Skep's Place


Chapter 17: Scapegoat the Grain Guy

So Yuan Shu is emperor now. At least he thinks he is, anyway. Makes a case for it and all. Tries to promote a guy to lead his armies, but the guy declines the promotion, so Yuan Shu has him executed, as you do when you're calling yourself emperor.

And Yuan Shu is just getting everything he wants, because as of the last chapter, Liu Bei and Lu Bu aren't friends anymore. This means he's now free to attack Lu Bu for going back on that marriage alliance thing. And that's what he does.

"Wait," says Lu Bu "wasn't Chen Deng's father the old man who persuaded me to recall the bridal carriage last chapter? Yeah, real great call. Let's kill them both."

"Okay, okay, we could do that," replies Chen Deng (who, recall, is Cao Cao's new mole in Lu Bu's faction, but in this moment is mostly just trying to save his own neck). "Or, I know for a fact that two of Yuan Shu's top generals used to be part of the imperial army, but got scared away by Cao Cao in that debacle over the emperor that Skep glossed over in Chapter 13. They're not happy under Yuan Shu—no, don't ask how I know that—and they'd turn against him if given half a reason."

Long story short, they do, and Lu Bu sends Yuan Shu's army packing back home. Angered, Yuan Shu decides to try Sun Ce and ask him for some more troops; but Sun Ce's like, uhhh, did you forget about that whole treason thing you're doing? Not only should I not help you right now, I should be attacking you.

Then a message comes in from Cao Cao: "Do you want to attack Yuan Shu together?" So they do, meaning Yuan Shu is facing enemies on two fronts. On top of that, Cao Cao gets Lu Bu and Liu Bei to march against Yuan Shu too.

Basically, Yuan Shu done goofed.

I mean, in fairness, he did what Cao Cao WANTED to do. It's just that Cao Cao wasn't dumb enough to actually DO it.

Oh, here's a Cao Cao goatee moment: His troops are sieging Yuan Shu's capital, but it's taking forever and the crops are still bad, so his army is running out of grain. So Cao Cao tells the guy in charge of the grain, hey, cut rations. The grain guy responds, they ain't gonna like it; but Cao Cao says, that's okay, I have a plan for that.

As expected, the soldiers don't like it. So Cao Cao has the grain guy executed, claiming that he was cutting rations and stealing the grain. And thus with the "culprit" dealt with, the troops' morale goes up. Real dick move. Which, now that I think of it, real short-term solution too, because it's not like that grain is magically coming back. Won't the soldiers notice they're still starving?

Anyway, Yuan Shu is displaced from his capital, but Cao Cao is alerted that Zhang Xiu (the guy whose aunt Cao Cao Did the Dew with) has teamed up with Liu Biao (the guy whose army killed Sun Ce's father Sun Jian) to attack him again. Cao Cao re-directs his army, but we're getting toward harvest season, and the peasants are worried that the troops are going to ruin the crop, because that's one of the things soldiers are really good at doing. But that's okay; Cao Cao mandates that anybody who so much as looks at the crop the wrong way be executed.

Naturally, his own horse spooks and tramples some wheat.

Cao Cao's like, well, fair's fair, I guess I need to execute myself then. But everyone else makes excuses why the rule doesn't apply to him in particular. So Cao Cao says, well, okay, I guess if you say it's okay I won't execute myself. Twist my arm.

Then he cuts off some of his hair instead so he can show the troops he was properly punished. Because that's how you maintain discipline.

...It seems like a cop-out.

This might not be one of those stories that translates to a western audience very well. The soldiers buy it though, I guess.

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