Three Kingdoms: A Somewhat Less Than Critical Commentary
An Outline

by David Keffer
based on the translation by Moss Roberts
Foreign Languages Press/University of California Press, Beijing/Berkeley, 1991
Started: March 14, 2004
Last Updated: February 18, 2005


Chapter Title


Three Bold Spirits Plight Mutual Faith in the Peach Garden;
Heroes and Champions Win First Honors Fighting the Yellow Scarves


Ma Teng Takes Up Arms To Save the Throne;
Cao Cao Musters an Army to Avenge his Father


Cao Cao Leads the Royal Hunt Near the Capital;
Dong Cheng Receives a Mandate in the Palace


Yuan Shao Suffers Defeat at Guandu;
Cao Cao Burns the Stores at Wuchao


Lady Cai Proposes Ceding Jingzhou to Cao Cao;
Zhuge Liang Burns Cao's Men in Xinye


Kongming Foresees the Outcome at Huarong;
Lord Guan Releases, and Obligates, Cao Cao


Zhang Song Confounds Yang Xiu;
Pang Tong Proposes the Conquest of Shu


Fierce Zhang Fei Takes Wakou Pass;
Veteran Huang Zhong Seizes Mount Tiandang


Cao Pi Deposes the Emperor, Usurps the Liu Throne;
The King of Hanzhong Assumes the Throne, Continues the Han Line


Giant Beasts Are Deployed In Kongming's Sixth Victory;
Rattan Shields Are Burned in Meng Huo's Seventh Capture


Raiding Han Troops Destroy Cao Zhen's Camp;
Kongming's Battle Line Humbles Sima Yi


Wen Yang, Riding Alone, Drives Back a Brave Force;
Jiang Wei, Back to the Water, Defeats a Great Enemy


With the Recommendation of Du Yu, an Old General Offers a New Plan;
With Sun Hao's Surrender, the Realm is United


Chapter 1. Three Bold Spirits Plight Mutual Faith in the Peach Garden;
Heroes and Champions Win First Honors Fighting the Yellow Scarves

Emperor Ling allows court eunuchs to abuse the people. A rebellion rises up in protest, called the Yellow Scarves. The emperor sends out troops under Lu Zhi, Huangfu Song, and Zhu Jun. In Youzhou, the governor sends out a call for volunteers. Three men, Xuande, Zhang Fei, and Lord Guan meet, pledge brotherhood, and volunteer to fight the rebels. After success in Youzhou, they travel to Qingzhou to aid the imperial troops. They help Lu Zhi, who is later denounced by corrupt court eunuchs. Dong Zhou is sent to replace Lu Zhi. He is an incompetent military commander. He is rescued by the three brothers, but haughtily refuses to acknowledge them. Zhang Fei wants to kill him.


Chapter 2. Zhang Fei Whips the Government Inspector;
Imperial In-Law He Jin Plots Against the Eunuchs

Zhu Jun, Huangfu Song, and the three brothers successfully defeat the Yellow Scarves. Due to the influence of corrupt eunuchs at court, Xuande, despite his military accomplishments is passed over for a political post. Later, he is given a minor post, which he fulfills honorably. He loses his post, when he refuses to bribe an inspector.

Due to the machinations of the eunuchs, the emperor remains ignorant of the deplorable plight of his people. More uprisings result from the tyranny of the eunuchs. Sun Jian and the three brothers distinguish themselves in putting down the rebellion. Xuande is restored to an official post.

Emperor Ling dies. There are two possible heirs: Prince Xie and Prince Bian, who is related to the He family. The Eunuchs conspire to kill Prince Bian's uncle, Regent Marshall He Jin, so that they can put Prince Xie on the throne. He Jin puts Prince Bian on the throne as Emperor Shao. Empress He saves the eunuchs from extermination. However, He Jin and others still contemplate ways to destroy the eunuchs.


Chapter 3. In Wenming Garden, Dong Zhou Denounces Ding Yuan;
With Gold and Pearls, Li Su Plies Lü Bu

Against Cao Cao's advice, Regent Marshall He Jin calls for help from abroad to depose the eunuchs. Dong Zhuo, with plots to usurp the throne, responds. The eunuchs kill He Jin and kidnap the emperor. Most of the eunuchs are killed and the emperor is restored. During this tumult the jade seal of state is lost.

Dong Zhuo announces his intention to depose Emperor Shao and place Prince Xie on the throne. Ding Yuan opposed the action. Dong Zhuo and Ding Yuan fight. Lü Bu, adopted son of Ding Yuan, leads the victory over Dong Zhuo. Li Su, a commander under Dong Zhuo, bribes and convinces Lü Bu to join Dong Zhuo. Lü Bu kills Ding Yuan and presents the head to Dong Zhuo. Dong Zhuo intends to change the succession.


Chapter 4. The Installation of the Chenliu Prince;
Emperor Shao is Deposed;
A Plot Against Traitor Dong;
Cao Cao Presents a Jeweled Knife

Dong Zhuo installs Prince Xie as Emperor Xian. He drives Yuan Shao from teh capital but gives him an imperial post to forestall rebellion. He secretly has the former emperor, Queen Mother, and imperial concubine killed. Dong Zhuo samples the imperial concubines and massacres whole towns for booty.

Yuan Shao, Wang Yun, and Cao Cao plot an assassination of Dong Zhuo. Cao Cao fails in the attempt. He flees to his homeland. On his way home, Cao Cao kills some innocents, then kills again to cover his crime.


Chapter 5. Cao Cao Rallies the Lords with a Forged Decree;
The Three Brothers Engage Lü Bu in Battle

Cao Cao & Yuan Shao muster a huge force with 17 governors and lords for generals to attack Dong Zhuo. Sun Jian is defeated by Dong Zhuo because Yuan Shao fails to support him. Lord Guan shows his martial skill and kills Dong Zhuo's general, Hua Xiong. Yuan Shu is enraged that a mere commoner is the hero of the day.

A massive battle ensues between the forces of Dong Zhuo and the coalition. Lü Bu shows himself to be a warrior without parallel. He kills generals left and right. Not even Xuande and his two brothers together can defeat Lü Bu.


Chapter 6. In Razing the Capital, Dong Zhou Commits Heinous Crimes;
By Concealing the Jade Seal, Sun Jian Betrays the Confederation

Dong Zhou decides to move the capital from Luoyang (which he is about to lose) to Chang'an. Protests are silenced with the sword. He raids the ancestral tombs, burns the town to the ground and sets out. Cao Cao attacks his rear but is defeated. Cao Cao barely escapes with his life. Having lost their prey, the coalition loses faith in Yuan Shao. Xuande and his brothers abandon the cause.

Sun Jian finds the imperial seal. He decides to take it home with him. Yian Shao finds out but Sun Jian refuses to surrender the seal. On Yuan Shao's order, Liu Biao blocks Sun Jian's passage home.


Chapter 7. Yuan Shao Battles Gongsun Zan at the River Pan;
Sun Jian Attack Liu Biao Across the Great River

Liu Biao could not prevent Sun Jian from returning home with the seal but he inflicted great losses on Sun Jian's forces and the two became mortal enemies.

Yuan Shao convinces Gongsun Zan to attack Han Fu. When Han Fu surrenders to Yuan Shao without a fight, Yuan Shao refuses to share the spoils with Gongsun Zan. Gongsun Zan and Yuan Shao's forces fight; Gongsun Zan is defeated but is saved from death by Zhao Zilong and the three brothers. Dong Zhuo issues an imperial decree that they cease hostilities and both sides obey.

Yuan Shu decides to attack Yuan Shao and convinces Sun Jian to attack Liu Biao, so that neither can come to the other's aid. Sun Jian has several victoris against the forces of Liu Biao but is killed over pursuing a messenger.


Chapter 8. Wang Yun Shrewdly Sets a Double Snare
Dong Zhuo Starts a Brawl at Phoenix Pavilion

Sun Ce takes over Sun Jian's command. He retreats back to the Southland.

The abuses, cruelties and atrocities of Dong Zhuo only grow. The minister of the interior, Wang Yun, enlists his adopted daughter, Diaochan, to help turn Lü Bu against Dong Zhuo, thus considerably weakening Dong Zhuo. Wang Yun promises Diaochan to both Lü Bu and Dong Zhuo. He convinces Lü Bu that Dong Zhuo has stolen Diaochan from him. Diaochan, for her part, bewitches Dong Zhuo. An irreparable rift grows between the two men.


Chapter 9. Lü Bu Kills the Tyrant for Wang Yun
Li Jue Invades the Capital on Jia Xu's Advice

Wang Yun incites Lü Bu to kill Dong Zhuo. Wang Yun plans the assassination and Lü Bu executes it.

After the death of Dong Zhou, his four generals, Li Jue, Guo Si, Zhang Ji, and Fan Chou, band together. They drive Lü Bu from the capital and kill Wang Yun. Lü Bu seeks refuge with Yuan Shu.


Chapter 10. Ma Teng Takes Up Arms To Save the Throne
Cao Cao Musters an Army to Avenge his Father

Li Jue, Guo Si, Zhang Ji, and Fan Chou run rampant in Chang'an. Ma Teng and Han Sui lead a force against the four generals but are unsuccessful in ousting them from the capital. Fan Chou shows Han Sui mercy in battle, for which Li Jue executes him. The three remaining generals begin to stabilize the court.

Cao Cao established in Yanzhou, summoning many worthy generals and advisors to his side. He sends for his father to join him, but while traveling through Xuzhou (governed by Tao Qian), his father is killed by an officer of Tao Qian's, Zhang Kai. Cao Cao resolves to exterminate Tao Qian and the entire populace of Xuzhou. Soon he has the city surrounded.


Chapter 11. Liu Xuande Rescues Kong Rong at Beihai
Lü Bu defeats Cao Cao Near Puyang

Many forces, including those of Kong Rong, Tian Kai, Xuande, and Gongsun Zan rally to the aid of Tao Qian. Cao Cao's army is immense but a massive battle is averted because, in Cao Cao's absence, Lü Bu has taken several key cities in Cao Cao's home province.

After fleeing Chang'an, Lü Bu wandered from province to province. He sought protection from Yuan Shao, Yuan Shu, and Zhang Yang but finally ended up with Zhang Miao. Seeing that Cao Cao's territory was left relatively undefended, Zhang Miao directed Lü Bu and Chen Gong to attack Yanzhou, taking all but three counties.

Cao Cao made a truce with Xuande and rushed home to reclaim his territory. Xuande adamantly refused to take over governing Xuzhou, although Tao Qian pleaded with him to do so.

In Yanzhou, Cao Cao advances against Lü Bu. Lü Bu knows nothing of military strategy and is only saved from defeat by the advice of Chen Gong. After a night raid on Lü Bu's camp, Cao Cao is nearly captured, but is saved by his bodyguard, Dian Wei.


Chapter 12. Tao Qian Yields Xuzhou Three Times;
Cao Cao Overwhelms Lü Bu in Battle

Lü Bu lays a trap for Cao Cao in Puyang and nearly captures him. Dian Wei's heroics again save Cao Cao. A truce is called between Cao Cao and Lü Bu due to shortages of food for both armies.

Tao Qian dies. Xuande reluctantly accepts control of Xuzhou. Still driven by thought so avenging his father's death, Cao Cao wants to attack Xuande but is persuaded against it by Wenruo. In a series of battles, Cao Cao does drive Lü Bu from Yanzhou.


Chapter 13. Li Jue and Guo Si Cross Swords;
Yong Feng and Dong Cheng Rescue the Emperor

In Chang'an Emperor Xian's aides start a quarrel between Li Jue and Guo Si. Eventually the quarrel escalates into full scale combat. Li Jue captures the emperor and Guo Si captures the court. The palace at Chang'an is burned. Two no account generals Yang Feng and Dong Cheng take advantage of the chaos to steal away with the Emperor themselves. They enroll White Wave rebels to help them battle off Li Jue and Guo Si, who, once having lost the Emperor, are quickly reconciled. Yong Feng and Dong Cheng make for the old capital, Luoyang. Harried all the way, the Emperor loses his court and all semblance of propriety.


