off his horseback. The valiant Kuan Yu, seeing that this was clearly an accident, spared his life and waited for the next combat.

However, Huang Zhong was too noble to NOT repay a debt. When he met Kuan Yu again, he pretended to shoot an arrow with no bow. Kuan Yu was perplexed and marched closer to him on the Red Hare, whereupon Huang Zhong shot a real arrow, but it only slashed Kuan Yu’s hair turban. Kuan Yu was shocked!! Such was the marksmanship of Huang Zhong. Apart from Lu Bu, I doubt there was another archer who could match Huang Zhong. Kuan Yu now knew that Huang Zhong hath spared his life to repay a debt.

But the tyrant was angry upon seeing this. He suspected that Huang Zhong was in cahoots with Kuan Yu to seize control of Changsha. Why else would they only pretend to fight and not do real combat?!!

So he had Huang Zhong arrested pending execution. Upon seeing this, the soldiers of Changsha were greatly angered. Led by Wei Yan, they captured and murdered the governor, released Huang Zhong, and surrendered to Liu Pei.

When Wei Yan presented himself to Liu Pei, Kung Ming suggested that he be executed for treachery and disloyalty, but Liu Pei would not allow that, saying, “If we kill those who surrender to us, in the future who would come to me in goodwill and surrender? Our struggles will be tough and bitter.”

Not knowing what to do, Kung Ming spared Wei Yan, but his suspicion of this capable but treacherous general would not go away. Such was the quick mind of the Sleeping Dragon.

In the meanwhile, brave Huang Zhong sulked in his home. He neither ate nor drank. Such was his grief and loyalty at the fall of Changsha, but then Liu Pei and Kuan Yu met him at his home, asking him to serve the Imperial Uncle in his just cause of preserving the Han dynasty. Huang Zhong was pleased to see people give him importance. He could see that the Lord of Chingchou was not a tyrant as the previous governor of Changsha. Finally, he submitted to Liu Pei and became one of his top generals. At that time, Huang Zhong was already about 60 years old, but his bravery and strength was second to none.

Liu Pei hath now solidified his power base in Chingchou and Changsha. He was no longer a minor warlord. Across the river Yangtse, Sun Quan, the Marquis of Wu, still coveted Chingchou. What plans would Sun Quan hatch to snare this prize from Liu Pei and Kung Ming? To find out, don’t miss our next episode…The Beautiful Maiden Ploy. (Book 23)

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