Skep's Place


Chapter 72: Put Away the Damn Label Maker

At this point, Liu Bei and Cao Cao are personally leading their armies against each other. Well, I say that; Liu Bei is technically leading the Shu army, but Zhuge Liang is doing all the tactical work.

Cao Cao is understandably very wary about this, seeing as Zhuge Liang orchestrated some of his most crushing defeats; and Zhuge Liang knows this, so he's pretty much just playing mind games and toying with Cao Cao.

For instance, Zhuge Liang places decoy troops at random points all over the mountains, then repeatedly sounds the bombards that normally signal the launch of an attack, except he never actually attacks. This drives Cao Cao mad, and when the attack finally does happen, he has no way of knowing if it's real or even where it's coming from. So he suffers another loss.

Afterwards, back at camp, Cao Cao is debating whether to go home or not, during which he mutters to himself about chicken ribs in his soup. One of his advisors hears this and determines, ah, guess we're going home then. So everybody follows his example and starts packing up.

Then Cao Cao walks in on Xiahou Dun stuffing his armor in his bag and is like, uhh, whaaat the shiiit are you doing buddy.

The advisor actually justifies his reasoning for believing Cao Cao was going to withdraw, too. Well, kind of. He said that Cao Cao was faced with two bad choices, but he would simply go home because it was the least worst choice. Though I don't really know how the advisor got that from chicken ribs.

Anyway, Cao Cao in turn justifies this undermining of morale as a reason to have this advisor killed. Although Cao Cao already didn't like the guy, he was just looking for a reason.

The book elaborates on this point with a few stories of dubious believability. Like once, Cao Cao made a garden, and wrote "alive" on the gate. The advisor saw it as a riddle like the one Cao Cao solved last chapter, and intuited from the Chinese characters that Cao Cao wanted the gate wider, so he mistakenly had it widened on Cao Cao's behalf. Again, this probably makes sense in Chinese.

Then another time, he handed out everything from Cao Cao's personal chocolate stash because Cao had written "one box cream" on it, and the advisor had interpreted it as "per man, one mouthful cream". In the advisor's defense, Cao Cao needs to stop writing riddles on his shit.

...Also the advisor was helping the son who Cao Cao had disinherited, so that probably had something to do with Cao Cao not liking him too.

Anyway, after Cao Cao has the guy killed, he decides, nah, we're not going home, let's fight.

Then he gets his ass handed to him by Ma Chao anyway.

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