Chapter 14. Cao Cao Moves the Emperor to Xuchang;
Lü Bu Attacks Xuzhou by Night

Fearing a reprisal from Li Jue and Guo Si the Emperor requested help from Cao Cao, who now had the largest army in the Northeast. Cao Cao came to the emperor's aid dispersing the armies of Li Jue and Guo Si. When he found good men, rather than kill them, he persuaded them to join his cause. Cao Cao chose to move the capital and the emperor to Xuchang where food and protection were better and where Cao Cao's future ambitions could be hatched.

Cao Cao coerced the emperor into issuing an edict commanding Xuande to attack Lü Bu. Xuande did not obey. Cao Cao then had the emperor issue an edict commanding Xuande to attack Yuan Shu. Xuande took most of his army with him, leaving the protection of Xuzhou to Zhang Fei. Zhang Fei got drunk and allowed Lü Bu to capture the city and Xuande's family.


Chapter 15. Taishi Ci and Sun Ce Fight Their Hearts Out;
Sun Ce Plants His Kingdom South of the River

After his father's death, Sun Ce went to serve Yuan Shu, where he had numerous successes. He finally decided to stake out a place of his own and he attacked Liu Yao at Qu'e. An epic battle between Sun Ce and Taishi Ci takes place. Liu Yao's forces are defeated. Taishi Ci is eventually captured by Sun Ce and joins his cause.

Sun Ce eventually established a secure position as ruler of the Southland, the land below the Great River.


Chapter 16. Lü Bu Demonstrates His Marksmanship Before His Camp;
Cao Cao Suffers Defeat at the River Yu

Yuan Shu launches an attack against Xuande. Both Xuande and Yuan Shu ask Lü Bu for support. Lü Bu has allegiances to both parties. By performing a miraculous feat of marksmanship, Lü Bu forces Yuan Shu to withdraw the attacking force. Still not content, Yuan Shu offers to form an allegiance with Lü Bu by proposing marriage between his son and Lü Bu's daughter. Lü Bu at first agrees but then is warned that it is another trick to get him to turn his back on Xuande.

The forces of Zhang Ji (a former general of Dong Zhuo), now under control of his nephew Zhang Xiu, are running rampant at Nanyang. Cao Cao gets them to join his forces without battle. Cao Cao lets affairs get wild while cavorting with Zhang Xiu's aunt, the widow of Zhang Ji. This upsets Zhang Xiu who tries to kill Cao Cao. Cao Cao's bodyguard, Dian Wei, though drunk, performs an awe-inspiring defense against overwhelming odds, allowing Cao Cao to escape injured but alive, while sacrificing his own life. Zhang Xiu flees to the mercy of Liu Biao.

Cao Cao establishes a tentative peace with Lü Bu by offering him an official position. This gesture turns Lü Bu against Yuan Shu, canceling the marriage of their children.


Chapter 17. Yuan Shu Fields Seven Armies;
Cao Cao Joins Forces with Three Generals

Yuan Shu declares himself emperor and launches a massive attack against Lü Bu. Two of Yuan Shu's seven generals are officers who surrendered to Yuan Shu earlier and have no real loyalty to him. Lü Bu persuades them to join his cause. With their aid and the help of Lord Guan, the army of Yuan Shu is routed.

Cao Cao, Lü Bu, Xuande, and Sun Ce all oppose Yuan Shu. Cao Cao pursues him and takes Shouchun from him. He refrains from pursuing Yuan Shu further because Zhang Xiu and Liu Biao have again risen up in revolt.


Chapter 18. Jia Xu Outwits the Enemy and Carries the Day;
Xiahou Dun Plucks Out and Swallows his Wounded Eye

Cao Cao falls for a trick devised by Jia Xu, advisor to Zhang Xiu, and loses 50,000 men trying to take Nanyang. Though harried by Zhang Xiu and Liu Biao, he returns to the capital because he has been warned that Yuan Shao is about to attack.

Realizing that Cao Cao has returned to the capital, Yuan Shao decides to attack Gongsun Zan, and asks Cao Cao for aid. Cao Cao agrees, only because he sees Lü Bu as the greater threat and wants to deal with him first. Lü Bu is warned of the impending attack. He musters his army and meets the combined armies of Xuande and Cao Cao at Xiaopei.


Chapter 19. Cao Cao Battles Fiercely at Xiapi;
Lü Bu Falls at White Gate Tower

Through the deceit of Chen Gui and Chen Deng, Lü Bu's forces maul each other in the dark. Defeat after defeat leaves them only one town, Xiapi. Cao Cao lays siege to it. Hopeless, Lü Bu loses himself to wine and women. His generals forsake him and betray him to Cao Cao. Cao Cao has Lü Bu and many of his generals and advisors executed.


Chapter 20.Cao Cao Leads the Royal Hunt Near the Capital;
Dong Cheng Receives a Mandate in the Palace

Cao Cao continues to take over the Emperor's duties and privileges. At a royal hunt, Cao Cao uses the royal bow to hunt and accepts the accolades intended for the Emperor. The Emperor sees in these actions Cao Cao's intent to depose him. The Emperor gives a mandate to a relative, Dong Cheng, to assemble a force loyal to the Han and destroy Cao Cao. Dong Cheng begins to assemble loyal men.


Chapter 21. Cao Cao Warms Wine and Rates the Heroes of the Realm;
Lord Guan takes Xuzhou by Strategem and Beheads Che Zhou

Dong Cheng convinces Xuande to join the royal decree and deal with Cao Cao. Xuande takes up gardening. Cao Cao invites Xuande to tea and tells him that there are only two heroes of the realm: Cao Cao & Xuande.

Yuan Shu has lost his ambition. He offers the title of emperor and the royal seals to his brother, Yuan Shao. Cao Cao orders Xuande to prevent Yuan Shu from delivering the seal to Yuan Shao at Xuzhou. Xuande defeats Yuan Shu, who dies. The seal is recovered elsewhere and given to Cao Cao. Cao Cao begins to fear Xuande's power and gives orders to have him killed in Xuzhou. Lord Guan foils the plot.


Chapter 22. Cao Cao Takes the Field Against Yuan Shao;
Lord Guan and Zhang Fei Capture Two Generals

Xuande convinces Yuan Shao to ally with him in an attack against Cao Cao. Yuan Shao has a lengthy list of Cao Cao's abuses drawn up and distributed around China. Cao Cao accompanies a main force against Yuan Shao. Neither the force of Yuan Shao nor Cao Cao will abandon their fortified positions to initiate the attack.

Cao Cao sends to lesser generals against Xuande in Xuzhou as a diversion. Lord Guan and Zhang Fei capture the two generals and send them back to Cao Cao, instructing them to inform him that Xuande is not fomenting rebellion.


Chapter 23. Mi Heng Strips, Denouncing the Traitor;
Ji Ping is Executed for Threatening Cao's Life

Both Yuan Shao and Cao Cao send envoys to Zhang Xiu, who elects to side with Cao Cao.

Cao Cao's general, Kong Rong, recommends Mi Heng as an advisor. Several times, Mi Heng unleashes a stream of relentless incriminations on Cao Cao and Cao Cao's generals. Because of Mi Heng's popularity with the people, Cao Cao spares his life. Mi Heng is sent as an envoy to Liu Biao, whom he also mocks. Liu Biao, who also doesn't want his blood on his hands, send him to Huang Zu. Once Mi Heng insults Huang Zu, he is killed.

Yuan Shao has also sent an envoy to Liu Biao. Liu Biao cannot decide who to side with: Cao Cao or Yuan Shao.

The physician, Ji Ping, is sent to tend to Dong Cheng, who is ill because he worries over the stagnant plot to kill Cao Cao. In a delirium, Dong Cheng betrays their plot. Ji ping swears his loyalty. A servant of Dong Cheng's is caught with one of Dong Cheng's concubines. The servant is beaten and flees to Cao Cao, where he informs on the conspiracy. Ji Ping is beaten, eventually to death, but never reveals the names of the others in the conspiracy. However, Cao Cao visits the residence of Dong Cheng, finds the scroll where each member of the conspiracy signed in blood. He has Dong Cheng arrested.


Chapter 24. The Traitor Cao Murders the Consort Dong;
The Imperial Uncle Liu Flees to Yuan Shao

Cao Cao numbers his enemies: Xuande, Yuan Shao, Ma Teng, and Liu Biao. He counts Xuande as the biggest long-term threat and decides to attack him first. Xuande makes a plea to Yuan Shao for aid, but Yuan Shao only offers refuge in the event of defeat. Xuande and Zhang Fei plan a night-time raid. Cao Cao suspects the attack and utterly defeats them. Xuande flees to Yuan Shao. The whereabouts of Zhang Fei are unknown. All in Xuzhou is lost except Xiapi, which Lord Guan holds. Cao Cao decides to attempt to have Lord Guan join his side.


Chapter 25. Trapped on a Hill, Lord Guan Sets Three Conditions;
At Baima, Cao Cao Breaks the Heavy Seige

Cao Cao lures Lord Guan out to battle. Trapped, Lord Guan surrenders under three conditions, that he surrender not to Cao Cao but to the Emperor, that Xuande's two wives not be mistreated, and that, if Xuande is found alive, he be allowed to rejoin him. Cao Cao accepts, thinking that he can treat Lord Guan so well in the interim, that he will choose to remain with him. Cao Cao does treat Lord Guan well, bestowing even Lü Bu's horse, Red Hare, on him. However, Lord Guan is intent upon returning to Xuande, once he hears word of him. Lord Guan promises to return the favor of Cao Cao's hospitality before he leaves.

Xuande convinces Yuan Shao to attack Cao Cao. Yan Liang, a general of Yuan Shao's, dispatches Cao Cao's three of generals. Cao Cao sends Lord Guan against him, who basically defeats the entire army single-handedly. Yuan Shao is outraged and orders Xuande executed.


Chapter 26. Yuan Shao Loses a Battle and Another General;
Lord Guan Returns his Official Seal

Claiming it could simply be a double of Lord Guan who decimated the army, Xuande is spared. Yuan Shao sends another general against Cao Cao, who is also defeated by Lord Guan. Xuande is spared by convincing Yuan Shao that this is Cao Cao's plot to drive a wedge between the two of them.

Lord Guan learns that Xuande is with Yuan Shao. He returns to the capital and puts matters in order. He tries to officially announce his departure to Cao Cao but Cao Cao won't receive him. Finally, Lord Guan writes a letter, resigns the official post bestowed on him by Cao Cao and leaves all the gifts and women Cao Cao gave him (except Red Hare). He bursts out of the capital with twenty men and a carriage carrying Xuande's two wives. Cai Yong volunteers to catch him before he reaches Yuan Shao and Xuande.


Chapter 27. The Man of the Magnificent Beard Rides Alone a Thousand Li;
The Lord of Hanshou Slay Six Generals and Breaches Five Passes

Cao Cao is a man of his word and personally sees Lord Guan off, even though he knows that he is going to aid Xuande who is in the service of Yuan Shao, an enemy of Cao Cao. Here, Cao Cao displays that nobility that marks him suitable to be a king.

Because Lord Guan left without traveling papers, none of the generals at any of the passes will allow him to move through peacefully. Lord Guan is forced to kill six commanders to get through the five passes and reach the lands of Yuan Shao. Upon reaching them, he learns that Xuande has parted ways with Yuan Shao and moved to Runan.


Chapter 28. Lord Guan Slays Cai Yong, Dispelling His Brother's Doubts;
Liege and Liege Men Unite Again at Gucheng

Searching for Xuande, Lord Guan runs into Zhang Fei, who is now governing a town. Zhang Fei, having heard that Lord Guan joined Cao Cao, doubts his brother. Lord Guan defeats the pursuing army to convince Zhang Fei. Together they learn that Xuande has returned to Yuan Shao. With the aid of Song Qian, they get Xuande out of Yuan Shao's service.

Lord Guan adopts a son. Zhao Zilong, who has wandered since Yuan Shao defeated Gongsun Zan, joins the service of Xuande. Xuande, Lord Guan, and Zhang Fei are reunited.

