Skep's Place


Chapter 56: Bullseyes for Everybody

Sun Quan wants to attack Liu Bei after his escape, but is ultimately dissuaded after being reminded that Cao Cao is only being held at bay by the Sun-Liu alliance. Instead, he sends an envoy to Cao Cao to recommend officially instating Liu Bei in Jing, to both placate Liu Bei and convince Cao Cao that everything's totally cool between them, even though it definitely isn't.

But it turns out that Cao Cao isn't even watching what's going on down south, because he's out of the office, getting drunk and having a big party. During this party, he decides he needs to have games of combat prowess, because everybody loves an unnecessary break in plot. Thankfully, if there's a chariot race at all, this book is smart enough not to mention it.

Instead, the biggest focus is an archery contest, which starts with the first contestant shooting a bullseye, and then three more contestants shooting bullseyes, and grows progressively sillier after that until they're practically shooting bullseyes on the moon. Like all good archery contents, it eventually devolves into a wrestling match.

There is also a poetry slam, which mercifully gets glossed over. Unlike all good poetry slams, it does not devolve into a wrestling match.

When Cao Cao finally gets around to meeting Sun Quan's envoy, he figures out what the game is; and instead of offically acknowledging Liu Bei as protector of Jing, he assigns Zhuo Yu as governor of one of its counties, hoping it will give Sun Quan added incentive to attack Liu Bei.

This kind of works, although instead of immediately launching an attack, Sun Quan decides he's first going to try sending Lu Su back over to persuade them to cede Jing, because that's gone well for Lu Su the other dozen times he's tried.

When Lu Su mentions to Liu Bei the fact that he's not actually attacking the Riverlands like he kinda implied he would, Liu Bei breaks out into tears. Of course, Zhuge Liang told him to do this; and while Liu Bei is fake-sobbing in the background, Zhuge Liang tells Lu Su that Liu Bei just doesn't know how he can decide between the shame of declaring war on an imperial kinsman—Liu Zhang, who governs the Riverlands—and not fulfilling his obligation to Sun Quan, who is now his brother-in-law. Surely Sun Quan would understand this dilemma and show a bit more patience, at least.

Lu Su buys this and returns to the Southlands, but stops in to see Zhuo Yu on his way back to Sun Quan. Zhuo Yu is like, you dolt, Liu Bei doesn't feel shit about attacking the Riverlands because he wasn't bothered about it at all back when he told us that's what he needed Jing in order to do. However, I have a plan to save you from your own stupidity. Sail back to Liu Bei and tell him Sun Quan says that we'll take the Riverlands and give it to them as a sort of dowry for the wedding—which I am still incredibly bitter about, because seriously, we suck so bad that we managed to lose a wedding. Anyway, when you propose this to Liu Bei, tell him that we'll need him to cough up some gold and grain in exchange for doing all the work for him, and that we'll collect it when we pass through. But really, when he comes out of the city to say hi, we'll just stab him and take Jing.

Once again, Lu Su returns to Liu Bei to tell him about Sun Quan's generous proposal. However, Zhuge Liang tells Liu Bei, hell, there's no way Lu Su made it all the way to Sun Quan and back again so soon. The little stinker cooked something up with Zhuo Yu instead. Just go along with it for now.

As planned, Zhuo Yu rolls the army into Jing, pretending to just be passing through per their agreement. But when he rolls up to the capital, expecting Liu Bei to come out to pay him, he finds that all the gates are closed, and Zhao Yun is guarding the wall instead.

Stymied, Zhuo Yu turns around, just to find four of Liu Bei's armies have boxed him in against the city wall.

Once again finding himself outplayed, Zhuo Yu's wound reopens for the final time.

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