Skep's Place


Chapter 65: The Heroic Betrayal Pays Off

Ma Chao marches on Liu Bei from the mountain pass, effectively pinning him in place against Liu Zhang's capital, Chengdu. So that's bad.

Zhuge Liang needs Zhang Fei to go fight him. However, instead of saying, "Hey, you wanna go fight?"—which would probably work, this is Zhang Fei we're talking about—he instead says, "Well shit, nobody could beat Ma Chao except for Guan Yu. I wish I'd brought him with me."

Zhang Fei, determined to prove Zhuge Liang wrong, rides out and challenges Ma Chao, and the two do a LOT of dueling. We're talking over the span of multiple days (and in one case, in the middle of the night), to the point where Zhuge Liang begins to wonder if it would have been faster just to call Guan Yu out here to do it. Neither man can prevail, and neither will back down.

Eventually, Liu Bei starts to think that somebody might get hurt here if they keep duelling like this.

Tommy Lee Jones giving the camera a look

So Zhuge Liang has Liu Bei bribe one of Zhang Lu's advisors, who convinces Lu that if Ma Chao is withdrawn and the Riverlands are taken, Liu Bei will give Zhang Lu a kingship basically for free. Of course this sounds like a really good deal, so the order is given.

Ma Chao, however, at least wants to see this thing through with Zhang Fei before he goes home, so he refuses the order. The advisor then tells Zhang Lu, oh, that's a clear sign that he's planning to revolt against you. Zhang Lu gets fed up and issues an ultimatum which would be near-impossible to complete: Ma Chao has one month to take the Riverlands, kill Liu Zhang, and convince Liu Bei to go back to Jing, or he's going to be put to death.

Ma Chao is feeling understandably overwhelmed about this when he receives a messenger from Liu Bei. The messenger says, you're in a bit of a pickle here, aren't you? Look at it this way: You hate Cao Cao because he killed your father. Liu Bei is also fighting against Cao Cao. I mean, really, your father had originally conspired WITH Liu Bei to kill Cao Cao! Maybe the best thing to do is to work for him?

Seeing it as his best choice, Ma Chao flips sides. For his first act under Liu Bei, he pays a visit to Liu Zhang, telling him, hey, that army Zhang Lu sent to help you out? Yeah, it's fighting against you now too. Might be time to give it up then.

Liu Zhang sees the wisdom of this and hands the Riverlands over to Liu Bei.

Liu Bei basically says, wow, that's very generous. But you understand that this needed to be done, right, for the good of China? So no hard feelings? I hope we can stay friends. Also I'm going to need you to move your entire estate over to Jing because I want to govern over here, okay thanks.

Everybody gets promotions and riches, including Guan Yu, even though he didn't participate. Then Liu Bei wants to give some nice free land to his cronies, but Zhao Yun has to step in and say, wait, aren't you the good guy? You should give it to the people. And Liu Bei's like, ah, yeah, the common people, I forgot all about them.

Our hero.

Also, Zhuge Liang reinstates corporal punishment. I don't know what you'd call whatever they had before, but... okay.

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