Skep's Place


Chapter 5: Starve Your Allies

Cao Cao, having escaped his botched assassination attempt, takes his next step in getting rid of the tyrant Dong Zhuo: he writes letters. This sounds silly, but he gets 17 other provincial governors to march on the capital with him, all bringing troops, which they have now thanks to the Yellow Turbans.

Yuan Shao is here, as is Sun Jian—we haven't seen him in a couple chapters, but he is one of our protagonists. He helped Liu Bei retake that one city occupied by Yellow Turbans. Speaking of which, Liu Bei and company are here too, but he's a lowly district magistrate, so he's here serving under governor Gongsun Zan.

The governors elect Yuan Shao to lead the war party. There's a note from the translator saying he was only chosen because his family served in the upper echelons of the imperial court for four generations... but like, he was a commander in the Han army. .Everybody else besides Cao Cao is just a governor as far as we know. If lineage was the only factor, then they could have picked his brother Yuan Shu, who is one of the governors showing up to this little rebellion. Yeah, not even the translator is safe from my abuse here.

Petty asshole.

Anyway, they all march toward the capital, Luoyang. News gets back to Dong Zhuo, and he wants to send out Lu Bu. Which is what you do if you have a Lu Bu. But then this other warrior named Hua Xiong steps in, and he says, "Why use an ox cleaver to kill a chicken? Send me instead."


What the hell is his boast supposed to be here?

Like, I think the point he's trying to make is that Lu Bu is TOO powerful. It's overkill. But if I'm a tyrant who wants to put down this big rebellion, overkill sounds like a GREAT option! The best option!

Is Dong Zhuo the boss of a video game, he has to send all his weakest goons out first, instead of sending out the strong guys and wrecking face while the player is still level 1?

"Send me to do it, I'm almost as good!" Goddamn ridiculous.

Anyway Dong Zhuo actually likes this boast, so Hua Xiong is sent to guard the first pass.

Sun Jian is in the vanguard for this operation, and he scores an early victory before setting up camp, at which point he requests that Yuan Shu, who is in charge of supplies, send him some food. And in the freaking pettiest move ever, Yuan Shu is like, well, Sun Jian is going to win a lot of glory in the vanguard, so I just won't send him any food so he can't. So Hua Xiong attacks Sun Jian's starving troops, and the only reason Sun Jian escapes being chased down is because he gives his iconic red hood to one of his commanders, who is killed instead. If there's a hero of that story, I don't know who it is

Anyway Hua Xiong is looking for a duel. The coalition tries sending out a couple guys to challenge him, but they keep getting killed in increasingly brief clashes. It's kind of becoming a problem.

Guan Yu steps forward and says, I can do it.

Yuan Shu is SO against this, because Guan Yu's rank is basically "archer". He's nobody. He shouldn't even BE in this tent. But Cao Cao sees that Guan Yu is dripping with main character energy, so he figures, what's the harm in letting him try? He pours a cup of warm wine for Guan Yu, who waves it off, saying "save it for when I get back."

Bastard gets back so quickly with Hua Xiong's head that the wine hasn't even had time to cool yet. And even then Yuan Shu can't read the goddamn room; he says not to celebrate Guan Yu because he's a commoner. There's supposedly cracks starting to form in the coalition here, but if you ask me it's just Yuan Shu being an insufferable twat.

So with Hua Xiong dead, Dong Zhuo decides it's time to try Lu Bu after all.

Pretty much starts as normal where a couple redshirts take him on and don't fare very well. Then Gongsun Zan steps up and figures he'll have a go, which, good on him really. We don't believe in you because we barely know who you are, but at least you showed up today. Gongsun Zan is the recipient of my "you tried" prize in this book.

No surprise though that he can't handle Lu Bu either, so he turns and runs. Lu Bu tries to chase him down, which you think he'd be able to do, since he's riding Red Hare—the fastest horse in the land—but I guess not.

This is when Zhang Fei is like "Guan Yu got to do his cool thing, I want to do mine now!" and just charges in. Consults nobody, probably because he doesn't want to put up with Yuan Shu being a twat I guess. I mean, he ends up doing okay, but Zhang Fei only gets one cool moment in this entire story, and this isn't it.

He can't defeat Lu Bu, but he holds his own for quite a while, which is actually impressive compared to literally everybody else who tried. But eventually Guan Yu figures this is taking too long, and he goes in to help break the stalemate.

They fight two-on-one for just as long, and still neither side can crack the other. So Liu Bei figures, screw it, and he charges in too, making it three-on-one.

They still can't bring Lu Bu down. In fact, the only reason the fight ends is because Lu Bu gets tired.

I think in most variations on the story, Lu Bu makes a feint to score an opening and flees. But in my favorite rendition, which was a webcomic I enjoyed circa 2005, Red Hare socks Liu Bei in the face.

And was also a giant rabbit rather than a horse.

A comic depicting Liu Bei getting punched by a large red rabbit

Full webcomic on the Internet Archive

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