Cao Cao had to gather advice from the other officials after the loss of his adviser Sima Yi, but no one dared to say a word because a tiny mistake could cost their lives. One day, Cao Cao heard that there was an increasing level of bandit activity near the forest mountain. At first they only stole from the civilians, but recently they had become so bold as to rob the resources for the soldiers! Cao Cao sent troops to eliminate the threats, but the bandits took advantage of their geographical knowledge of the mountain and sustained the raids by the soldiers.
Cao Cao gathered all of the officials to come up with a solution. Again, no one dared to say anything for fear of provoking Cao Cao’s temper. Moments late,r an old man stood out, ‘Master Cao Cao, I have an idea.’ ‘Say it.’ ‘The main reason our soldiers lost to the bandits is Sima Yi. She embezzled the resources designated for training our soldiers to strengthen her own troops. The lack of resources led to lack of training. I suggest we confiscate her troops to fight against the bandits.’ As the old man finished, several officials concurred with him.
Cao Cao pondered his suggestion and said, ‘It’s a sound idea. Who should lead the troops?’ The old man pointed at a young general. He stepped to the front and knelt,’I’m eager to take the lead! I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to manifest my capability. Now it’s time!’ Cao Cao burst in laughter and stood upright, ‘I’m counting on you. Remember, victory is the only option.’ ‘Yes, your majesty!’ The meeting ended after Cao Cao addressed a few more matters. The old man and the young general curved their lips cunningly, and gave each other a knowing wink....
The young general led Sima Yi’s troops and successfully wiped out the bandits. He was complacent about his success. At night, the old man and the officials who supported him visited the general’s mansion. They drank and chatted about politics, mostly about the changes after the death of Sima Yi.
’We finally got rid of that knotty witch. Our time has come.’ exclaimed the general.
’Haha! As smart as she was, she never knew I bribed his attendant to give her away. You can’t really trust anyone.’ giggled the old man. The other officials echoed, ‘Things are looking up for us. Soon we’ll take Sima Yi’s position to become Cao Cao’s new confidantes.’ ‘Confidantes? For that devil?’ The general groggily pointed to the old man and the troops, ‘Look at them. We have no reason to fear Cao Cao anymore! Overthrow Cao Cao! I’ll be the king!’ The general imagined Cao Cao begging for his life and grinned, ‘That’d be hilarious if Cao Cao was slayed by the troops of his former confidant!’ The old man and the general’s laughter filled the mansion. They began to scheme a coup to overthrow Cao Cao’s regime.
The sky turned blood red. The young general led his troops to surround Cao Cao’s study. Everything was ready. The general led a few soldiers to break through the door. To their surprising, they did not see Cao Cao in the room. When the general wondered where Cao Cao was, he found two cold blades touching his throat. The soldiers after him turned against him. The door slammed open as the other soldiers rushed into the room and pointed their swords at the general. Cao Cao swaggered through the door with a smile, ‘I knew you were up to something, but I didn’t expect you’d be so predictable.
’What a seamless set-up, my brilliant master. Just one thing, next time don’t put me into the ducking stool. It was unbearable.' Sima Yi, who should be dead, showed up next to Cao Cao. The old man and the officials were captured and brought to them. ‘How...how is that possible?’ The old man gaped at her in shock. He could not figure where he had miscalculated. Cao Cao sneered, ‘The letter had convinced me a betrayer secretly investigated me or Sima Yi. I pretended to execute her as bait. I wasn’t sure it was you until you mentioned Sima Yi’s crime. It exposed your scheme, because I never told you the details of her crime! I asked Sima Yi to train those so-called private troops by the way.
The old man had no words. ‘I sentence them to the saw torture.’ commanded Sima Yi. After their troops dragged all of them away. Sima Yi asked, ‘Cao Cao, you did doubt my loyalty, didn’t you?’ ‘There’s only one person I trust in the world.’ Sima Yi snigged as she walked away, ‘You, yourself.’ Cao Cao curled his lips as he watched her disappear. They had some kind of peculiar connection others could not comprehend. They treated each other as their closest confidant as well as their most threatening enemy.