Thus relieved Cao Cao set off for the east gate. Then he fell in with Dian Wei, who took him under his protection and fought through the press, leaving a trail of death behind till they reached the gate. Here the fire was raging fiercely, and burning beams were falling on all sides. The earth element seemed to have interchanged with the fire element.

Dian Wei warded off the burning pieces of wood with his lance and rode into the smoke making a way for his lord. Just as they were passing through the gate a flaming beam fell from the gate tower. Cao Cao just warded it off with his arm,

but it struck his steed on the quarters and knocked the steed down. Cao Cao’s hand and arm were badly burned and his hair and beard singed. Dian Wei turned back to his rescue. Luckily Xiahou Yuan came along just then, and the two raised Cao Cao and set him on Xiahou Yuan’s horse. And thus they got him out of the burning city.

But they had to go through heavy fighting till daybreak.

Cao Cao returned to his camp. His officers crowded about his tent, anxious for news of his health. He soon recovered and laughed when he thought of his escape.

“I blundered into that fool’s trap, but I will have my revenge,” said he.

  “Let us have a new plan soon,” said Guo Jia.

  “I will turn his trick to my own use. I will spread the false report that I was burned in the fire, and that I died at the fifth watch. He will come to attack as soon as the news gets abroad, and I will have an ambush ready for him in Maling Hills. I will get him this time.”

  “Really a fine stratagem!” said Guo Jia.

  So the soldiers were put into mourning, and the report went everywhere that Cao Cao was dead. And soon Lu Bu heard it, and he assembled his army at once to make a surprise attack, taking the road by the Maling Hills to his enemy’s camp.

As he was passing the hills,

he heard the drums beating for an advance, and the ambushing soldiers leapt out all round him. Only by desperate fighting did he get out of the melee and with a

sadly diminished force

returned to his camp at Puyang.

There he strengthened the fortifications and

could not be tempted forth to battle.

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