Independent once again, the three brothers along with Zhao Zilong, Sun Qian, Jian Yong, Mi Zhu, Mi Fang, Guan Ping, and Zhou Cang command four or five thousand men. This is the kernel with which they will have to re-establish themselves.

Annoyed by Xuande's desertion, Yuan Shao does not seek revenge but rather decides to ally with Sun Ce in order to launch a concerted attack against Cao Cao.


Chapter 29. The Overlord of the Southland Executes a Sorceror;
The Rule of the South Passes to Green-Eyed Sun Quan

Sun Ce is lord of a prosperous and independent Southland. He controls all but one or two provinces south of the river. He does not believe in the supernatural. When a venerated Taoist master comes to town, Sun Ce has him executed. As a result, he goes mad and dies.

Sun Ce's brother, Sun Quan, takes over the Southland. He finds able generals and advisors to aid him. He decides not to accept Yuan Shao's invitation to launch a joint attack on Cao Cao. On the contrary, he decides to accept an imperial position from Cao Cao and strengthen his position. Once he has solidified his position, he eventually dreams of taking over the entire realm and crowning himself Emperor.


Chapter 30. Yuan Shao Suffers Defeat at Guandu;
Cao Cao Burns the Stores at Wuchao

Yuan Shao and Cao Cao have their inevitable military confrontation. Cao Cao's force numbers 70,000. Yuan Shao's is ten times as large. But Yuan Shao is a fool who does not heed the advice of his loyal ministers. He also appoints drunkards to generals. Following Wenruo's advice, Cao Cao will not leave this situation without crushing Yuan Shao's forces. He devices one strategy after another to trick the forces of Yuan Shao, to demoralize them, to win their top generals over to his side and finally to annihilate the remaining army. Yuan Shao flees the scene with only 800 men.


Chapter 31. Cao Cao Defeats Yuan Shao at Canting;
Liu Xuande Turns to Liu Biao in Jingzhou

Yuan Shao controlled four provinces in the North. He received reinforcements from the provinces and launched another offensive against the advancing troops of Cao Cao. Cao Cao had however prepared a trap, which decimated Yuan Shao's army. Yuan Shao was again lucky to escape with his life. But his health suffered.

Meanwhile, Xuande had been gathering tens of thousands of former Yellow Scarves rebels into his army. He launched a sneak attack on the capital, Xuchang. Having driven Yuan Shao back to his home, Cao Cao turned to stop Xuande before he reached the capital. Xuande is badly outwitted by Cao Cao, during this battle. Each measure he instigates has already been counter-measured by Cao Cao. Xuande nearly loses his life, were it not for the heroics of Zhao Zilong, Lord Guan, and Zhang Fei. They flee with only a thousand men south to the refuge of Liu Biao, who accepts them against the advice of some of his generals.


Chapter 32. Yuan Shang and his Brother Struggle for Jizhou;
Xu You Proposes Diverting the River Zhang

Stunned by the succession of defeats, Yuan Shao falls ill and dies. His younger son, Yuan Shang is named heir in favor of the eldest, Yuan Tan. They are at each other's throat, until threatened by Cao Cao, when they cooperate. As a result, Cao Cao withdraws his troops from the north, thinking that the two brothers will turn on each other and leave the north easy pickings.

It is exactly as Cao Cao hoped. Yuan Shang defeats Yuan Tan in battle. Yuan Tan turns to Cao Cao to help him retake the North. Cao Cao secretly intends to get rid of both brothers. Cao Cao defeats Yuan Shang and drives him off. He then takes Jizhou.


Chapter 33. Cao Pi Exploits the Yuan's Troubles and Marries Lady Zhen;
Guo Jia Bequeaths a Plan to Secure Liaodong

Cao Cao plots to remove the remaining Yuans (three of Yuan Shao's sons and a nephew) from power. He defeats some in battle. The defections from the Yuans continue. Cao Cao chases two of the brothers into the desert. The pursuit is risky and, while victorious in defeating the Wuhuan people of the desert, Cao Cao rewards his advisors who advised against entering the desert. The two brothers flee to Liaodong, but, as Cao Cao's advisor Guo Jia predicted, the brothers' heads are delivered by the Governor to Cao Cao as a sign of allegiance.


Chapter 34. Lady Cai Eavesdrops on a Private Talk;
Imperial Uncle Liu Vaults the River Tan on Horseback

Xuande pacifies revolts in Liu Biao's lands. Liu Biao is pleased with Xuande but his wife, Lady Cai, and her brother Cai Mao are sure that Xuande is plotting to take over. Moreover, Xuande supports Liu Biao's first son as Liu Biao's successor, who is not the son of Lady Cai. Cai Mao plots several times to kill Xuande, but Xuande is repeatedly saved by the warnings of Yi Ji. Once, Xuande is requested to a banquet. He escapes only to be trapped at a river. His horse dives into the river and loses its footing. Xuande is sure that he is lost, but the horse thrusts ahead and makes the far bank, saving Xuande.


Chapter 35. Xuande Encounters a Recluse in Nanzhang;
Shan Fu Finds a Hero-Lord in Xinye

Xuande finds refuge with a hermit. This hermit tells him that, although Lord Guan, Zhang Fei, and Zhao Zilong are able military generals, his civil advisors are inadequate. He urges Xuande to seek new aides. Xuande then runs into Shan Fu, whom he appointed director general. Shan Fu is quick to prove his worth. Cao Cao sends 30,000 men to attack Liu Biao. They decide to first send 5,000 to attack Xuande. Using Shan Fu's strategy and the military prowess of Zhang Fei and Zhao Zilong, the generals are killed and the enemy troops scattered.


Chapter 36. Xuande Surprised the town of Fan;
Shan Fu Recommends Zhuge Liang

Shan Fu decimates Cao Ren's forces, who retreat to the capital. Cao Cao's commanders inform him that Xuande has a new military strategist who is a genius. Cao Cao kidnaps Shan Fu's mother and holds her as hostage until Shan Fu comes to the capital. Before leaving Xuande, Shan Fu recommends Kongming as a new aid.


Chapter 37. Still Water Recommends Another Noted Scholar;
Xuande Pays Three Visits to Zhuge Liang

When Shan Fu arrived in the capital, his mother was so digusted that he had abandoned Xuande to save her that she hung herself.

Xuande pays two visits to Kongming but both times Kongming is out wandering the countryside. Xuande plans a third visit.


Chapter 38. Kongming Determines the Realm's Division and Charts a Course;
Sun Quan Leads a Naval Attack and Exacts Revenge

Kongming foretells the future of the empire. It will be split into three kingdoms. Cao Cao, through timely circumstance will govern the northern heartland. Sun Quan through geographical advantage will govern the Southland. Kongming urges Xuande to take the lands in the west and build his empire from there, relying on the allegiance of men to solidify his rule. Xuande persuade Kongming to join him as his chief advisor.

Sun Quan has gathered many able men to him. He decides not to ally himself with Cao Cao. Moreover, he decides that the time is ripe to take Jingzhou from Liu Biao before Cao Cao does. He launches his campaign and the first battle, a naval battle, is an overwhelming success.


Chapter 39. Jingzhou's Heir Pleads Three Times for Advice;
The Director General Makes his Debut at Bowang

Liu Biao offers Xuande Jingzhou but Xuande does not accept, explaining to Kongming that it is unfair to take advantage of Liu Biao in his illness. Liu Qi, son of Liu Biao, takes advice from Kongming to escape being killed by Lady Cai.

Against Wenruo's advice, Cao Cao sends 100,000 men down to defeat Xuande. Despite the misgivings of Zhang Fei and Lord Guan, Xuande gives full control of the army to Kongming, before he has made any demonstration of his military prowess. With inferior numbers, Kongming devises a strategy using fire that destroys the forces of Cao Cao. One general is killed the others flee back to the capital.


Chapter 40. Lady Cai Proposes Ceding Jingzhou to Cao Cao;
Zhuge Liang Burns Cao's Men in Xinye

Liu Biao dies. Lady Cai hides the fact from Xuande and Liu Biao's appointed heir, Liu Qi. Instead Lady Cai installs her own son, Liu Zong. Cao Cao resolves to take both Jingzhou and the Southland. When his force arrives in Jingzhou, Liu Zong surrenders to him. Kongming devises a new strategy to defeat the overwhelming numbers of the enemy. They abandon Xinye. When Cao Cao's forward army takes the town, Kongming has the entire town burned, destroying the forward army.


Chapter 41. Liu Xuande Leads His Flock Over the River;
Zhao Zilong Rescues Master Liu Single-handedly

The people of Xinye follow Xuande to Fan. Fan is indefensible. The people of Xinye and Fan follow Xuande to Xiangyang, Liu Biao's capital, but Cai Mao will not let the people peacefully enter. Wanting to avoid civilan casualties, Xuande leads his people to another defensible city.

Cao Cao arrives and takes over Jingzhou. He kills Liu Zong and Lady Cai. Xuande is warned that Cao Cao's troops will catch him if he does not abandon the horde of people following him, but Xuande will not abandon them. Before Xuande reaches his destination, Cao Cao's troops attack. The people are scattered. Xuande manages to survive with Zhang Fei and a few troops.

In the confusion of Cao Cao's attack on Xuande's horde of people, Zhao Zilong, who was charged with the care of Xuande's two wives and his infant son, Ah Dou, loses his charges. Zhao Zilong runs through the countryside, searching. Where he finds the troops of Cao Cao, he battles. He finds one wife and gets her to safety. Later, he finds the second wife, badly wounded, and Ah Dou. Cao Cao's troops are close on his heels. Lady Mi pleads with Zhao Zilong to ride away with Ah Dou. He will not abandon her. She throws herself down a well so that there is no point in staying. Zhao Zilong then rides through the country trying to find Xuande. When he meets the troops of Cao Cao, he fights with the baby clutched to his chest. He slays numerous captains in this manner. He flees when he has to. At one point, his horse rides a supernatural beam of light out of ditch to safety. This is an indication that Ah Dou is ordained by heaven to one day rule the empire. Zhao Zilong heroics result in the death of over 50 noted captains on that day. The chapter ends with Zhao Zilong still with Ah Dou and still in the thick of battle.


Chapter 42. Zhang Fei Makes an Uproar at Steepslope Bridge;
Xuande, Defeated, Flees to the Han River Ford

Zhao Zilong safely returns Ah Dou to Xuande, however he is pursued by a million man army. With a fierce display, Zhang Fei single-handedly holds the army off at a bridge. Actually, Cao Cao fears an ambush, where none exists, but he is wary having twice been outwitted by Kongming. Xuande flees to Jiangxia. Sun Quan sends an ambassador to Xuande asking for an alliance to fight off Cao Cao.


Chapter 43. Kongming Debates the Southern Officials;
Lu Su Rejects the Consensus

Kongming travels south to convince Sun Quan to join Xuande in an alliance against Cao Cao. Virtually all of the ministers of Sun Quan advocate submission to Cao Cao. Kongming delivers a brilliant oration against the southern officials. The chapter ends with Sun Quan still undecided.


Chapter 44. Kongming Cunningly Moves Zhou Yu to Anger;
Sun Quan Decides on a Plan to Defeat Cao Cao

Chief Military Advisor of the Southland, Zhou Yu, and Kongming try to sound each other out. Zhou Yu convinces Sun Quan to resist Cao Cao. Attempts to lure Kongming to the Southland fail.


Chapter 45. Cao Cao Suffers Casualties at Three Rivers;
Jiang Gan Springs a Trap at the Congregation of Heroes

Zhou Yu takes it into his mind that Xuande and Kongming are at least as big of threats as Cao Cao. He decides to have them killed but either is persuaded against it or never finds the opportunity.

The Southland engages Cao Cao in naval battle and defeats him soundly owing to the fact that most of Cao Cao's men are unfamiliar with Naval warfare. Cao Cao has two generals knowledgeable in naval warfare. Zhou Yu tricks Cao Cao into believing that these two have decided to betray them. Only after Cao Cao has the two naval commanders executed does he realize his mistake.


