Skep's Place


Chapter 45 / Red Cliffs Part 3: The Opening Plays

Zhuge Jin reports his failure back to Zhuo Yu, who's like, okay, Zhuge Liang is really too clever and it's dangerous to let him live. But Zhuo Yu's hands are as tied as Cao Cao's were with Liu Bei earlier in the book; he needs to find some way to orchestrate Zhuge Liang's death organically so he can't be held to blame.

So he tells Zhuge Liang, hey, here's a meager amount of troops, go cut Cao Cao's supply lines. However, Zhuge Liang doesn't bat an eye at this ludicrous ask. He's just like, okay sure.

Lu Su goes to see Zhuge Liang, because Zhuo Yu told him the scheme; but Lu Su actually likes Zhuge Liang, so he wants to find out what his plan is. Zhuge Liang tells him, eh, I'll be fine. Unlike the people in the Southland, I've actually mastered all forms of military engagement.

Lu Su asks him what the hell that's supposed to mean.

Zhuge Liang says, oh, I heard a kids' rhyme. You know how kids make up songs about the competencies of their military commanders? That totally believable thing they do? The song basically says that you're only useful setting up an ambush, and Zhuo Yu is only good at naval battles but is rubbish fighting on land.

Lu Su tells this to Zhuo Yu, who goes into Hades mode again. He says, forget Zhuge Liang, I'm going to go cut the stupid supply line myself and show those snotty kids.

Lu Su then goes BACK to Zhuge Liang to tell him that Zhuo Yu is going to lead the mission instead. To this, Zhuge Liang responds, JESUS CHRIST TELL HIM TO STOP; Cao Cao's been cutting supply lines this whole book, you think he's not going to defend himself against that trick?!

So Zhuo Yu doesn't go, but once again he's been outwitted. Although now that I think about it, it sounds like Zhuge Liang didn't actually expect Zhuo Yu to do it, so... what was his endgame, exactly?

Anyway, it's around this time that Liu Bei starts getting antsy because he hasn't heard from Zhuge Liang yet. He sends a guy to Zhuo Yu asking about him; Zhuo Yu responds, yeah, I'm too busy to come visit, but I'll host you if you want to swing by! Doesn't mention Zhuge Liang at all, which tips off Liu Bei's advisors that something is fishy (because secretly, Zhuo Yu also recognizes that Liu Bei will be a threat someday, but is willing to be a little less subtle about assassination on this one for some reason).

Liu Bei agrees to the visit, but Guan Yu says, at least let me go with you.

And Zhang Fei says, I'll go with you too.

And Liu Bei says, eeehhhh, maybe you stay here Zhang Fei.

Zhuge Liang hears that Liu Bei is meeting with Zhuo Yu for dinner, and he's like, ah. Shit. And the book makes it seem like Zhuge Liang is going to have to think up a quick plan to save Liu Bei from certain stabbing. But instead, he pokes his head into the dinner and sees that Guan Yu came with, and he's like, eh, nobody's going to try anything with Guan Yu around. And they don't. It's very anti-climactic.

But Zhuge Liang does get to have a quick meeting with Liu Bei before he goes back. Zhuge Liang's like, I can't come home right now, but I will need you to swing the car around and pick me up on this exact date. Being all cryptic and shit.

After that, there's a brief naval skirmish against Cao Cao's advance ships. Cai Mao—the guy who was previously Liu Biao's brother-in-law—he's now Cao Cao's naval commander; and being from Jing, which has a decent navy, he knows what he's doing. However, he still gets slapped around by Gan Ning because Cao Cao's northern troops aren't trained in naval warfare; they don't have their sea legs, they can't even stand up straight. So Cao Cao tells Cai Mao to start with the training already.

Meanwhile, a childhood friend of Zhuo Yu's tells Cao Cao he thinks he can sweet talk Zhuo Yu into surrendering. Cao Cao figures, yeah, worth a try, and sends the friend off.

Zhuo Yu hosts him honorably as though nothing in the world is wrong, and there's a lot of drinking. Pretending to be drunk, Zhuo Yu invites the friend to a sleepover at his place that night. Then Zhuo Yu goes home, vomits, and passes out in his clothes (...still pretending to be drunk, supposedly?).

The friend can't sleep, so he instead does some spy nonsense and rummages around Zhuo Yu's desk, where he finds a letter from a disloyal Cai Mao promising to bring Cao Cao's head to Zhuo Yu. The next day, his suspicions are confirmed when a guard stops by to announce a messenger from Cai Mao, and a possibly-hungover Zhuo Yu tells him to shut up and keep his voice down about Cai Mao.

Making up a quick excuse for getting out of there, the friend goes home and shows Cao Cao the letter... and a very confused Cai Mao is very promptly executed.

Yeah, it was all a fake. Which Cao Cao realizes, like, two seconds after Cai Mao's head rolls away; and then at that point he can't say anything without looking like an idiot.

So that's how Zhuo Yu got Cao Cao's naval commander killed. And now there isn't anybody good around to train Cao Cao's troops to fight on boats.

I sure hope that doesn't cause a problem for him later.

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