Skep's Place


Chapter 36: Letters to Old Ladies

Cao Ren decides he's going to take a crack at Liu Bei now. He orders his army out, and even sends Liu Bei a letter bragging about the formation he's set up. Shan Fu looks at the formation and identifies it as the "Eight Gates of Impregnable Positions". I have no idea what the hell this means or what it looks like, because the book doesn't describe it whatsoever. The only hints I have to work with are that there's "gates" between the troop units, and a "central pillar" that Shan Fu says isn't set up right anyway.

So here's the really dumb shit with this formation: each gate has a name. Three of them are nice names. Shan Fu says if Liu Bei attacks through one of those, he'll do well; otherwise it's bad news.

So, uhhhhhh...

Basically, you put all this effort into organizing your men into a formation that the enemy straight-up has a 37% chance of randomly guessing the right gate and destroying your army. And that's assuming they don't have anybody on their side who knows what the trick is.

This might be the stupidest strategy I've ever heard. Seriously, there were like a dozen times in the earlier chapters where Lu Bu ignored Chen Gong's good advice. This is stupider than all those times.

You're attacking your enemy with a goddamn puzzle! "Hoohoo, you'll have to solve my riddle if you want to win this battle!" And you have to bloody hope that the other side hasn't heard this particular riddle before! Honestly you'd be better off telling them to put together a thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle before you march in, at least then it would tie them up for a few minutes!

Ugh. Anyway Shan Fu knows the trick, so Zhao Yun does the puzzle and utterly destroys Cao Ren's army. Seriously stupid.

(I'm aware this military formation was an invention of the author, which ultimately means this is just bad writing.)

Cao Ren runs home to Cao Cao crying that Liu Bei has a strategist now, and that his name is Shan Fu. Cao Cao's advisor Cheng Yu is like, oh, that guy? He went into hiding after he killed a guy who totally deserved it and then changed his name; his name is really Xu Shu.

And Skep is over here feeling like an idiot because he forgot that part about the fake name, and is reading through being like, why is this random-ass guy doing all the things I thought Xu Shu did?

Cao Cao asks how smart Xu Shu is, and Cheng Yu replies, oh, he's ten times smarter than me. Which must be true because Cheng Yu then helps Cao Cao poach Xu Shu over to his side, even though there's no guarantee Cao Cao won't just turn around and give Cheng Yu's job to Xu Shu.

Cheng Yu asks Cao Cao call in Xu Shu's mother, figuring that she could probably pursuade her son to go work for whoever. When she shows up, Cao Cao tells her that her son should be serving him, and not that rascally nobody named Liu Bei. But Mrs. Xu actually likes Liu Bei, so she cusses out Cao Cao and hits him with her purse.

So since Mrs. Xu isn't on board, Cheng Yu switches to Plan B: he starts writing letters to Mrs. Xu—presumably very steamy, sensual letters—exchanging enough to be able to forge her handwriting. Then, he fakes a letter to Xu Shu implying that she's effectively being held hostage, and the only way her safety can be guaranteed is if Xu Shu works for Cao Cao.

Like a good son, Xu Shu decides to switch teams, but he doesn't leave Liu Bei totally hanging. He knows where to find somebody better. In fact, this somebody is Sleeping Dragon that the recluse mentioned last chapter.

This man's name is Zhuge Liang, and he is the biggest troll China has ever known.

But Liu Bei will have to go visit this guy himself. He does not come to you.

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