Chapter 46. Kongming Borrows Cao Cao's Arrow Through a Ruse;
Huang Gai is Flogged Following a Secret Plan

Zhou Yu still fears that Kongming is a bigger threat than Cao Cao. He forces Kongming to produce 100,000 arrows in a matter of days or lose his head. Kongming leads a false assault through the fog on Cao Cao's naval base. Cao Cao forces fire blindly into the fog. The boats of Kongming are covered with piles of straw in which the arrows stick. Kongming manages the impossible and produces over 100,000 arrows in three days.

Cao Cao sends two false defectors into the Southland camp. They are recognized as false but accepted all the same so as to transmit certain information back to Cao Cao. Then Zhou Yu beats one of his own generals so badly that when he defects to Cao Cao's army, Cao Cao will not suspect that it too is false.


Chapter 47. Kan Ze's Secret Letter Offering a Sham Surrender;
Pang Tong's Shrewd Plan for Connecting the Boats

Kan Ze, a friend of the beaten general of Zhou Yu, convinces Cao Cao the surrender is genuine. Zhou Yu wants to burn all the boats but in order for the tactic to be effective, the boats have to all be linked together. Pang Tong, aka Master Young Phoenix, who has joined the Southland, also pretends to defect to Cao Cao, where he offers a solution to the seasickness that is plaguing the troops unfamiliar with naval warfare: link all the boats together.


Chapter 48. Feasting on the Great River, Cao Cao Sings an Ode;
Linking its Boats, the North Prepares for War

Cao Cao calls a feast on the river. He gets drunk and starts boasting. One of his advisors cautions him. Cao Cao, in his drunken stupor, kills the man.

Cao Cao sends a small force of unlinked ships against the enemy. This force is defeated by the superior naval skills of the Southland navy. The Southland is waiting for the right wind before launching their attack.


Chapter 49. On Seven Star Altar Kongming Supplicates the Wind;
At Three Rivers Zhou Yu Unleashes the Fire

Kongming uses some arcane knowledge to summon a southeast wind. Zhou Yu is terrified by Kongming's abilities and orders him killed. Kongming escapes and returns to Xuande. Both generals, Zhou Yu in Sun Quan's camp, and Kongming in Xuande's, coordinate a massive attack on Cao Cao.

In a particularly brilliant scene, Kongming warns Lord Guan not to allow Cao Cao to escape, despite the fact that Cao Cao treated Lord Guan excellently when Lord Guan was his prisoner/guest. Lord Guan swears on his life that he will not allow Cao Cao to escape. When Lord Guan had left, Xuande said to Kongming, "His sense of honor is very strong. If Cao Cao actually takes that route, I am afraid my brother will let him pass in the end." "Last night I surveyed the constellations," Kongming replied. "The traitor's doom is not written there. And to leave a good turn for Lord Guan to do is a rather nice touch, after all."

Zhou Yu's navy approaches. With Cao Cao's ships tied together, they are vulnerable to fire. Cao Cao's ships start to burn.


Chapter 50. Kongming Foresees the Outcome at Huarong;
Lord Guan Releases, and Obligates, Cao Cao

Kongming had foreseen every action Cao Cao would take to forestall disaster. As a result, Cao Cao's forces were decimated. Ambush after ambush reduces the number of soldiers with Cao Cao until of his million man army, fewer than a thousand still accompany him. When Lord Guan releases the final ambush, Cao Cao is caught. As Kongming predicted, Cao Cao reminds Lord Guan of his past kindnesses. Lord Guan's sense of honor compels him to allow Cao Cao and his 27 commanders to flee. The remaining troops are led by Zhang Liao, also an old friend of Lord Guan's, and Lord Guan allows all of the men to flee. Cao Cao returns to the capital intent on gathering strength for a counter-attack. When Lord Guan returns empty handed to camp and admits that he allowed Cao Cao to escape, Kongming orders his execution.


Chapter 51. Cao Ren Battles the Southland Troops;
Kongming Spoils Zhou Yu's Victory

Xuande persuades Kongming to pardon Lord Guan. Xuande and Sun Quan both desire the city of Nanjun, which is held by Cao Ren. Rather than fight each other for it, Kongming allows Zhou Yu to attempt to take it first. If he fails, then Xuande's force can attempt to take it. Zhou Yu's force is bady beaten in its initial attempt to take Nanjun. They take nearby supporting cities, only to lose them later. Zhou Yu is wounded and his commanders do not initiate any more offensives for days. This irritates Zhou Yu who feigns death in order to lure Cao Ren into a nighttime ambush. Cao Ren's forces are badly beaten in the ambush. During the ambush, Xuande's forces take Nanjun and two nearby cities. When Zhou Yu tries to take Nanjun from Xuande by force, he is turned away by archers.


Chapter 52. Zhuge Liang Temporizes with Lu Su;
Zhao Zilong Captures Guiyang

To waylay the protests of the Southland, Kongming claims that Xuande is only holding these cities for their rightful heir Liu Qi. In the meantime, they plan to take over the neighboring districts. Having defeated the million man army of Cao Cao and his best strategists, Xuande's forces find little resistance from the first two local districts. Surrender is quick.


Chapter 53. Lord Guan Spares Huang Zhong;
Sun Quan Battles Zhang Liao

Zhang Fei and Lord Guan each bring nearby local districts under control with relative ease. Sun Quan battle with Cao Cao's troops at Hefei is in a stalemate. His officers and troops join him and there launch an unsuccessful attack against Zhang Liao, the general left in charge by Cao Cao.

Liu Qi dies of illness.


Chapter 54. State Mother Wu Meets the Bridegroom in a Temple;
Imperial Uncle Liu Takes his Bride to the Wedding Chamber

Kongming informs Lu Su that Xuande will not yield Jingzhou to the Southland, until he has secured a new territory in Yizhou in the Riverlands. This upsets the Zhou Yu. Xuande's wife, Lady Gan, dies.

Zhou Yu hatches a plan, which Sun Quan approves, to offer Sun's sister to Xuande. Then when Xuande comes to the Southland to retrieve the girl, they will either kill him or capture him and hold him ransom until Jingzhou is yielded. Kongming sees through their plan and send Zhao Zilong south with Xuande with a scheme to foil the Southland plot.

Sun Quan's mother, Lady Wu approves of Xuande as a son-in-law and insists that the marriage proposal be honored. Xuande and Sun Quan appear to hit it off, showing off their horse-riding skills. On the appointed day, Xuande is wed to Sun Quan's sister.


Chapter 55. Xuande Incites Lady Sun to Flee the South;
Kongming Riles Zhou Yu for the Second Time

In the south, Xuande loses himself in dissipation with his new wife. Following Kongming's plan, Zhao Zilong tells Xuande that Jingzhou is about to fall. Lady Sun agrees to accompany Xuande back to Jingzhou.

Sun Quan orders that Xuande and Lady Sun be killed. Six generals chase Xuande and Lady Sun across the Southland to the great river. At the great river, Zhou Yu arrives with his navy. But Kongming has planned for all contingencies. He is waiting for Xuande and his wife with a small fleet. The fleet delivers them to the north shore. When Zhou Yu follows them on land. Ambushes drive them back to the river. Zhou Yu collapses in humiliation and rage.


Chapter 56. Cao Cao Feasts at Bronze Bird Tower;
Kongming Riles Zhou Yu for the Third Time

Cao Cao holds a feast at the recently completed Bronze Bird Tower, where his military generals display their marksmanship and horse-riding skills, and where his civil advisors write poetry. During the feast, a messenger from the Southland arrives, asking Cao Cao to support petitioning the Emperor to make Xuande governor of Jingzhou. Cao Cao's advisors percieve that the motive is Sun Quan's fear of Xuande. Instead they appoint Sun Quan's generals as governors of neighboring regions, hoping to provoke conflict between Xuande and Sun Quan.

Under Sun Quan's orders, Lu Su again asks Xuande to yield Jingzhou to the Southland. Xuande claims that he can't attack the Riverlands since his cousin rules it. Zhou Yu proposes taking the Riverlands for Xuande and trading it for Jingzhou. In reality, Zhou Yu intends to march his army through Jingzhou to get to the Riverlands and simply take Jingzhou instead.

Kongming sees through Zhou Yu's plan. Upon his arrival at Jingzhou, Zhou Yu's fifty thousand men are surrounded by Xuande's forces. Zhou Yu collapses a third time.


Chapter 57. Sleeping Dragon Mourns Zhou Yu at Chaisang;
Young Phoenix Takes Office at Leiyang

Kongming presents a eulogy at Zhou Yu's wake. While there, he recruits Pang Tong to Xuande's service. First Pang Tong offers his services to Sun Quan, who will not have him. At first, Xuande does not recognize Pang Tong's merits and assigns him a lowly post. But Pang Tong's skills bring his worth to Xuanded's attention.

Cao Cao is afraid that Ma Teng may rally a Qiang army and attack while he is gone on a long mission to subdue Sun Quan or Xuande. Therefore, he orders Ma Teng to the capital. Ma Teng arrives with a murderous plot. The plot is uncovered and Ma Teng is executed.


Chapter 58. Ma Chao Avenges His Father in the Field;
Cao Ah Man Throws Down His Coat and Cuts Off His Beard

Ma Chao allies with his father's ally, Han Sui, and leads an expedition against Cao Cao. They take Chang'an and Tong Pass. Cao Cao cancels the southern expedition. Cao Cao, while confident, is nearly caught and throws off his distinctive red coat and cuts his beard off with a knife to elude detection. Twice, Ma Chao very nearly nabs Cao Cao, once close enough to thrust at him with a spear and later within arrow range. Cao Cao is saved only by the heroics of his general Xu Chu. The bloody battles continue taking the toll on both sides.


Chapter 59. Xu Chu Strips Down and Duels with Ma Chao;
Cao Cao's Doctored Letter Turns Ma Chao Against Han Sui

Xu Chu and Ma Chao have an epic one-on-one fight. When it seems that Ma Chao is gaining the upper hand, Cao Cao sends in reinforcements. Ma Chao and Han Sui continue to defeat Cao Cao. Cao Cao decides to rely on trickery. He begins to sow the seeds of suspicion in Ma Chao by acting in a friendly manner toward Han Sui. He writes an ambiguous letter to Han Sui. Ma Chao falls for the deception and loses faith in Han Sui. Han Sui and his commanders now fear Ma Chao and decide to make Ma Chao's suspicions real; they plot to kill him. Ma Chao learns of the plot, kills a couple generals and severs Han Sui's left hand. In the ensuing chaos, Cao Cao over-runs the camp. Ma Chao flees with 30 men. Han Sui is set up as Lord of Xiliang.

Hearing of Ma Chao's defeat and Han Sui's submission, Governor Zhang Lu of Hanzhong fears that Cao Cao will target him next. He believes that a safer land to govern is in the Riverlands. He resolves to attack Liu Zhang.


Chapter 60. Zhang Song Confounds Yang Xiu;
Pang Tong Proposes the Conquest of Shu

Liu Zhang in the Riverlands (Yizhou) is afraid of Zhang Lu. He sends Zhang Song as an emissary, offering tribute for Cao Cao's protection. Cao Cao is repelled by Zhang Song's appearance and manners. Zhang Song next travels to Xuande and offers the province to him. Kongming and Xuande's generals very much want Xuande to march to the Riverlands and "protect" it for for Liu Zhang. Many of Liu Zhang's advisors strenuously argue that Xuande cannot be trusted. However, Liu Zhang ignores their advice and places his trust in Xuande. Leaving Kongming, Zhao Zilong, Zhang Fei, and Lord Guan in charge of Jingzhou, Xuande marches to the Riverlands. There, Pang Tong and Zhang Song urge him to kill Liu Zhang and take the Riverlands for his own.


Chapter 61. Zhao Zilong Recovers Ah Dou at the River;
Sun Quan's Letter Causes Cao Cao to Retreat

Pang Tong and Zhang Song were ready to assassinate Liu Zhang, despite Xuande's commands to the contrary, but Xuande himself prevented it, threatening them with death. Liu Zhang and Xuande feast as brothers. When Zhang Lu attacks Yizhou, Xuande agrees to meet the advance.

