Skep's Place


Chapter 85: The Five-Army Problem

Thoroughly defeated, Liu Bei is too embarrassed to return to the capital, so he just hangs out in eastern Shu for a while.

Meanwhile, Cao Pi's advisors try to dissuade him from launching his invasion of Wu, but he does it anyway. His three armies end up getting mangled by the Wu troops, who are still in soaring spirits following their huge victory against Shu.

Also, a little notification pops up in the corner of Cao Pi's screen that says "Wu will remember this...". Which, like, fair enough, you declare your vassalage to the guy and he turns around and attacks you. You'd be pissed too.

Anyway, a year or so passes, and Liu Bei decides he's too sick to live anymore. He calls in Zhuge Liang and all his other officials and it's very sad. He tells Zhuge Liang, hey listen, my son Liu Shan is really just a huge disappointment, I'm going to need you to do everything for him. Really, if you want to usurp him, I'm good with it. But Zhuge Liang is too loyal for that.

Then he asks Zhuge Liang, hey, what do you think of this guy Ma Su who I'm almost definitely sure the book has mentioned before this moment?

Zhuge Liang says, oh, he's brilliant.

Liu Bei responds, nah, he sucks, don't let him do anything important. And then Liu Bei dies.

Thus passes our so-called hero. But Liu Shan is actually as disappointing as promised, so the Shu narrative will pretty much shift to Zhuge Liang from here on.

Cao Pi gets word that Liu Bei has died, and he's like, fantastic, let's attack while they lack leadership. And his advisors tell him, no way, you know he put Zhuge Liang in charge of everything, it'll be a disaster for us.

But ONE BRAVE MAN steps forward with a foolproof plan to conquer Shu.

This is Sima Yi. He does not fear Zhuge Liang.


He says, hey, we send some messages around, we can get five armies to attack Shu from five different directions. Zhuge Liang cannot possibly defend that many fronts at once.

Cao Pi loves this, and has messengers dispatched. So here's the lineup:

  1. The Qiang tribes in the northwest
  2. The Man tribes to Shu's direct south
  3. One of Liu Bei's guys who defected to Wei after stiffing Guan Yu on reinforcements, attacking from the north
  4. Wei's main army, hitting the northeast via Jing
  5. Sun Quan and the Southland, coming in from the east

Eventually Liu Shan gets word that five armies are all coming in at once from different directions. He panics and orders Zhuge Liang be informed; but he's told, "Actually, we've been trying him the past couple days. He won't answer our texts."

After a couple more days of anxious waiting around while Zhuge Liang claims illness, Liu Shan needs a plan, and barges into Zhuge Liang's house. The strategist is just standing there, staring at a fish pond.

Liu Shan tells him, hey, I don't know what the deal is with you, but this is legitimately a crisis over here.

And Zhuge Liang says, ah. Actually, I've sorted it out already, we're completely safe.

So here's what he did:

  1. Ma Chao was originally from the northwest, and had really good relations with the Qiang to the point of reverence, so moving him onto that front ensures they don't attack.
  2. The Man rely purely on courage in a straight fight, but get unnerved by tricks, so he sends Wei Yan with some troops to go run circles around them to throw them off.
  3. The defector still has a close friend in Shu, so he sends that guy to defend and weaken the Wei forces' morale, ensuring they won't advance.
  4. Zhao Yun and the bulk of the Shu army is stationed against Wei, preventing progress.
  5. Wu is still hesitant to help Cao Pi since, you know, the betrayal thing a little bit ago; so if the other armies aren't making progress, they're not going to bother.

But he's still not 100% on Wu, and he figures they should send an envoy to re-establish relations anyway, so he was just staring at the fish pond wondering who to send.

That's why he was absent the previous few days; he was just doing all the preparations. Talk about showing a little initiative.

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