Skep's Place


Chapter 20: The Emperor's First Hunt

With Lu Bu gone, all the people of Xuzhou ask Cao Cao if Liu Bei can be in charge of it again. Cao Cao goes, "Weeellll, he really ought to come back to the capital to meet the emperor first. Then we'll see."

Of course Liu Bei ain't getting his land back; Cao Cao knows better than to let Liu Bei loose like that. Still doesn't have a legitimate reason to kill him, though, so they go back to the capital and Liu Bei gets to meet the emperor.

The guy in charge of genealogy goes through his records on the Liu family and confirms "Yep, this guy is your twelfth cousin or something." So Liu Bei is hailed as the Imperial Uncle and is basically treated like family. It's kinda got that same vibe as how Fry and Professor Farnsworth are related in Futurama.

Not that it matters much because Cao Cao has pretty much stolen all of the emperor's power and is being kind of a clown about it. For example, he has one guy arrested because he went to high school with Yuan Shu or something. Then another courtier says, "Cao Cao, you're arresting people indiscriminately!" And then Cao Cao has that guy arrested too.

I'm going to break here to interject a FUN FACT: In English we have a saying that goes "speak of the devil". There is a very similar Chinese saying that goes "Speak of Cao Cao and Cao Cao will appear." I'm not making this up.

So Cao Cao is starting to think maybe he should be emperor. But it went pretty badly for Yuan Shu, so he needs to kind of test the water a bit.

First, he "invites" the emperor for a hunt. And by that I mean he makes the emperor hold one. While everyone's out hunting, the emperor sees a deer, but misses three shots, probably because everybody's been too busy warring with each other to take him out hunting before.

The emperor tells Cao Cao to make the shot, but Cao Cao takes the emperor's bow to do it. It's very important to specify that it is the emperor's bow. And the emperor's arrows

Cao Cao kills the deer, but nobody sees it; they just see the emperor's arrow sticking out of it. So they're shouting congrats, long live the emperor, things like that; and Cao Cao does his little Miss America wave and the crying thank yous and all that. And things get real awkward.

So Cao Cao decides not to be emperor right now.

But the emperor is very sad about Cao Cao's behavior; he's not much better than Dong Zhuo, and maybe somebody should do something about him.

The emperor calls in Dong Cheng, a guy who helped him escape during the whole Chapter 13 mess. He gives Dong Cheng a new coat and a belt with a secret edict sewn into the lining, and tells him it's time to take out Cao Cao.

Who does Dong Cheng happen to run into on the way home but Cao Cao, who says, "Hey, that's a nice coat and belt. I should have it."

Dong Cheng goes, "But the emperor gave it to me. It wouldn't be right."

"Is that so?" asks Cao Cao. "The belt wouldn't, say, have an edict sewn into it calling for my deposal or anything, would it?"

Dong Cheng says "Goodness, no! I guess if you want it that bad you can keep it." But Cao Cao goes "haha just kidding I don't actually want that ugly thing."

So Dong Cheng goes home and reads the edict and decides he needs to put a team together to kill Cao Cao. He finds a couple guys around the capital that are real pissed about that hunt incident (this takes forever because every single time we need to do a distrustful back-and-forth trying to gauge each other's intentions until everybody figures out that we're not all sympathetic to Cao Cao). In addition to a bunch of nobodies, Dong Cheng also recruits Ma Teng, the governor from the northwest who led a short-lived attack against Dong Zhuo's rebel generals way back in Chapter 10.

With the team assembled, everybody all signs their names together on a piece of paper pledging to kill Cao Cao.

Which, boy. I sure hope Cao Cao doesn't live and see that.

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