With part of Xuande's force in Yizhou, Sun Quan resolves to take Jingzhou. State Mother Wu fears for the safety of her daughter, Xuande's wife. Sun Quan sends a secret mission up to steal Lady Sun and Xuande's sun, Ah Dou. He plans to hold Ah Dou as ransom until Jingzhou is returned to the Southland. Zhao Zilong and Zhang Fei foil the plot, leaping aboard the ship, slaying many, and taking Ah Dou back to Jingzhou. Lady Sun is allowed to return to Sun Quan.

Cao Cao takes 400,000 men and launches an attack on the Southland. The Southland is well prepared for the assault and stops them at the river. Come spring a truce is called and Cao Cao retires back to the capital.


Chapter 62. Yang and Gao Lose Their Heads in the Conquest of Fu;
Huang and Wei Vie for Credit in the Attack on Luo

Xuande requests troops and supplies from Liu Zhang who refuses. This causes a complete split between the two. Killing Liu Zhang's commanders, Xuande takes the pass at Fu. Huang Zhong (an old veteran) and Wei Yan (a junior commander) vie for accolades in battle. Huang Zhong proves the better commander and saves Wei Yan's life. Xuande moves forward to take more Riverlands territory.


Chapter 63. Zhuge Liang Weeps for Pang Tong;
Zhang Fei Obliges Yan Yan

Xuande's invasion of the Riverlands is halted by the death of Pang Tong, who is killed despite numerous warnings from others, includign Kongming. Kongming is summoned to aid Xuande. Lord Guan is left in charge of Jingzhou.

Zhang Fei leads one of Kongming's armies into the Riverlands. The famous Riverlands general, Yan Yan, refuses to surrender his city and refuses to engage Zhang Fei on the battlefield. In an uncharacteristic show of strategy, Zhang Fei tricks Yan Yan out of the city and captures him. In an uncharacteristic show of restraint and humility, Zhang Fei treats Yan Yan well and converts him to Xuande's cause.


Chapter 64. Kongming Sets a Scheme to Capture Zhang Ren;
Yang Fu Borrows Troops to Vanquish Ma Chao

Kongming and his reinforcements arrive. They take Luoxian, a key Riverlands city, from general Zhang Ren. In desperation, Liu Zhang calls to his old enemy, Zhang Lu, for help.

In the north, local and imperial forces decimate the remains of Ma Chao's army. His family is butchered before his eyes. With no other choice, Ma Chao flees and joins the army of Zhang Lu.


Chapter 65. Ma Chao Attacks Jiameng Pass;
Liu Bei Assumes the Protectorship of the Riverlands

Zhang Lu sends Ma Chao down to battle Xuande. Kongming sows distrust in the Zhang Lu camp. Zhang Lu betrays Ma Chao. Ma Chao joins Xuande. Xuande continues to take over the Riverlands. Eventually, Liu Zhang cedes the entire territory to him.


Chapter 66. A Lone Swordsman, Guan Presents Himself at Lu Su's Feast;
Empress Wu Lays Down Her Life for Her House

Now that Xuande had successfully gained control over part of the Riverlands, Sun Quan wanted Jingzhou returned, according to their agreement. Sun Quan sent Kongming's brother, Zhuge Jin, to persuade Xuande to return Jingzhou. From the Riverlands, Xuande agreed to return three districts, but when Zhuge Jin arrived in Jingzhou, Lord Guan, who was in control there, refused to cede the territory. Sun Quan had Lu Su arrange a feast to plead with Lord Guan again, and to kill him if he refused. Lord Guan, wary of danger, attended the feast and left without ceding the territory and without being assassinated, by pretending to be drunk and holding Lu Su close to him, ostensibly for support.

Sensing Cao Cao's increasingly dangerous lust for power, Empress Fu (not Wu as the title of the chapter indicates) initiated a plot to have him killed. When it was discovered, Cao Cao had her and her entire clan executed. Afterward, the Emperor was forced to marry Cao Cao's daughter.


Chapter 67. Cao Cao Conquers Hanzhong;
Zhang Liao Prevails at Xiaoyao Ford

Cao Cao turned his attention to Zhang Lu in Hanzhong. Although Hanzhong was well-defended, after a couple months, Cao Cao resorted to trickery to capture the strong-point. Soon, Zhang Lu surrendered. Hanzhong, the Eastern Riverlands, now lay under the control of Cao Cao.

With Cao Cao's troops in the west, Sun Quan decided to attack Hefei. After a preliminary victory at Huan, Sun Quan met defeat at Hefei at the hands of Cao Cao's general, Zhang Liao. Sun Quan was forced to flee on horseback, barely escaping with his life, only by leaping over the chasm left by a bridge that Cao Cao's forces had destroyed.


Chapter 68. Gan Ning's Band Sacks the Northern Camp;
Zuo Ci Throws a Cup, Teasing Cao Cao

Sun Quan's forces attack Cao Cao's men. Gan Ning leads a band of 100 men deep into Cao Cao's camp. They wreak great havoc without losing a single man. In the ensuing battle, Zhou Tai saves Sun Quan from death with great heroics. He is honored highly by Sun Quan. However, Sun Quan does lose two key generals. Sun Quan and Cao Cao fight to a standstill. Neither is interested in a protracted conflict. Sun Quan offers to send tribute and Cao Cao agrees to return to the capital.

Cao Cao is named King of Wei. His eldest son, Cao Pi, is named heir. Zuo Ci, a Taoist, entreats Cao Cao to turn the empire over to Xuande and retreat to the hills with him. Cao Cao tries to have the Taoist executed but Zuo Ci's powers are so great that all of Cao Cao's attempts to kill him are in vain.


Chapter 69. Conning the Changes, Guan Lu Sees Things to Come;
Chastening Han Traitors, Five Vassals Die Loyal

The seer Guan Lu predicts that Cao Cao will have an imperial line. He also informs Cao Cao that Xuande is moving to attack him in the west.

In the capital, five officials plot to kill Cao Cao. Their plot fails. Their families are exterminated. Also, three hundred other officials under Cao Cao are executed as a result.


Chapter 70. Fierce Zhang Fei Takes Wakou Pass;
Veteran Huang Zhong Seizes Mount Tiandang

Xuande's forces attack Cao Cao's forces in Hanzhong. Zhang Fei has several victories over Zhang He. The veteran generals, Huang Zhong and Yan Yan, also have victories over Zhang He and a few lesser generals of Cao Cao. They take over one major stronghold in Hanzhong and prepare to take the rest.


Chapter 71. Huang Zhong's Fresh Fighters Conquer a Fatigued Foe;
Zhao Zilong's Few Overcome Many

Cao Cao leads a large force to chasten Xuande. In a series of battles, the stronghold led by Xiahou Yuan is overtaken by Huang Zhong and results in Xiahou Yuan's death.

Huang Zhong raids the camp of Cao Cao's main army. In the raid, he is surrounded. Demonstarting legendary heroism and martial skill, Zhao Zilong rescues Huang Zhong and rebuffs Cao Cao's pursuit.


Chapter 72. Zhuge Liang's Cunning Captures Hanzhong;
Cao Cao's Army Retreats to Ye Gorge

Kongming uses subterfuge and decoys to defeat Cao Cao's army, driving them back to Ye Gorge. There is an opportunity for an epic battle between Zhang Fei and Xu Chu, but Xu Chu, drunk, is not up to the challenge. Stabbed once in the shoulder by Zhang Fei, he is rescued by his men.

In Ye Gorge, Cao's secretary, Yang Xiu (also the Champion of Cao Zhi as Cao Cao's successor), anticipates retreat. Cao Cao executes Yang Xiu. In Battle, Cao Cao is shot in the lip by Wei Yan, losing two teeth. The army retreats back to the capital bearing Cao Cao in a carriage.


Chapter 73. Xuande Becomes King of Hanzhong;
Lord Guan Storms Xiangyang District

The advisors and generals under Xuande insist that it is necessary that he assume the Kingship of the Riverlands. Amid his great protestations, Xuande is crowned King. Cao Cao is enraged. He hatches a plot to have Sun Quan attack Lord Guan in Jingzhou so that he can attack a weakened Hanzhong. Sun Quan first attempts to ally himself through marriage with Lord Guan against Cao Cao, but is rejected. He enlists the aid of Cao Ren to attack Jingzhou by land, while the Southland will attack Jingzhou from the river.

Xuande orders Lord Guan to attack Fan, held by Cao Ren. Lord Guan's awesome presence terrifies the enemy army. Soon Lord Guan has Fan surrounded. Cao Ren requests reinforcements from Cao Cao.


Chapter 74. Pang De Carries his Coffin to his Final Battle;
Lord Guan Floods the Enemies Seven Armies

Yu Jin leads Cao Cao's seven armies against Lord Guan in Jingzhou. Under him is Pang De, who stung by rumors that he might surrender to Lord Guan, has a coffin built before leaving and vows that either he or Lord Guan will return in the coffin. An epic battle occurs between Pang De and Lord Guan. There was little indication that Pang De was an epic warrior, but perhaps it is the fact that Lord Guan is nearing 60 by this time that Pang De is able to last 150 rounds with him. Pang De, through trickery, wounds Lord Guan and would have killed him, had not Yu Jin recalled him through fear that Pang De's successes would overshadow his own. Constantly beset by Yu Jin's treachery and incompetence, the army of Cao Cao succumbs to a flood released by Lord Guan who breaks a few dams. Only Pang De fights to the end. Loyal to Cao Cao, he is finally executed by Lord Guan, who gives him a proper burial. Yu Jin surrenders without honor.

Lord Guan lays seige to the city of Fan protected by Cao Ren. In what seems a rather foolish act, Lord Guan is wounded by a poison arrow while issuing threats at the gate of Fan.


Chapter 75. Scrapes the Poison from Lord Guan's Bone;
Lü Meng Sends Mariners Across the River in Disguise

The Physician, , heals Lord Guan, with a painful surgery that bothers Lord Guan not in the least. Lü Meng devises a plan, exploiting Lord Guan's arrogance, which takes two key cities in Jingzhou, without bloodshed.


Chapter 76. Xu Huang Wages War on the River Mian;
Lord Guan Flees to Mai in Defeat

Xu Huang leads Cao Cao's forces from the north. Lü Meng leads Sun Quan's forces from the south. Xu Huang defeats the forces of Lord Guan under the command of Guan Ping and relieves the seige at Fan. Meanwhile, Lü Meng continues to acquire the territory of Jingzhou under Southland control. Seeing the situation as hopeless, long-time ally of Xuande, Mi Fang, surrenders a key town. Lord Guan's army loses morale; desertion is rife. Soon Lord Guan loses all but a few hundred men men. They seek refuge in the small town of Mai and are immediately surrounded by Southland forces. They seek aid from the nearby forces of Liu Feng, who refuses aid, owing to the fact that Lord Guan favors Ah Dou, not Liu Feng, as Xuande's heir. Lord Guan adamantly rejects the Southland's offer to surrender.


Chapter 77. At Mount Yuquan Lord Guan Manifests a Divine Presence;
In Luoyang City Cao Cao Feels the Force of His Soul

With no reinforcements forthcoming, Lord Guan broke out of Mai fleeing for the Riverlands. The Southland army had anticipated this and eventually captured Lord Guan and his son, Guan Ping. Sun Quan had them both executed. Lord Guan's horse, Red Hare, refused to eat and died shortly thereafter.

Decapitated, Lord Guan's head is displayed to the remaining forces in Main, which either kill themselves or surrender. Lord Guan's soul wanders the countryside. He beseeches a Buddhist monk to recover his head, but the monk asks who will recover the heads of all the people Lord Guan killed. Thus, the spirit of Lord Guan was forced to wander teh countryside.

Sun Quan held a feast honoring Lü Meng for the victory. During the feast, the spirit of Lord Guan took possession of Lü Meng, reviled Sun Quan and ended only with the death of Lü Meng. Fearing Xuande's revenge, Sun Quan sent Lord Guan's head to Cao Cao, hoping to deflect the blame. Perceiving Sun Quan's intent, Cao Cao ordered a great state funeral held for Lord Guan. Lord Guan's spirit took control of the head and made a face at Cao Cao.

