Zhang Fei Fights Cao Cao ... Silently

Rating: G for some clever humor.
: This is a very interesting RTK folktale I think you'll enjoy. Thanks to LiuBei98's AOL site for posting it, and I've decided to make it public.
: Not definite – but the story assumes that all Five Tiger Generals have been recruited, and it's after Red Wall (208 AD) …
Appearing Characters: Liu Bei, Zhuge Liang, Zhang Fei, Cao Cao


One day Liu Bei was resting his laurels upon his seat within his residence, discussing affairs of state with the Directing Instructor (Zhuge Liang) when a summons did come from Cao Cao the Prime Minister of the Han Dynasty. Now the two had been at odds since a dispute many years past, but Cao Cao did hold grudges for all time if not settled, and it did not need the intellect of the Directing Instructor Kongming (aka Zhuge Liang) to see through its order.

Zhuge Liang read the letter and said, "There is too much danger for us to go alone; it is a trap. We need a warrior such as Guan Yu of Jingzhou; only he can fight his way out of such a trap."

Zhang Fei turned and said, "What is this? Do not think me so weak, for if not my brothers then I will go. Think you I fear that bookworm of the north?"

Zhuge Liang said, "I only jest, and if you would then bring five hundred horsemen as an escort and you may go." Liu Bei gave his consent and so Zhang Fei went.


At Cao Cao's camp, he had set a number of hidden swordsmen within his tent, ready to catch and kill Liu Bei. So this scheme was disarrayed when entered not the straw weaver of Xuzhou (one of Liu Bei's more famous posts), but Zhang Fei of Yan (an ancient state)! None of Cao Cao's warriors were ordered to have arms at the ready, but at this none would dare draw against the 'Screaming Demon' who held them at bay at Changban Bridge. So Zhang Fei snarled and all stepped aside.

In the tent none of Cao Cao's great advisors were at the ready, so quickly thinking he greeted Zhang Fei, who only said, "My brother was ill and could not come so I, Zhang Fei of Yan, am here in his place." For the time Cao Cao held the swordsmen at bay and tried to talk sweet words to lull Zhang Fei from alertness to aid his assassins in their task.

But Zhang Fei would not listen to his kind words, and so Cao Cao tried another strategem, making up much of it as he went along, "A battle between your lord and I would only kill many soldiers and harm people who need it not. Therefore let us have a display of a game called 'silent riddle', and the loser drinks three cups of wine and moves their armies back ten li (Chinese miles)." He bade his generals enter to enforce this rule.

Zhang Fei obviously knew nothing of 'silent riddles,' but as his brother nor advisor had given him advice on this he could only agree, and the contest began. First Cao Cao curved one arm in a half-circle above his head, the over at his belly, making a circle disconnected at the sides. Zhang Fei thought for a moment and then made a long, straight line with his outstretched arms.

Cao Cao snarled at this, and so held up three fingers. Zhang Fei immediately raised the five of his right hand. Finally Cao Cao grew impatient, and with beady eyes gave the 'thumbs-up' sign. Zhang Fei only smiled and shook his head to say 'no'. Without any other resort, Cao Cao looked despondently to the heavens and said, "It is done, I am beaten! Very well, I shall drink the three cups and move the ten li." So he left the ten and carried this out, while Zhang Fei rejoined his five hundred horsemen to return home.

Meanwhile, Cao Cao's officers obeyed and dismantled the camps without hesitation, but inquired as to what had happened. Cao Cao told them,

"I made the circle to signify how I would surround and destroy Liu Bei, leaving the two gaps for him to flee and be crushed by my reinforcements; but Zhang Fei did show his Cobra Spear, which he would use to cut through my men and get his brother out alive. My three fingers were the three armies I would deploy, but Liu Bei has his Five Tiger Generals to challenge me. All are brave men; and undoubtfully my losses would be great. Finally the thumbs-up was to say that I was the greatest army leader of all, surpassing Sun Zi (writer of the Art of War) in skill, but Zhang Fei said not. How could such a barbarian play so well?"


Zhang Fei was rather pleased with himself, and so returned to his brother; all were pleased to hear that Cao Cao had retreated ten li. Liu Bei and Zhuge Liang both asked how he had managed this. He said, "He wanted to give me a big round pie, but I wanted noodles. He would give me three bowls, but I wanted five. Lastly he said my eating ability was the finest in the world, but better I be known for fighting prowess than eating prowess, so I declined the honor. How easy this game was!"

Liu Bei and Zhuge Liang smiled and patted Zhang Fei on the back, but behind it gave each other dumb looks. That probably wasn't what Cao Cao meant …

*fin* -- please review!