Heroic Tales of the Three Kingdoms Pt. 2
'THE RIVAL TIGERS RUSE' AND 'THE TIGER-WOLF TRICK'
Directly after Dong Zhuo's death. Wang Yun was killed in a rebellion and the emperor was captured by insurgents. Cao Cao played a major role in suppressing the rebellion, earning great fame and the title 'Warden of the East' for his bravery.
Tao Qian, the prefect of Xuzhou, hoped to establish a peaceful relationship with Cao Cao. Thus when his father, Cao Sung was making his way through Xuzhou. Tao Qian greeted him with the utmost show of hospitality. However, he did not realize that discretely planted within his forces were rebels who opposed Cao Cao, and they ambushed and killed Cao Sung.
Cao Cao vowed revenge on Tao Qian when he learned of his father's death and immediately prepared to attack. To build up Tao Qian's defense, Mi Zhu entreated Prefect Kong Rong to send reinforcements. However, Kong Rong was amidst another dilemma, he was besieged by Yellow Turban insurgents. Kong Rong felt that he had no resources to offer, but then the brave warrior Taishi Ci broke through the rioters and went in search of support. He had a specific man in mind, Liu Bei.
It did not take much to persuade Liu Bei to answer the call for help. With his brothers Guan Yu and Zhang Fei, he led 3000 select soldiers towards Kong Rong. The Yellow Turban rebels scattered as soon as the brothers arrived. With the insurgency calmed, Liu Bei went to Gongsun Zan and told him about Cao Cao's impending attack Xu. Thus, he was able to recruit Zhao Yun, with a battalion of over 2500 soldiers to support Tao Qian.
Cao Cao hoped to stop the reinforcements from reaching Xuzhou, but he had problems on his home front. In his absence Lu Bu had taken over Yanzhou with the help of Zhang Miao and Chen Gong, all but three of his castles were lost. He was forced to withdraw to defend his own district. Lu Bu had built a sturdy defense and was able to fend him off for well over a hundred days. But that year the locusts swarmed in unbelieveable numbers, completely wiping out crops in the area. The soldiers were already low on provisions, yet they suffered all the more from the uncontrollable famine, and the fighting came to an end.
Meanwhile, Tao Qian was ill and named Liu Bei, scion of the imperial family, as his successor. He summoned Liu Bei to his bed and made this last plea before he died. After Tao Qian had been properly mourned, the people of Xuzhou rallied for Liu Bei, and he humbly received the seal of office.
Having missed the opportunity to avenge his father's death, Cao Cao began to plan a second attempt to steal Xuzhou away from Liu Bei. He would have attacked straight away, but his advisor Xun Yu convinced him to turn to the east, where Yellow Turban rebels were rich in food and wealth. Food and fortune would renew the soldiers and peasants faith in him. Into the east he assailed and was successful. Then he moved his army full-force back to Yanzhou and gained back his territory. He forced Lu Bu to flee to Liu Bei in Xuzhou.
Ever since the brutal death of Dong Zhuo, the emperor had been pressured by two power mongers: Li Tsui, the Minister of War, and Kuo Ssu, the Grand Commander. A close advisor suggested to Emperor Xian that they ally with Cao Cao, who might be able to rid them of the oppressive duo. The court was back in Luoyang when Cao Cao accepted the imperial decree, and moved his army there. In no time Cao Cao had destroyed both tyrants and gained the emperor's trust. His power increased until he had control over all imperial matters.
However, Cao Cao still wanted to regain Xuzhou, and planned to overthrow Lu Bu and Liu Bei. His advisor Xun Yu devised two schemes to corner his opponents. The first was "The Rival Tigers Ruse" : Liu Bei and Lu Bu were the two tigers. Provoke the two tigers to fight, and one was certain to be killed. In this scheme Cao Cao ordered Liu Bei to expel Lu Bu from his territory in order to be recognized as the official Governor Xuzhou. If Liu Bei obeyed, he would lose military power, if not Lu Bu might attack out of spite and take over himself. Liu Bei saw through the scheme from the start, but Zhang Fei sided with the logic and wanted Lu Bu dead. In the end neither tiger made a move.
The second scheme was "Tiger-Wolf Trick." With Lu Bu as the tiger and Liu Bei as the wolf, the tiger would prey on the wolf's assets. This time Liu Bei received an imperial order to attack Yuan Shu. He saw the trap, but he followed the order since it came from the emperor. Zhang Fei was left in charge of Xuzhou. With Liu Bei gone, the bait was set, Lu Bu chased Zhang Fei out of the castle and subjected the city to his authority. Liu Bei was stranded between a rebellion and an attack. Reluctantly he retreated from the battlefield to Lu Bu.
Later, Cao Cao attacked by surprise and Lu Bu was caught and killed by Cao Cao. Liu Bei fled to Yuan Shao, but Guan Yu was captured in an ambush. Zhang Liao persuaded him to surrender to Cao Cao. Having lost track of Liu Bei, he agreed but only until a day when he could be reunited with his brother.