Meanwhile in the Riverlands, the populace was contented. Xuande married a fourth wife, Lady Wu. The spirit of Lord Guan visited Xuande one night and asked for vengeance. Xuande received news of Lord Guan's trouble and then his death almost simultaneously. Xuande grieved heavily.


Chapter 78. Treating an Affliction, a Famous Practitioner Dies;
Delivering the Last Command, the Tyrant Ends His Days

Xuande is convinced to delay his punitive expedition against the south until relations between the north and south have thawed.

Cao Cao continues to have visions of Lord Guan's spirit. He decides to build a new residence to escape this old haunted one. A huge, ancient pear tree is found to make the main beams but the workmen are unable to fell it. Cao Cao himself strikes at it with his sword, drawing only blood. Cao Cao falls sick and is haunted by the spirit of the pear tree. Soon, Cao Cao is haunted by the ghosts of the Imperial Queens and children he killed as well. Cao Cao knows he will die soon and names his eldest son, Cao Pi, heir. Cao Cao dies.

Cao Pi assumes the throne. Cao Zhang, third son, leads an army of one hundred thousand apparently to contest the succession.


Chapter 79. Brother Opposes Brother; Cao Zhi Composes a Poem;
Nephew Entraps Uncle; Liu Feng Answers to the Law

Cao Zhang has come only to tend his allegiance to his Brother. Cao Xiong kills himself. Cao Zhi expresses disgust at the choice of successor. He is arrested and brought before Cao Pi. Only his skill at poetry and the pleading of their mother, saves Cao Zhi's life.

Meng Da fears that he will be executed by Xuande for failing to aid Lord Guan, and leading to his death. So, he and a couple other commanders defect to Cao Pi. Liu Feng is ordered to bring him to justice but he fails. Liu Feng returns to the riverlands and is executed by Xuande for failing to aid Lord Guan.

Cao Pi is urged by his ministers to depose Emperor Xian and assume the imperial throne.


Chapter 80. Cao Pi Deposes the Emperor, Usurps the Liu Throne;
The King of Hanzhong Assumes the Throne, Continues the Han Line

Cao Pi forces Emperor Xian at sword point to abdicate the throne. As soon as Cao Pi ascends the throne, an inauspicious storm blows in and causes him to become ill. Emperor Xian is banished to a distant land.

Believing that Emperor Xian is dead, Kongming urges Xuande to declare himself Han Emperor. Xuande protests strenuously and only accepts after being tricked by Kongming. Xuande's first declaration as emperor is to launch a massive assault against the Southland to avenge Lord Guan's death. Zhao Zilong opposes the offensive.


Chapter 81. Eager for Revenge, Zhang Fei is Assassinated;
To Avenge his Brother, the Emperor Goes to War

Despite arguments from everyone except Zhang Fei, Xuande insists on going to war against the Southland to avenge Lord Guan. He mobilizes an army of 750,000. Xuande warns Zhang Fei not to beat his men while drunk, as he has been prone to do. Nevertheless, Zhang Fei is in an irritable state due to the death of Lord Guan. He has anyone who trivially crosses him beaten. Two minor commanders are beaten for suggesting a delay in the departure of the army. That night, Zhang Fei gets drunk and these two commanders murder him in his sleep and run off with his head to the Southland.

Even more upset and enraged Xuande leads the army southward. Zhang Bao and Guan Xing, sons of Zhang Fei and Lord Guan arein the vanguard.


Chapter 82. Sun Quan Submits to Wei, Receives the Nine Dignities;
The First Ruler Marches on Wu, Rewards All Armies

Zhuge Jin pleads with Xuande to spare the Southland. He offers to return Jingzhou. He explains to Xuande that he is forsaking his obligation to the imperial line by attacking the Southland rather than the North. None of this deters Xuande.

Zhang Bao and Guan Xing lead the attack into the Southland. They score several victories on land, capturing and killing several commanders. Hearing high praise of the young nephews, Huang Zhong sneaks off to show the old generals can still pull a trick or two.


Chapter 83. Fighting at Xiaoting, the Emperor Takes a Foe;
Defending the River, a Scholar Takes Command

Huang Zhong fights and kills an enemy commander. However, Pan Zhang, battling with Lord Guan's green dragon blade, tricks Huang Zhong. He is shot unawares by Ma Zhong. Huang Zhong dies that night from the wound, at age 75.

The forces of Shu (the Riverlands) continue to fight and defeat the forces of Wu (the Southland). Zhang Bao, Guan Xing, and Chief Shamoke, King of the Qiang, particularly distinguish themselves.

Guan Xing is lost in the night. He finds refuge in a farmhouse. The farmers honor Lord Guan. Pan Zhang also seeks refuge in that farmhouse later in the night. As Guan Xing and Pan Zhang confront each other, the ghost of Lord Guan appears, paralyzing Pan Zhang. Guan Xing beheads Pan Zhang, offers his heart to Lord Guan, and takes possession of Lord Guan's Green Dragon crescent blade.

Ma Zhong, who also had a role in Lord Guan's death is killed by Wu commanders, who fear the wrath of their own soldiers as well as those of Shu. They present his head to Xuande, who has them all sacrificed to Lord Guan.

Sun Quan fears the Shu army. He has Zhang Fei's head and his two assassins turned over to Xuande. They are sacrificed to Zhang Fei. Xuande is not placated. He insists on the destruction of Sun Quan.

Sun Quan appoints the young Lu Xun in charge of his armies, above the protests of his advisors. The veteran generals at the front mock Lu Xun, whom they believe has no plan at all for defeating the army of Shu. Xuande also does not respect him. The armies of Shu and Wu meet. Lu Xun will not engage. It is a hot summer, Xuande moves his army into the shade of the forest, falling into Lu Xun's trap. Xuande has however, prepared a counter-trap.


Chapter 84. Lu Xun Burns a Seven-Hundred-Li Line of Camps;
Kongming Deploys the Eightfold Ramparts Maze

Xuande arranges his camps in a strategically unsound manner. Lu Xun, by sticking to his own plan and ignoring the doubts of his generals, inflicts a massive defeat on Xuande. Camps are burned. Many officers are killed. Xuande himself would have met a bloody end had it not been for the heroics of Zhao Zilong. Some officers defect to the Southland.

Lu Xun chooses not to pursue the retreating Riverlands forces because, some years earlier, Kongming has left a supernatural trap in their way and because Cao Pi is leading an assault on the Southland from the north.


Chapter 85. First Ruler Liu Finds a Guardian for his Heir;
Zhuge Liang Calmly Holds Off Five Armies

Against the advice of his counselors, Cao Pi insists on invading the Southland. Fresh from their victory against the Riverlands, the Southland decimates the Northern Army.

Xuande is visited by the ghosts of Lord Guan and Zhang Fei, who foretell his death. Shortly thereafter Xuande dies. His last instructions are to his three sons to honor Kongming as their father. Liu Shan succeeds his father as Emperor and weds the daughter of Zhang Fei.

Eager to take advantage of Xuande's death, Cao Pi raises 5 armies of 100,000 each to invade the Riverlands. However, without ever leaving his ministerial residence, Kongming has devised five different ways to turn back the five armies. He decides to form an alliance with the Southland for mutual defense against the North.


Chapter 86. To Thwart Zhang Wen, Qin Mi Shows Genius in Debate;
To Defeat Cao Pi, Xu Sheng Employs Fire in Attack

Kongming convinces the second emperor to make peace with the Southland and ally against the North. The Riverlands envoy to the Southland, Deng Zhi, makes his argument eloquently, convincing Sun Quan to agree to the truce. Hearing of the alliance, Cao Pi decides to attack the Southland. Xu Sheng's tactics put fear in the North, who fall apart in battle. When they hear word that Zhao Zilong has launched a coordinated attack on the North from the Riverlands they retreat. When Kongming learns that the Man people of the South has launched an attack on the Riverlands, he pulls Zhao Zilong back.


Chapter 87. The Prime Minister Musters a Massive Force and Conquers the Southern Rebels;
The Man King Leads a Heaven-defying Army and Is Captured for the First Time

South of the Riverlands, the Man people rebel under Meng Huo. Several Riverlands governors join in the rebellion. Kongming knows that the Man land is distant and he must use careful strategy to ensure that as soon as the rebellion is put down that it does not reoccur as soon as his troops return home. Kongming himself leads an army of half a million against the Man. First, he uses tricks to turn the governors against each other. Once they have either killed each other or surrendered, Kongming advances against the Man. Meng Huo, King of the Man, is no match for Kongming. He falls into Kongming's trap and is captured. Kongming releases him, despite the fact that he knows that Meng Huo will reorganize and attack again.


Chapter 88. Riverlands Forces Cross the Lu and Capture Once Again the Foreign King;
Zhuge Liang Sees Through a False Submission and Makes the Third Capture

Kongming sows doubt and distrust among Meng Huo's subordinates, who tie Meng Huo up and turn him over to Kongming; this is Meng Huo's second capture. Again, Meng Huo is released. Meng Huo sends his brother with tribute to Kongming's camp, secretly planning a night raid coordinated with an internal strike. Again, Meng Huo is out-witted by Kongming and captured for a third time. Again, Kongming releaseed Meng Huo, hoping that to pacify the Man he will not have to resort to eradicating them.


Chapter 89.The Lord of Wuxiang Puts His Fourth Plan to Work;
The King of the Man Meets His Fifth Arrest

Kongming fakes a retreat and when Meng Huo pursues, he is captured for a fourth time. Meng Huo retreats to a safe place protected by supernaturally poisonous springs. Kongming's men drink from the springs but Kongming locates a hermit, Meng Huo's brother, who provides a remedy. Other Man chieftains capture Meng Huo and turn him over to Kongming a fifth time. For the fifth time, Kongming releases Meng Huo, promising to exterminate his clan if he captures him again and Meng Huo persists in his refusal to submit.


Chapter 90. Giant Beasts Are Deployed In Kongming's Sixth Victory;
Rattan Shields Are Burned in Meng Huo's Seventh Capture

Meng Huo retreats to a stronghold. The stronghold is overtaken with Kongming's strategy. Meng Huo's wife joins the fray and captures two of Kongming's commanders. Eventually Lady Zhurong is captured and the prisoners are exchanged. Meng Huo enlists the aid of a sorceror, who summons wild animals to fight beside his army. After an initial victory, the sorceror's tricks are turned against him by Kongming who had prepared for this eventuality. The Man armies flee. Meng Huo pretends a false surrender, hoping to assassinate Kongming. Kongming sees through the ploy. He releases Meng Huo, who promises to surrender if he is captured a seventh time.

Meng Huo enlists the aid of the Black Lance Kingdom to the south of Man. The Black Lance have impenetrable and bouyant rattan armor that allows them to score victories against Kongming. Kongming, however, devises a plan to trap them in a bare valley where he has left ten carts filled with incendiaries. Once the men are in the valley, the road is blocked and the fires set. The rattan armor proves flammable. The 30,000 man army of the Black Lance is incinerated to a man.

Meng Huo is captured for the seventh time. He finally genuinely surrenders and tenders allegiance. Kongming chooses to leave no troops or officials behind. He believes that the Man will no longer invade the Riverlands.


Chapter 91. The Prime Minister Sacrifices to River Ghosts Before Leading the Army Home;
The Lord of Wu Petitions for a Just War Against the Northern Heartland

Leading the army home, Kongming is stopped at the river by ghosts of the fallen Riverlanders and Southerners. The Southerners recommend human sacrifice to placate the spirits but, the war just having ended, Kongming is unwilling to spill anymore blood. He finds a suitable ritual alternative.

In the North, Cao Pi dies of illness. His Son, Cao Rui, succeeds him. Kongming is able to sow discord between Cao Rui and his most able military general, Sima Yi. Kongming decides that now is the time to attack. Kongming gathers an army of 300,000 and invades the North. Over the objections of his counselors, Cao Rui gives command of his army to Xiahou Mao, who has no military experience whatsoever.


