Skep's Place


Chapter 67: Sun Quan Gets Jing Back. Kinda. Ish.

Cao Cao finally decides to take Zhang Lu's territory. This isn't very interesting and I'm going to gloss over it, but it does mean he now shares a border with the Riverlands. He also picks up Pang De, who used to work for Ma Chao. He will do exactly one semi-noteworthy thing later, so you don't particularly need to remember him.

We also meet Cao Cao's secretary Sima Yi for the first time, who gets zero introduction for how damn important he's going to be later.

We've had long introductions for characters who only survive half a chapter. We just had a poem for some guy that wasn't in the book. This is legitimately stupid.

The stragecially-minded Sima Yi does suggest rolling forward and attacking Liu Bei before he really gets a chance to establish himself in the Riverlands, but Cao Cao is worried about his own troops being exhausted so he doesn't do that. But word gets to Liu Bei that Cao Cao was at least considering it, and Zhuge Liang enacts a plan to prevent an attack.

Although the book misses the fact that this is a rare Zhuge Liang misstep, because the following events unfold to prevent an invasion that was never actually going to take place.

Anyway Zhuge Liang figures, the best way to get Cao Cao off our back is to give him something else to focus on. So he has Liu Bei call up Sun Quan and be like, hey, sorry there was a miscommunication last chapter and we didn't give you Jing back, I'm sure it was just poor timing. Anyway, those three districts we said we'd hand over? We're ready to do that now. Maybe in return, you could consider moving against Cao Cao, perhaps?

Thus, the three southeastern-most districts of Jing change hands, and Sun Quan pulls his forces to march north against Hefei. He scores an early victory, particularly thanks to Gan Ning, who scaled a city wall, swung an iron chain around, deflected some arrows, beat people with the chain, and in general was just a huge badass.

Sun Quan throws a banquet to honor him, but he made the mistake of inviting Ling Tong, who's like, what the actual shit, they're honoring the guy who killed my father. Guess I have no choice but to try one of those sword dance assassinations that never work because they make everybody immediately suspicious.

Gan Ning is immediately suspicious at the sword dance, and he actually joins the dance to defend himself. The two of them flail around spectacularly for a bit—pretty much what you'd get from a jedi duel in a Star Wars prequel movie—until Lu Meng gets a little too drunkenly excited and jumps in between them doing the Macarena. Forcing Skep to make two pop culture references in a row effectively kills the mood, and everybody sits down.

That's the last of the fun Sun Quan's forces get to have though, because the next day Zhang Liao—the guy who used to work for Lu Bu—decides to surprise them with an attack before they can siege Hefei. After Sun Quan's army makes it across a bridge, he and Li Dian sneak troops behind Sun Quan and destroy it. Then Yue Jin attacks Sun Quan from the front, effectively trapping his forces, giving them nowhere to run.

However, Sun Quan's officers heroically cut a path through Zhang Liao's men, giving Sun Quan enough clearance to jump his horse over a ten-foot gap in the broken bridge, escaping to safety on the other side.

The rest of his forces need an emergency naval retreat, and the resulting flight is not pretty. Zhang Liao clearly wins the day; Sun Quan suffers heavy losses, effectively stalling his attack on Hefei for a while.

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