Saturday, December 31, 2011

Book XXIII : The Beautiful Maiden Ploy

The wives of Liu Pei hath finally all died, and this gave Sun Quan and Chou Yu an idea of how to capture him. Based on Chou Yu’s plan, Sun Quan would offer his younger sister, Lady Sun Shangxiang, to Liu Pei in marriage. When Liu Pei came to Nanking to take the bride, Chou Yu would imprison him and not allow him to return until Kung Ming returned Chingchou to Wu. Because Lady Sun was beautiful, Chou Yu felt confident that Liu Pei would fall for this trap. If Liu Pei did not come, they would still use it as an excuse to invade Chingchou, saying that Liu Pei didn’t honor the alliance with Wu. It was a no-lose proposition as far as Chou Yu was concerned.

When the matchmaker reached Chingchou, Liu Pei saw through the trickery, but Kung Ming advised him to take the invitation anyway, saying in his cunning voice, “Don’t worry, my Lord. Not only will you ensnare this beautiful Lady, but I will also teach Chou Yu a lesson. Haha, to think he would try to play a dirty trick on me…We shall see…hehe.”

With this, Kung Ming asked Liu Pei to go to Nanking to pick up his bride, but he also had Chao Yun accompany him. Before Chao Yun left, Kung Ming gave him three scrolls with the directions, “Open the first scroll the moment you reach Nanking. Open the second scroll at the wedding, and when things get really bad, open the third scroll. Chao Yun, you are a smart man. I know you will find a way to execute my plans.”…And with that Liu Pei and Chao Yun left to pick up Lady Sun in Nanking, as was the tradition of Wu.

Upon reaching Nanking, Chao Yun opened the first scroll and did what it told him to do. He immediately went to Lord Qiao, showered him with precious gifts from Chingchou, and told him that the Imperial Uncle Liu Pei came over to marry Lady Sun.

Now, Lord Qiao was an important man. Not only was he a retired noble of Wu, but he was also father to the two most beautiful women of the south. One was the widow of Wu founder Sun Ts’e, and the other Xiao Qiao was Chou Yu’s own wife. As such, he had the confidence of the Wu royalty, and could visit them whenever he wanted.

So he visited the Dowager Sun, who was mother of Lady Sun and foster mother of Marquis Sun Quan himself. He congratulated Dowager Wu on the wedding of her daughter, whereupon Dowager Sun was most surprised. Certainly, Sun Quan hath not informed her of this. She was angry at the thought that her young daughter would have to marry a fifty year old man like Liu Pei, Imperial Uncle though he may be.

So he called Sun Quan to reprimand him, whereupon Sun Quan said he was only using this as a ploy to seize Chingchou. Now, Dowager Sun was even more angry!! How dare Sun Quan use her daughter as a tool in his mindless wars?!? Did Chou Yu not have the brilliance to take the cities by force?! She demanded.

Sun Quan was at a loss. In the end, Dowager Sun demanded that she meet Liu Pei at the Kum Lor Temple. If he was found to be an unsuitable groom, she would allow Sun Quan to kill him rather than have him marry her daughter.

So Sun Quan stationed his men outside the Temple waiting to kill Liu Pei, thinking, “Haha, how can my mother allow my beautiful, young sister marry an old man like Liu Pei? Surely, I will kill him and take Chingchou easily now.”

That day, Liu Pei dressed splendidly, and though he was probably as old as Dowager Sun herself, his charisma and character shined. Liu Pei truly looked like a royalty…if not a hero from the legends himself!!

Dowager Sun was much impressed upon seeing him. Surely, this is the son-in-law of her dreams. Suddenly, Liu Pei broke down and said, “My mother, if it is your will, let me die by your hands and not those of my enemies.”

Upon hearing this, Dowager Sun was much surprised and replied, “My son Liu Pei, you are in the midst of family here. To have the Imperial Uncle into the Sun family is a great honor. No man shall dare harm you here, not without crossing over my dead body.”

Suddenly, brave Chao Yun appeared in all his glory and reported the ambush that Sun Quan hath prepared for Liu Pei.

Upon hearing this, Dowager Sun was most impressed by Chao Yun and simultaneously angry at her own son, “Ha!! This is the great Chao Yun, hero of the Chang-pa’an slopes. You are more impressive than the myths have it. Sun Quan, you unfilial son!! Do you dare attack my son-in-law in presence? Am I still your mother?! Do you not know that Lord Liu Pei is the Imperial Uncle, and to harm his person would be treason to the Han dynasty?!?”