YUAN SHU DECLARES HIMSELF EMPEROR
Long-standing rivalry between Yuan Shu and Yuan Shao (brothers of different mothers) was the cause of many battles. Yuan Shao had just succumbed to Gongsun Zan in Yi Zhou when Yuan Shu requested him to forward badly needed supplies. When he was refused Yuan Shu approached Liu Biao, only to be refused again. When word got back to him that Yuan Shao and Liu Biao were joined in alliance, he vowed to get revenge on both of them.
Yuan Shu found the perfect pawn to carry out his plan. Sun Jian. He too had reasons for revenge on Yuan Shao and Liu Biao. He was immediately dispatched to attack Liu Biao, and the first assault went in Sun Jian's favor. But in the confusion of a bout he fled into a trap set by Huang Zu. Arrows rained down on him and he fell to his death.
When the fighting died down, news of Sun Jian's death was sent to his son, Sun Ce. He took over his father's prized possession, the Hereditary Seal, and pledged his service to Yuan Shu. He was dispatched to lead various crusades for Yuan Shu. However, Sun Ce yearned for personal success. Leaving the Seal to compensate for his absence, Sun Ce borrowed a brigade of men and set out to conquer in the east.
Once Yuan Shu had the Hereditary Seal in hand he grew arrogant and ambitious for more power. He refused to return it to Sun Ce and declared that possession of the Seal was proof alone that he was emperor. To fortify his 'empire' he tried to entice Lu Bu away from Liu Bei with extravagant gifts, and planned a marriage alliance between his son and Lu Bu's daughter. The wedding would have gone through, but Chen Gui's father Chen Deng outlined the treacherous plot behind the union, and Lu Bu stopped all arrangements.
Yuan Shu grew furious and prepared to strom Lu Bu's territory. However, Lu Bu had two defectors from his army. Cao Cao stepped in and organized Lu Bu, Liu Bei and Sun Ce to launch another attack on Yuan Shu. Unable to fend off an attack, Yuan Shu's people fled from the scene with their valuables.
In spite of a ruin of crushing defeats, Yuan Shu commanded as if he sat on the throne. He alternated many of his generals when he opted for a lifestyle of feigned royalty over a union with his brother. Finally cornered by Liu Bei and Cao Cao, Yuan Shu tried to survive on the meager supplies he had left. He died an utterly defeated man, never able to attain the imperial status he desired. The fateful Hereditary Seal was stolen away by Cao Cao.
SUN CE UNITES THE SOUTH LAND
Meanwhile, Sun Ce with merely three thousand borrowed soldiers from Yuan Shu set out to conquer the South Land, east of Yangtze River. On his way to fight Liu Yong, he met up with Zhou Yu, his close friend and sworn brother. Zhou Yu decided to follow him and became his advisor. He also introduced the two Zhangs (Zhang Zhao and Zhang Hong) to serve him. The plan for the attack was set up and Sun Ce led his men into battle.
When Sun Ce was intercepted by Taishi Ci, they engaged in hand-to-hand combat. They fought for over a hundred bouts, but neither could gain an edge. Suddenly Liu Yong came up with a thousand of soldiers. A confused battle began between the handful of men on one side and a whole thousand troops on the other. Zhou Yu leading his troops came to the rescue, and returned to the camp. Next day Sun Ce led his army to the front of Liu Yong's camp, and Zhou Yu led a surprise force to capture the city. Liu Yong fled and Sun Ce moved on to challenge Taishi Ci. Following Zhou Yu's plan, he managed to capture him alive and recruited him.
With the help of Zhou Yu and his generals, Sun Ce defeated Liu Yong, Yan Baihu and Wang Lang. He improved the conditions of the people and maintained order so that his adherents and supporters daily increased. The soldiers who had followed Liu Yong were kindly treated. Those who wished to join Sun Ce's army did so, those who preferred not to be soldiers were sent home with presents. And thus Sun Ce won the respect and praise of everyone and became very powerful.
THE BATTLE AT GUANDU
Cao Cao kept close watch over eastern China, just north of the Yangtze River. This was the most strategic position in China as well as the most plentiful territory. He knew that he had to defeat his greatest enemy in order to gain control of that land. This foe was Yuan Shao, a prominent warrior from a noble family who had an army that would fight to the death for him. Cao Cao had nothing but contempt for Yuan Shao. The emperor had given him command of court magistrates such as Cao Cao. These two warriors would inevitably clash.
Cao Cao and Yuan Shao led their forces into battle twice at Guandu. Cao Cao had been warned not to attempt an attack because his enemy's army much larger and wealthier in provisions. Despite the odds against him, he held out for over two months and gained a strategic hold over Yuan Shao in their first battle. During a stand-off Yuan Shao's advisors grew restless to fight. Xu You believed Cao Cao would fall to them in a guerrilla attack, but Yuan Shao waited for his opponent to make the next move.
Dissension grew within Yuan Shao's army, and eventually Xu You defected to Cao Cao. He had a plan that saved Cao Cao's men when they were down to their last provisions. He proposed an attack on Yuan Shao's supplies as quickly as possible. By this strategy, Cao Cao could destroy a greater army with his lesser force. Cao Cao rewarded Xu You and led a surprise attack on Yuan Shao. Having lost their fighting spirit in the stalemate, the army was completely destroyed and Cao Cao came out the victor. This was a crucial battle for both parties. Yuan Shao gained nothing but a poor reputation for stubborn tactics while Cao Cao continued his expansion.