Chapter 35 Continued

Let's pass over Fan Zhongyan and Di Qing and concentrate instead on Wen Yanbo. A native of Fenzhou in the East, he had in his youth led campaigns against incursions into the western regions and he rose in office to prime minister. But because of problems with Xia Song he asked to be relieved of the post and subsequently served as district commandant of Luoyang. He was already seventy-nine years of age but as strong in spirit as his juniors in their twenties and thirties. His orders were sent out overnight and arrived the next morning. Wen Yanbo assembled his district officials of all ranks around him to receive the imperial summons as it arrived in the yamen, and when it had been opened and read all of them bowed in deepest gratitude. After accepting the orders Wen took leave of his family and marched off to the capital. Some time later he arrived in Kaifeng, where officialdom had gathered at the reception hall to welcome him back to the city. Early the next day he had a working meeting with the Emperor. And just what was that morning audience like? Imagine:

Auspicious clouds hide phoenix tower tall
Lucky stars shine down on dragon hall.

Smokey breeze lifts banners of those lords
Sparkling peach blossoms greet their swords.

Onward in great beauty do they tread
Jade pins and pearly shoes climb stairs of red.

As Heaven's fairy melody resounds
They're born upon a sea of finest gowns.

Scenic screens aglow with pearl unfold
In shining palace filled with real gold.

The phoenix fan is suddenly displayed
The Holy one alights on whitest jade.

As three tappings of the cane they barely hear
The men of pen and sword in ranks appear.

"Wang Ze has risen in rebellion in Beizhou, Hebei Province," began the Son of Heaven. "I now promote you to the rank of Marshall and entrust you to recover the region and punish the sorcerer bandits. How many men and horses will you need, and how many generals under your command? It shall all be provided as you see fit."

"I've heard that Wang Ze's entire inner circle is made up of sorcerers, so if our numbers are small I'm afraid we will not prevail. I'll need to have one vice commander and 100,000 troops and horses in order to deal with that enemy."

The men and horses will be provided accordingly," replied Renzong. "But I still don't know whom you propose I appoint as your second in command."

"Your servant requests Cao Wei as my general."

Isn't he the grandson of Cao Bin, the most effective man we've ever had in the South, the one granted a title?"

"Indeed he is, Your Majesty."

As Renzong listened his dragon's countenance showed its pleasure and he summoned Cao Wei to immediately present himself for assignment. Right there in court he proclaimed Wen Yanbo Viceroy for Suppression of the Rebellion, and Cao Wei Deputy Viceroy. A sufficient amount of funds was set aside in the treasury, with the three armies to be adequately compensated and provided for. The two commanders thanked the Emperor and left the court, proceeding to their respective regiments to inspect the troops and issue horses. Privy Councillor Bao Zheng stopped by, providing wine for a proper send-off.

"Your Excellency," said Bao ever so warmly to Viceroy Wen, "this undertaking has all the makings of a big success. But one thing to remember is that the rebels have got a sorcerer called Bonze Dan with all sorts of marvelous conjury up his sleeves. I'm sure the Viceroy will be able to take the needed steps to deal with him."

"Thanks for the advice and encouragement!" replied Viceroy Wen. The men drank the customary three cups to the venture and Bao Zheng went his separate way. Wen Yanbo left the capital that very day and started down the road, crossing the Yellow River and marching straight into Hebei, arriving in Yizhou where his cavalry encamped. Truly:

They dreamt of gaining titles for their doing something great
Each man thinking just of fighting rebels for the state.

How Viceroy Wen will fare in his attack upon Beizhou, read on and in the coming chapter you will shortly know.

Click to continue to Chapter 36, Table of Contents