Ma Liang reached the Riverlands and presented Kongming with maps of the Emperor’s positions. “At present we have more than 40bases on both sides of the river, covering a stretch of700li. Each is pitched close to a stream or creek near thick woods. His Majesty has sent me to show these sketches to Your Excellency.” Kongming finished examining the documents and slammed his hand on the table. “Whoever,” he cried in anguish, “whoever advised our lord to pitch camp in this way should be executed.” Ma Liang responded, “It was entirely our lord’s own doing. No one advised him.” Kongming said with a sigh, “Then the vital cycle of the Han draws to a close.”
Ma Liang asked the meaning of these words, and Kongming replied, “To pitch the camps like that violates every rule. If they attack by fire, he can’t be saved; nor can such a string of forts hold off the enemy. The end is not far off. Now I see why Lu Xun holds back so strictly and does not show himself. You must rush to the Son of Heaven and have him change the positions. They can’t be left like this.” “And if the southerners have already overwhelmed our troops?” Ma Liang asked. “Lu Xun will not dare pursue. The capital is safe.”
“Why so?” Ma Liang asked. “Because they have northern army behind them to worry about,” Kongming explained. “If our lord finds himself in trouble, he should find safety in the city ofBaidi. When I came into the Riverlands. I left10legions there at Fishbelly Meadow.” Ma Liang was amazed. “I have been through Fishbelly Meadow any number of times and have never seen a single soldier. Why is Your Excellency trying to deceive me?” “You will find out later,” Kongming replied, “Don’t trouble yourself any further.” Ma Liang took Kongming’s written petition and sped back to the imperial camp. Kongming returned toChengduand prepared to rescue the Emperor.
5 li from the camp, the Southland ambush was sprung. Xu Sheng and Ding Feng forced back the western army and then escorted Chunyu Dan back to the Southland side. Chunyu Dan, with an arrow lodged in him, went before Lu Xun to accept his punishment. “It was not your fault,” Lu Xun reassured him. “I had to test the enemy’s strength in order to form my plan for breaking Shu.” “They are too strong for us to defeat,” Xu Sheng and Ding Feng said, “We will lose men and leaders in vain.” Lu Xun smiled as he replied, “My plan would never fool Kongming. But by Heaven’s favor the man is not here, and this will help me to great victory.”
Again Lu Xun gathered his officers and men and issued his orders: “Zhu Ran is to advance on the river. Tomorrow after noon the southeast wind will blow strong. Load your boats with straw and proceed according to plan. Han Dang is to attack the north shore, Zhou Tai the south. In addition to spear and sword, each soldier is to carry a bundle of grass with sulphur and saltpeter inside and something to ignite it. Everyone is to advance together; as soon as you reach the enemy camps, use your torches according to the winds. They have40encampments; fire every other one. Carry dry provisions and pursue them relentlessly day and night until you have taken Liu Bei.” The commanders went severally to their ordered tasks.
Dawn broke on a desperate Emperor. Suddenly, he heard a great roar and watched as Zhu Ran’s ranks started to disintegrate. Every which way they began dropping into the rushing creeks or tumbling wavelike down from the heights. A band of men cut through to rescue the Emperor, who, to his delight, recognized their leader, Zhao Zilong of Changshan. Zhao Zilong had been in Jiangzhou but came to the scene when he heard fighting had broken out. Seeing a filed of flames licking the sky to the southeast, he anxiously investigated and to his astonishment found that the Emperor was trapped. Determined to save his lord, Zilong raced to the battleground.
Lu Xun, hearing of Zhao Zilong’s arrival, swiftly ordered a retreat. But in the thick of the struggle Zhao Zilong met up with Zhu Ran and killed him in a brief clash. He scattered the southern soldiers, took charge of the Emperor, and headed for Baidi. “I may be safely out of it,” the Emperor said, “but what about my commadners and men?” “The enemy is too close,” Zilong said. “We can’t delay. If Your Majesty will enter Baidi and rest, I will go back to relieve the commanders.” At this time the Emperor entered Baidi with a retinue of little more than 100.