Sun Quan was shocked by his mother’s response and quickly ordered the ambush away. Chou Yu, his co-conspirator, was both disappointed and angry at the failure of their plan.

But Chou Yu was not a man to easily give up. Next, he told Sun Quan, “Allow them to get married and build a palace like Liu Pei has never known. Shower him with pleasures until he forgets Chingchou, then I and Lu Ssu will lead two armies in a pincer movement and take it by force. Without Liu Pei, Chingchou will be disunited and easy to conquer.”

And so, Sun Quan spared no expense in building an orpulent palace for Liu Pei that was not inferior to his own. Gifts and beautiful maidens were laden upon him, for what were these minor expenses compared to the possibility of conquering Chingchou?

In time, it seemed like Liu Pei was lost in pleasures of Nanking and likely to really forget Chingchou! Upon seeing this, Chao Yun opened the second scroll and told Liu Pei, “Master Kung Ming requires you to return to Chingchou at this instant, for Ts’ao Ts’ao is now invading our lands.”

Lady Sun entered the room and saw Liu Pei weeping.

Lady Sun: “Beloved husband, why are you weeping?”

Liu Pei: “I am in bitter dilemma. I can not bear to leave you, but neither can I desert the brothers whom I have sworn to die with in Chingchou. The tyrant Ts’ao Ts’ao now threatens them. My brothers Kuan Yu and Chang Fei will be in distress, not to mention my benefactor Kung Ming.”

Lady Sun: “I am your wife and will follow you to Chingchou. Have no fear.”

So Lady Sun went and told her mother who approved their departure, but Sun Quan decided to send his men after them. The Wu general Zhou Tai tried to make Lady Sun and Liu Pei stop, but Chao Yun opened the third scroll and told Liu Pei of Kung Ming’s plan. Liu Pei bowed down before Lady Sun and pleaded for his life, so Lady Sun went before Zhou Tai and threatened him.

Zhou Tai thought to himself, “Today, Sun Quan may order me to capture his own sister, but if I use force, certainly he will blame me one day. After all, I am a mere soldier, and this is his own sister.” So Zhou Tai reluctantly let them go.

When Sun Quan heard of this, he was furious. He ordered the general Taishi Chi who knew no fear, “Take this sword of mine. If my sister does not return, slay her!! We shall not let Chingchou out of our grasp.”

By then, however, Lady Sun and Liu Pei were already on a ship. Taishi Chi tried to follow, but he was no match for Chao Yun’s archery or Chou Zang’s command of the sea. Kung Ming was on the same boat too. He shouted back to Chou Yu, “Chou Yu, you tried to lure us with the beautiful maiden, but now, Wu and Chingchou are of the same blood. Haha!!”

Chou Yu was so angry that he vomited blood again. Once again, he was tricked by the wily Kung Ming and could do nothing but wait on the banks of Wu. It would be even harder to take Chingchou now that Liu Pei hath become Sun Quan’s brother-in-law.

Not long after this incident, Chou Yu died. It was a great loss for Wu. Before he died, Chou Yu showed his envy for Kung Ming’s wisdom by saying the words, “The Heavens let Chou Yu be born. Why did they send Chuko Liang (Kung Ming) to be a thorn in my side?” Leadership of the Wu army passed on to Lu Ssu, but Chou Yu’s brilliance would not be forgotten by the men of Wu. In truth, I believe he was the greatest general Wu hath ever known….perhaps on par with the founder Marquis Sun Ts’e himself. After all, Sun Ts’e and Chou Yu were sworn brothers.

Many years later, whilst Liu Pei was away trying to conquer Shu (Szechuan in southwestern China), Sun Quan came up with another plan. He tried to lure his sister back to Nanking by saying that Dowager Sun was sick, knowing that Lady Sun would try to take Liu Pei’s son with her. After all, the heir was in her care. However, as she boarded the ship led by Chou Zang, the valiant generals Chao Yun and fiery Chang Fei boarded the ship.

Chou Zang ordered his men to attack, but Chao Yun fended all the arrows, while Chang Fei ran forth and slew Chou Zang in one mighty blow. Lady Sun threatened to kill herself by jumping into the river if Chang Fei did not allow her to go back and see her sick mother. Upon hearing this, they allowed her to go back but did not allow her to take Liu Pei’s son A-tou with her.

And so the blissful marriage between Liu Pei and Lady Sun came to an end as such.

As the Chinese saying goes, “there are no real friends or true enemies.”

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