Chapter 92. Zhao Zilong Slaughters Five Generals Generals;
Zhuge Liang Snares Three Cities

Zhao Zilong, 70 years old, displays great courage and battle prowess and slaughters the generals of the Northern army. When he falls into a trap and is nearly captured, he is rescued by Zhang Bao, son of Zhang Fei.

Kongming's army proceeds, capturing cities as it goes. He uses the enemy's deception against them to capture Nan'an and Xiahou Mao within it.


Chapter 93. Jiang Wei Submits to Kongming;
Kongming's Invective Kills Wang Lang

Kongming experiences some setbacks in his attempt to capture three cities, due to the unexpected strategic ingeniusness of Jiang Wei. Kongming makes it his purpose to first capture Jiang Wei, then take the cities. He turns the locals against Jiang Wei by trickery. When cornered by Riverlands forces, Jiang Wei flees back to the city only to be met with a volley of arrows. He has no choice but to surrender. Kongming greets him and calls him the first person he has met worthy to pass on his military knowledge too. Jiang Wei helps Kongming subjugate the three cities.

The North sends a new army against Kongming, led by Wang Lang and Cao Zhen. Wang Lang tries to persuade Kongming to surrender. Kongming denounces Wang Lang so vehemently that Wang Lang falls over dead. In the night, Cao Zhen orders a raid on the Riverlands camp. Kongming has predicted the raid and is ready for it. The two wings of the Northern army mistake each other for enemies and decimate each other. The Riverlands army comes in for the kill. Retreating to their base, the Northern army is again mistaken for Riverlands troops. After the in-fighting, the Riverlands troops again mop up the remaining forces.


Chapter 94. Zhuge Liang Defeats the Qiang in a Snowstorm;
Sima Yi Captures Meng Da in Good Time

The Qiang are allies of the Northerners and attack the Riverlands troops. Kongming sends Zhang Bao and Guan Xing to fight them back but they are badly beaten. If not for the supernatural intervention of Lord Guan's ghost, Guan Xing would have been killed. Kongming arrives and conceives of a strategy to eliminate teh Qiang Iron Wagons, so as to hand the Riverlands forces the advantage. His plan works and the Qiang are defeated. Alarmed, Cao Rui puts the army back under the control of Sima Yi.

Meng Da, who earlier had betrayed the Riverlands and joined Cao Pi, now plans to turn again and rejoin the Riverlands forces. His betrayal is discovered, and despite Kongming's warning, he is caught unprepared. Sima Yi leads an army against him, which results in the death of Meng Da.


Chapter 95. Rejecting Advice Ma Su Loses Jieting;
Strumming His Lute, Kongming Drives Off Sima

Kongming and Sima Yi both see the strategic value of the city of Jieting. Kongming's forces arrive first. Ma Su insists on an unsound defense. Despite all of Kongming's precautions, a combination of Ma Su's poor strategy and Sima Yi's excellent strategy turn Jieting over to the Northerners.

Sima Yi with a force of 150 thousand confronts Kongming who has only 2500 protecting him, but Kongming opens the gates to the town and plays a lute. Sima Yi, unsure of the size of Kongming's force and unwilling to risk an ambush, retreats. Kongming is able to retreat back to Hanzhong, abandoning the three districts he took from the Northerners.


Chapter 96. Shedding Tears, Kongming Executes Ma Su
Cutting Hair, Zhou Fang Decieves Cao Xiu

The Northerners choose not to follow Kongming back into the Riverlands, knowing that an invasion would be very difficult. Instead, they advise to gather strength for a few years before attacking.

Back in the Riverlands, Kongming executes Ma Su for his poor strategy. He begins training for a new assault on the North.

A governor in the Southland makes a false surrender, luring the Northern armies into a trap. Sun Quan prepares to capture some Northern commanders in the trap. The trap is sprung and a great quantity of Northern soldiers and supplies are taken. Sun Quan decides now is the time for the Southland and the Riverlands to make a joint attack on the North.


Chapter 97. Kongming Appeals Again for an Expedition Against Wei
Jiang Wei Defeats the Cao Army by Offering a False Letter

Kongming convinces the Second Emperor that now is the time for the Riverlands to attack the North a second time. The Second Emperor grants his approval. Kongming sets his sites on the small town on Chencang first. Assault towers, battering rams, secret tunnels all fail to break the seige. Northern reinforcements led by Wang Shuang drive the Riverlands army back. Unable to take Chencang, Kongming sets his sights on the Northern forces at Luoyang under Cao Zhen. He and Jiang Wei set a trap, which works, killing many Northern soliders and a commander. Cao Zhen requests reinforcements.


Chapter 98. Wang Shuang Is Executed While Pursuing the Han Army
Kongming Is Victorious After Raiding Chencang

The Northerners devise several traps for defeating the Riverlands army. Kongming sees through these traps and turns them to his own advantage. Despite his success, the Riverlands Army is undable to take Chencang and retreats for lack of grain.

Sun Quan declares himself emperor of the Southland. When news reaches the Riverlands, the Second Emperor want to sever all ties with the Southland, but Kongming suggests that the Riverlands ally with the Southland in a joint attack against the North. Both the Southland and the Riverlands secretly conspire to take the North for itself.

The general holding Chencang falls ill and dies. Seizing the opportunity, Kongming easily takes Chencang and the adjacent pass. Cao Zhen too is ill. Cao Rui makes Sima Yi first Field Marshal. Sima Yi, ignoring the potential threat from the Southland as a ruse, directs all forces to a showdown with Kongming.

(Contrary to the title of this chapter, Wang Shuang is not executed but rather killed in battle.)


Chapter 99. Zhuge Liang Defeats the Wei Army
Sima Yi Pillages the Riverlands

Three times Sima Yi devises elaborate schemes to outwit Kongming and three times Kongming has already prepared countermeasures for these schemes. Heavy damages are inflicted on Sima Yi. When news of the death of Zhang Bao (Zhang Fei's son) reaches Kongming, he falls ill. He returns to the Riverlands to recuperate and the Riverlands invasion of the North stalls. Sima Yi and Cao Zhen begin an invasion toward the Riverlands but are beset by terrible rains. After a month of delays, they are recalled to the capital.

(Contrary to the title of this chapter, there is no pillaging of the Riverlands.)


Chapter 100. Raiding Han Troops Destroy Cao Zhen's Camp;
Kongming's Battle Line Humbles Sima Yi

The Riverlanders pursue the retreating Northern troops. They avoid some ambushes. Finally, two generals disregard Kongming's warning and proceed recklessly. They lose ninety percent of their troops in an ambush. More cautious, now, to obey Kongming's every order, the Riverlanders continue the pursuit.

The Riverlanders rout Cao Zhen's position. He falls ill from the defeat. Kongming sends him such a derogatory letter that Cao Zhen dies immediately after reading it.

Kongming and Sima Yi face-off with battle formations. Kongming wins the battle of strategy and the Riverlands forces decimate the Northern forces. However, Sima Yi starts a rumor in the Riverlands that Kongming is seeking the Emperor's throne. The second Emperor recalls Kongming at the moment when he might achieve great success. Reluctantly, Kongming withdraws, using another strategic trick to prevent Sima Yi from attacking his retreating units.


Chapter 101. Disguised as a God, Kongming Comes Forth from Longshang;
Racing for Saber Gateway, Zhang He Falls into a Trap

Kongming convinces the second Emperor of his loyalty. Then Kongming leads a third expedition against the North. They make long-range planning, including harvesting the wheat along the way for the army. Sima Yi comes upon Kongming harvesting, but Kongming uses a series of tricks to frighten Sima Yi and avoid battle, while still acquiring the grain. By the time, Sima Yi finally does attack, he is badly defeated.

Kongming receives word that the Southland has signed a truce with the North and agreed to attack the Riverlands, forcing Kongming to call off his invasion once again and return home. At the border point marked by the Saber Gateway, the pursuing Northern troops, led by Zhang He, catch up with the Riverlands troops. There the Riverlanders launch an ambush, killing Zhang He.

The report of the imminent Southland invasion turn out to be a ruse by a Riverlanders general to cover up for the fact that he failed in his ability to supply Kongming's army with grain.

Kongming prepares three years for a fourth invasion. By this time, a certain stability amongst the Three Kingdoms has arisen. When Kongming requests permission to begin the assault, the Second Emperor is no longer sure that there is any point to invading the North.


Chapter 102. Sima Yi Holds the Bridge over the Wei;
Zhuge Liang Creates Wooden Bulls and Gliding Horses

Despite astrological portents to the contrary, Kongming begins his next attack on the Northerners. In the first battle at the River Wei, Sima Yi predicts Kongming's tactics and beats the Riverlanders soundly. Kongming writes to Sun Quan urging the Southland also attack the North, a suggestion to which Sun Quan agrees. Taking advantage of a false surrender, Kongming lures Sima Yi into an ambush, resulting in a disastrous defeat for Sima Yi.

Faced with providing for his army while they are a distance from the grain storage locations, Kongming designs "wooden bulls and gliding horses", wooden transport devices that make the transport of grain possible. Kongming allows a few of these to be stolen and copied by Sima Yi. Kongming had a hidden braking mechanism in the bulls. The Riverlanders ambushed the Northerners supply line and moved the bulls. When the Northerners caught up to them, the Riverlanders engaged the brakes and moved on. The Northerners could not move the bulls. The Riverlanders reinforcements arrived, drove off the Northerners and claimed the grain, moving it to a secure location.


Chapter 103. Sima Yi Is Trapped in Shangfang Gorge;
At Wuzhangyuan Zhuge Prays to Reverse His Star-told Fate

Sima Yi barely escaped the battle with his life.

The Southland armies began their attack on the North. Cao Rui mustered armies to meet them. With relative ease the Northerners turn back the Southland invasion.

Intent on maintaining a lengthy campaign, Kongming sets his soldiers to planting crops along with the peasants. He devises a plan, which unfolds over the course of a month, allowing the Northerners to periodically make successful raids to claim grain. The captured Riverlanders soldiers report the false information that the Kongming has moved to a vulnerable camp in a gorge. Sima Yi siezes the chance and falls into the trap. Trapped in a gorge surrounded by fire, he concedes to his sons that now they must all die. Abruptly, a downpour appears and squelches the fires. Sima Yi escapes. The Northern troops take a beating from the Riverlanders.

Astrological portents indicate to both Kongming and Sima Yi that Kongming must soon die. Kongming performs such rituals to extend his life for a short period so that he might finish the conquest of the North. His ceremonies involve a lamp, which holds his life in it. As the lamp burns, so burns Kongming's spirit. Sensing this vulnerability, Sima Yi launches an attack. When the attack comes, Wei Yan rushes inside the tent to inform Kongming. Unaware of the ceremony, Wei Yan bumps into the lamp and overturns it, extinguishing it.


Chapter 104. The Guiding Star Falls, and the Han Prime Minister Returns to Heaven;
The Wei Field Marshal Is Terrified by the Sight of a Wooden Statue

Kongming Dies. In his last moments, he gives his secrets texts to Jiang Wei, he gives command of the army to Yang Yi, he gives a secret plan to Ma Dai, he writes a letter to the Second Emperor, and he predicts that Wei Yan will betray them. Indeed Wei Yan is outraged that command of the army has gone to Yang Yi. He invites Ma Dai to join him in refusing the commands of Yang Yi.

The Riverlands army retreats. Delighted by the death of Kongming, Sima Yi siezes the opportunity and leads the Northern Army in pursuit. Jiang Wei and a thousand men defeat the entire army with a statue of Kongming, which is mistaken for Kongming himself. Sima Yi believes that he has fallen into a trap and the rout is on. The Riverlands army continues its retreat.


Chapter 105. Kongming Leaves a Plan in the Brocade Bag;
Cao Rui Removes the Ambrosia-collecting Bowl

Wei Yan revolts. He makes false petitions to the Second Emperor, claiming Yang Yi's conspiracy with the North. Through this, Ma Dai remains loyal to Wei Yan encouraging him in fact to take over the Riverlands. Recognizing his treachery, Wei Yan's force mostly deserts him. When Wei Yan challenges Jiang Wei to battle, Jiang Wei reads a plan from Kongming. Wei Yan shouts "Who dares slay me?" three times and Ma Dai cuts him down, as he had been instructed to by Kongming.

