Skep's Place


Chapter 18: Loyalty and Emo

Zhang Xiu has an advisor named Jia Xu (who, for the record, was responsible for the attack that killed Dian Wei). This guy spends the first half of the chapter absolutely dunking on Cao Cao.

For example, at one point, Cao Cao has Zhang Xiu under seige. Jia Xu notices Cao Cao inspecting the city and setting up offenses on the northwest side. Jia Xu reasons that Cao Cao has seen the weak point in the southeast wall and is trying a misdirect, so he places an ambush in that part of the city. It works; Cao Cao attacks from the southeast, triggering the ambush, and is ultimately routed.

In his retreat, Cao Cao gets hemmed in by Zhang Xiu and Liu Biao on either side, but he still manages to ambush and defeat them. The book is a little vague on how this actually worked.

Then Cao Cao gets urgent word that Yuan Shao is marching on his capital out of nowhere, so he's gotta hustle back home. Zhang Xiu says "hey, let's hit Cao Cao in the back while he's retreating! That's a good strategy!" and Jia Xu says "don't do that you idiot, you're gonna lose if you do that." But Zhang Xiu does it anyway and predictably loses. So he gets back and is like, "Man, you were right, we got our asses handed to us."

To which Jia Xu replies, "Hey, if you go attack them now, you'll win this time."

Zhang Xiu totally doesn't buy this, but he does it anyway and hustles back with his injured troops and actually does win this time. Jia Xu shrugs and says, "Yeah, Cao Cao was only going to expect one attack on his rear, so he only planned for one. That's why the second attack worked but the first one didn't."

Nothing ever really comes of that victory though because Cao Cao is still marching to war, and Zhang Xiu and Liu Biao get tied up thanks to Sun Ce helping Cao Cao by harassing them a bit.

Anyway Cao Cao gets back to fend off Yuan Shao, only to be informed that, actually, Yuan Shao isn't attacking, but is asking permission to attack Gongsun Zan. Possibly because Yuan Shao got cold feet when Cao Cao showed up at home so quickly, and subsequently threw together a hasty Plan B. But either way Cao Cao figures, "Gongsun Zan? Man, we ain't even seen that guy in like ten chapters, go do what you want to him."

With that taken care of, Cao Cao decides that since he doesn't actually have to worry about Yuan Shao (and while Zhang Xiu and Liu Biao are still "reeling from their defeat" even though it really seemed like Cao Cao did a lot worse in those battles), it's finally time to get rid of the thorn in everybody's side: Lu Bu.

Cao Cao writes ahead to inform Liu Bei that he's rolling out against Lu Bu, but Chen Gong intercepts the messenger. Lu Bu is OUTRAGED because aren't we supposed to be friends with Cao Cao? Didn't we just fight Yuan Shu together?

And he sallies some armies out to go do... things. One of them sieges Liu Bei; I dunno what the others are up to.

Anyway one of Lu Bu's officers, Zhang Liao, is part of the siege; he's at the gate Guan Yu is guarding. Guan Yu yells down at him, "Hey! A guy as strong and worthy and pretty as you shouldn't be serving an idiot like Lu Bu!" Zhang Liao gets a little emo at this and pulls back because he's aware that he's serving the wrong master, but he's also too loyal to do anything about it. This is foreshadowing I'm doing right now. But Zhang Liao then goes to attack Zhang Fei's gate instead because there's less emotional turmoil over on that side.

However, Zhang Liao's siege is ultimately lifted when Cao Cao's vanguard arrives, led by an officer named Xiahou Dun. This guy is ALWAYS leading Cao Cao's vanguard. Which is, like, the most dangerous place to be; basically your job is to run in and die before everybody else on your team gets a chance to. But this is just what Xiahou Dun does.

Xiahou Dun duels one of Lu Bu's guys for a little bit, but the guy starts fleeing back to his side, and Xiahou Dun gives chase... when another of Lu Bu's guys does a dirty and shoots an arrow at Xiahou Dun. Hits him square in the eye.

And right there in front of the enemy line, Xiahou Dun exhibits about the most extreme form of familial piety that anybody's ever seen. He figures, "my parents gave me this eye! I can't just get rid of it like this!"

So he pulls his eye out and eats it.

And then for good measure he runs up to the guy that shot him and spears him in the face. This is doubly impressive if you consider that Xiahou Dun also just lost his depth perception.

Cao Cao's army still somehow loses the fight despite all this. I don't know how. Maybe after the eye incident Xiahou Dun thought Lu Bu only had half the troops.

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