The Southland adds troops to its border near the North and Riverlands. At first, the Riverlands take it as the precursor to invasion, but Sun Quan assures them it is simply a preventitive measure in the event that the North takes military advantage of the death of Kongming.

Jiang Wan is appointed new prime minister. That really upsets Yang Yi who wanted the position and kills himself.

Meanwhile, Cao Rui orders tremendous imperial construction projects. His advisors complain of the burden on the people but he refuses to listen. He loses himself in pleasure with a second wife. The Empress kills herself in response. One of the areas under his rule rises up in rebellion.


Chapter 106. Suffering a Defeat, Gongsun Yuan Dies at Xiangping;
Feigning Illness, Sima Yi Deceives Cao Shuang

Cao Rui orders Sima Yi to Liaodong to put down the rebellion of Gongsun Yuan. Sima Yi takes 40,000 soldiers and easily defeats the force of 150,000 under Gongsun Yuan. Gongsun Yuan and his clan are executed by Sima Yi.

Cao Rui dies after being haunted by the ghost of his Empress. His son, Cao Fang, is only eight. He leaves the boy in the charge of Sima Yi and Cao Shuang, son of Cao Zhen. Cao Shuang blames his father's death on Sima Yi. He takes power from Sima Yi and then begins to usurp the power of the throne. He begins by taking the tribute intended for the throne and then continues by stealing imperial ladies from the palace. So it goes for ten years.

Sima Yi secretly plots to wrest power from Cao Shuang.


Chapter 107. Wei's Rule Is Transferred to the House of Sima;
Jiang Wei Loses a Battle at Ox Head Mountain

When Cao Shuang foolishly abandons the capital to go hunting, Sima Yi acts. He takes over the palace and the capital. Trapped outside, Cao Shuang must choose to revolt or accept Sima Yi offer of forgiveness. He accepts the offer. Sima Yi has Cao Shuang, all his collaborators, and all their clans executed. He instills himself and his two sons as the holders of power. Cao Fang remains on the throne.

Sima Yi next decides to remove power from the hands of Xiahou family, who were close to Cao SHuang. This drives Xiahou Ba to the Riverlands. He is accepted by Jiang Wei. Together they decide now is the time for the Riverlands to invade the North. They advance and are met by Northern forces, suffering various setbacks. Finally, they bring out Kongming's last secret weapon, a crossbow that shoots 10 bolts at a time.


Chapter 108. Ding Feng in the Snowstorm Uses Short Blades;
Sun Jun at the Banquet Works a Secret Plan

Jiang Wei manages a retreat from the Northern forces. Shortly thereafter, Sima Yi dies of illness.

Sun Quan dies of old age at 71. His third son, a young Sun Liang, assumes the throne. Zhuge Ke, son of Zhuge Jin (now dead), takes over as primary military strategist for the Southland. In the North, Sima Shi siezes the opportunity of a vacuum in leadership to attack the Southland. A Southland commander, Ding Feng, distinguishes himself and routs the vanguard, causing the entire Northern force to retreat.

Zhuge Ke decides to pursue the army into the North. He calls for the Riverlands to launch a simultaneous invasion into the North. Zhuge Ke's invasion is repelled. Seriously wounded, Zhuge Ke returns home in a humiliated defeat. Angry and ashamed, he establishes a reign of police terror in the Southland. The Southland lords will not tolerate his cruelty. He is assassinated by Sun Jun at the Southland Emperor's order and his clan is exterminated. Sun Jun assumes the role of Prime Minister of the Southland.


Chapter 109. A Han General's Ruse: Sima Zhao Trapped;
Retribution for the House of Wei: Cao Fang Deposed

Jiang Wei launches a new attack on the North. He is met by Sima Zhao. He defeats the forces of Sima Zhao and backs him up a mountain, where there is no water. Sima Zhao prays for a well and water gushes miraculously from the ground.

Reinforcements from the North trick the Qiang reinforcements intended for the Riverlands to join the North. A blow is delivered to the Riverlands forces. Jiang Wei escapes alone, after killing the Northern general, Guo Huai. Sima Zhao is rescued. Jiang Wei flees back to Hanzhong.

Cao Fang, Emperor of the North, senses Sima Shi's intent to usurp the throne. He instigates a plot to have him killed. When it is discovered, Sima Shi has him removed from the throne and installs Cao Mao as the new puppet Emperor. This stirs a rebellion in the southern parts of the North.


Chapter 110. Wen Yang, Riding Alone, Drives Back a Brave Force;
Jiang Wei, Back to the Water, Defeats a Great Enemy

Sima Shi, though ill, personally leads the army to put down the rebellion. The Southland also takes advantage of the confusion and attacks. Things are going relatively well for Sima Shi, when Wen Yang attacks his camp and heroically fights off one hundred men. Nevertheless, the rebellion falls apart. The ringleader, Guanqiu Jian, is killed in a drunken sleep and the rebellion is quelled. Stressed from the battle, Sima Shi dies of the illness in his eye. His brother Sima Zhao assumes the position of Regent Marshal.

Meanwhile in the Riverlands, Jiang Wei takes advantage of Sima Shi's death to attack the North. After an impressive initial victory, Jiang Wei suffers a setback and has to pull back to Hanzhong.


Chapter 111. With Ingenuity Defeats Jiang Wei;
For Justice's Sake Zhuge Dan Campaigns Against Sima Zhao

Jiang Wei leads another attack against the North, which from the very beginning is doomed. Northern general, , predicts Jiang Wei's every move, prompting Jiang Wei to call him the equal of Kongming. Relatively quickly, Jiang Wei leads a decimated army back to the Riverlands.

In the Northern capital, Sima Zhao begins to entertain ideas of usurping the throne. Alerted to the impending betrayal, a Northern official in Huinan, Zhuge Dan, revolts against Sima Zhao and enlists the aid of the Southland to support his revolt.


Chapter 112. Yu Quan Dies Nobly Trying to Save Shouchun;
Jiang Wei Fights Fiercely Attempting to Seize Longwall

Through a lengthy, though not particularly costly expedition (in terms of Northern casualties), Sima Zhao puts down Zhuge Dan's rebellion. Much of the Southern army retreats with Sun Chen to the Southland. However, a good portion of the Southland officers is afraid of being executed by Sun Chen for their failures and surrenders to Sima Zhao and the North.

Hoping to take advantage of Zhuge Dan's revolt, Jiang Wei launches a new attack against the North. Qiao Zhou writes an essay which is unsuccessful in deterring Jiang Wei. Jiang Wei is unable to take even the one city of Longwall. Deng Ai shows up with Northern forces and holds him off. News reaches Jiang Wei of Sima Zhao's defeat of the rebellion and Jiang Wei plans to retreat, the opportunity lost.


Chapter 113. Ding Feng Frames a Plan to Kill Sun Chen;
Jiang Wei Forms a Battle to Defeat

Arrogant and arbitrary, Sun Chen is hated in the Southland. Emperor Sun Liang tries to have him killed, but the plot is exposed and Sun Liang banished. Sun Xiu is placed on the throne but soon Sun Chen finds him to be not to his liking. Sun Xiu plots the assassination of Sun Chen, which is successful.

Meanwhile, in the Riverlands, the court has gone to pot. Power lies in the hands of a corrupt eunuch, Huang Hao. The Second Emperor loses himself in depravity. Jiang Wei is apparently too obsessed with attacking the North to notice anything else. Jiang Wei attacks the North again and this time, relying on Kongming's texts, he has stunning success against Northern general, Deng Ai. However, Deng Ai plants a false rumor of Jiang Wei's imperial ambitions. In fear, the Riverlands court recalls Jiang Wei.


Chapter 114. Cao Mao is Slaughtered in his Carriage at South Capital Gateway;
Jiang Wei Sacrifices Grain to Defeat the Wei Army

Sima Zhao has Cao Mao assassinated, then exterminates the assassin's clan in a false show of anger. Sima Zhao installs Cao Huan as the next Emperor of the North.

After convincing the Second Emperor that he is still loyal, Jiang Wei returns to the front. Taking advantage of a false surrender, Jiang Wei decimates Deng Ai's army. Deng Ai is forced to write to Sima Zhao for reinforcements.


Chapter 115. Succumbing to Slander, the Second Emperor Recalls his Army;
Using Military Farms, Jiang Wei Escapes Disaster

Jiang Wei launched his eighth campaign against the North. He met with Deng Ai, exchanging victories and defeats. Once again, slander at the court had the Second Emperor recall the Riverlands troops. Jiang Wei returns to Hanzhong and has his soldiers start farming in preparation for another offensive. Sensing the weakness in the Riverlands due to the growing drunken lechery of the Second Emperor, Sima Zhao orders a massive assault on the Riverlands under the command of Zhong Hui and Deng Ai.


Chapter 116. Zhong Hui Details a Force to Enter Hanzhong;
The Ghost of the Martial Lord Haunts Dingjun Mountain

Sima Zhao launches a massive assault on the Riverlands led by Zhong Hui and Deng Ai. The Second Emperor, lost in lechery, refuses to respond. The Northern armies make good progress in the invasion of Hanzhong. The ghost of Kongming visits Zhong Hui and asks him to have mercy on the civilian population of the Riverlands, a request which Zhong Hui obeys. Despite Jiang Wei's best efforts, Hanzhong falls to the North. Jiang Wei retreats to Saber Gateway, the link from the Riverlands to Hanzhong.


Chapter 117. Deng Ai Slips Through Yinping Pass;
Zhuge Zhan Fights to the End at Mianzhu

With Jiang Wei defending the Saber Gateway, Deng Ai plans to bypass the stronghold and take him men through unpassable terrain to sieze Chengdu directly. He manages to lead his army through this territory although a great amount of boring must be done. When they emerge, they find the Riverlands towns poorly defended and easy prey.

The Second Emperor calls up Kongming's son, Zhuge Zhan to defend the Riverlands. Zhuge Zhan makes a valiant attempt but it is too late. He dies in battle. A plea for reinforcements is sent to the Southland.


Chapter 118. Weeping at the Ancestral Hall, a Filial Prince Dies;
Entering the Riverlands, Two Warriors Vie for Glory

With Jiang Wei still defending Saber Gateway, the Second Emperor surrenders Chengdu and the Riverlands to Deng Ai. The house of Han ceases to exist.

Jiang Wei still harbors a hope to restore the Han. He sows distrust between the two Northern generals, Zhong Hui and Deng Ai, already a strained relationship. In the Northern capital, Sima Zhao is concerned that either general or both may seek to establish the Riverlands as his own kingdom. Sima Zhao and the Northern Emperor Cao Huan proceed to the Riverlands to sort things out.


Chapter 119. The False Surrender Proves a Futile Ploy;
An Imperial Abdication Copies the Pattern

Jiang Wei manipulates Zhong Hui into convincing Sima Zhao that Deng Ai must be arrested for planned treason. Then Jiang Wei starts convincing Zhong Hui that he should overthrow Sima Zhao. When Zhong Hui launches his coup, his own subordinate commanders rebel and kill him. They also kill Jiang Wei and for good measure Deng Ai as well. With the arrival of more Northern troops the Riverlands are pacified. The Second Emperor is moved to Luoyang.

The Southland prepares for an attack from the North.

Sima Zhao dies from a stroke. Sima Yan succeeds him and forces Cao Huan to abdicate the throne. Sima Yan becomes the new emperor of the unified North and Riverlands. He begins to plan for an invasion of the Southland.


Chapter 120. With the Recommendation of Du Yu, an Old General Offers a New Plan;
With Sun Hao's Surrender, the Realm is United

Sun Xiu, ruler of the Southland dies. Sun Hao succeeds him as Emperor. Sun Hao is cruel, vicious and given to vice. The Southland deteriorates under his rule.

Sima Yan commands Du Yu to attack the Southland. Under Sun Hao's mismanagement, the Southland is ill-prepared to defend itself. When the Northern troops reach the capital, Sun Hao surrenders. The three kingdoms have been united into a single empire.


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