Victory, or Defeat
By Gingivere the Shadowreaver
DISCLAIMER: I do not own any characters in this fiction; they're all copyrighted to KEOI and the people who actually WROTE the Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Though I wish Lu Xun was real... cuz I'd steal him and do things that are not correct to do.
All around him, he heard battle cries lifting into the air, pain-filled cries, victory cries. Cries of sorrow, cries of anger. But they were all cries, and it drove Lu Xun insane! These same cries that invaded his mind and soul when he closed his eyes to rest. He wanted them to stop! He wanted to kill the cries, silence them with his blades, but when he would raise his hands to strike, he would give a scream himself, seeing the gushing blood that rose from them, falling to the ground to form a river. They felt like fire... like fire erupting, tearing up his soul as it spread quickly throughout his entire body. Soon, he joined in with the choir...
'Somebody... somebody help me!' He would shout, reaching his now burning hands to the disappearing forms of Sun Quan and Gan Ning. No, they were leaving him... he cried to them again, but to no avail. 'LORD SUN QUAN! GAN NING!'
But they did not turn to him, and they too were engulfed in the flames. Lu Xun fell to his knees, tears of blood running down his face. What was this?! Was this some sick dream?! Was it a premonition?! How sick! How horribly sick!
'Don't be afraid...'
He looked up, searching desperately for the voices. He knew these voices, and through the flames, he could see two silhouettes, both slowly walking towards him. His heart raced inside his bleeding chest, and as they drew closer, the blood and flames around him overcame his body, forcing out a scream of pure terror and agony. But, even as he felt his body collapsing, the figures held their hands to him, wishing to pull him free.
Then, everything went black, and Lu Xun woke to tears streaming down his face, something he never did often, if not often, not at all. He was soak and wet, he discovered to his dismay, and as he wiped the tears away from his damp cheeks, he checked to make sure that he was indeed alive and that his cries had not awaken anyone near him.
Gan Ning was sleeping in a makeshift bed next to his own, and Lu Xun remembered why he was in the same tent as him. No, it wasn't that they were short on tents, but the ex-pirate, always concerned for the well-being of his friend, was now practically his bodyguard. Ever since Zhou Yu and Lu Meng died, he was now considered his brother...
'Lu Meng...' That struck his heart like a mallet to a nail, and he curled back into the damp covers, shivering as he fought away the memories and tears from rising. 'Zhou Yu...'
But neither of them were there to answer his calls, as they laid dead in the Earth below him, their spirits roaming free, where ever they were. Somehow, he drifted back into a peaceful sleep, though the sun was already rising. 'Why? Why do you torment me like this? What do you want from me?'
Suddenly, it struck him, and he jackknifed, any urge for him to sleep was completely gone from his body. "Yi Ling! They... they want us to attack Yi Ling!"
It was no lie that Sun Shang Xiang, the daughter of Sun Jian, was horribly in love with Lord Liu Bei, and their history together was one that simply could not be overlooked by any means. She remained loyal to the Wu, as her parents and family would have wanted her to be, but her heart surely belonged to the Shu emperor.
To Lu Xun's eyes, this was a problem, a problem that had to be dealt with immediately. When he saw her request to join the battle, he quickly consulted with her brother, requesting that he should deny her from taking part. Sun Quan, always trusting in his prime strategist, agreed for two main reasons; he did not want to risk a turn, even from his own blood, and he did not want her harmed.
When Sun Shang Xiang heard of this, she was furious, and she marched through the camp, the uncontrollable rage inside of her leading her to the strategist. He had his back turned to her, consulting a soldier as he prepared his weapons for the upcoming battle. Just the sight of him made her seethe, and she hissed, catching his attention. "Lu Xun, you sneaky son of a bitch, how dare you deny my aid in battle?!"
"Lady Sun, your brother made the decision, not I." Lu Xun slowly turned to her, appearing to be calm, even as the soldiers around him quivered with anxiety. Tonight, they were to face the Shu in what appeared to be the final confrontation between the two kingdoms, and they couldn't bare to look at their own strategist, who seemed unworried, unafraid of this at all. "He does not wish for you to be harmed."
"And you think that I will turn on my own blood?" She asked, balling her fists and looking at him straight into the eyes, wanting to punch his nonchalant face, to break it. "I would never betray my own brother!"
Lu Xun shook his head, turning back to the more important task of preparing the troops for the attack tonight. "If it would save the life of the one you love, then you would do that, Lady Sun. Now, I have troops to tend to."
He wanted to leave, which was probably the smarter thing to do, but the enraged woman would not allow him to, grabbing his arm before he became out of reach. "What you're planning is suicide! They greatly outnumber you, and this is their territory! Liu Bei will surely kill you!"
Rather it was confidence or a slight case of his ego showing, Lu Xun was not worried at all. She grew even angrier at this, as he seemed more concern for his troops moral then her concern. "If you think this, then all I ask of you is to not shout in front of the troops. They are already in doubt as it is, and they don't need help from you to make it worse."
"I'm concerned for Wu's safety, Lu Xun! What are the chances of us actually winning here? We should draw them out into our own land, if anything!"
"And risk the lives of innocents there?" He countered, not raising his voice at all. "This is the best place to attack, Lady. Desolate and isolated from any villages, and it's already too late to come up with something better. Now please, Lady Sun, allow me to do my job."
Again, he tried to leave, waiting for her to release him. Sun Shang Xiang resisted slapping him, and she turned away, shouting as she stormed back to her tent. "You attack out of grief for Lu Meng and Zhou Yu, not for the well-being of Wu! You'll have us all killed!"
That actually seemed to strike a nerve, one that he had spent years trying to cover up. Those words simply broke through his high defenses and struck wildly at his now open heart, and she could see the ever so obvious pain rise in his dark, thoughtful brown eyes. His eyes seemed to be the only indication of his inner pain, as his face kept its determined defiance. "So I do grieve, but this was what they would have wanted. I am very sure about that, Lady Sun."
And without another word, he left to tend to the rest of the troops, leaving Sun Shang Xiang to fight away her guilt. She hurt him, and she was damn proud of it. Let him feel the same pain she was feeling now... she truly did not care!
'Is she right?' Lu Xun could not help but ask himself, checking on the troops, seeing their slightly worried faces. They were all young, all practically children in the game of war. He would look upon them and see himself as one of them once, young, youthful, innocent in battle. They felt indefeatable, that only the old and foolish could die in battle. It was all a lie, and when the truth struck, it would strike them dead and steal their innocence, something that could never be brought back, no matter how hard one tried. He knew this through experience, as he was robbed of his naiveté so many years ago. For some, this would be their first battle, their first bloodshed, first guilt trip, first true sorrow, and failure... and first victory.
Yet how could one thing be a victory but still be a defeat, one would ask. He had a simple answer; try to fight a battle where the single life his valuable. To lose thousands would be considered strategic, but to lose one would be a tragedy. And that one seemed to be Lord Liu Bei.
He tried to look at her end of the spectrum, to see himself fighting his own wife, but alas, he would still think the same. He feared her betrayal to Wu, just as much as her betrayal to her heart.
'Dammit... what am I to do now?' Lu Xun thought with a weary sigh, waiting until he was out of sight of the soldiers before practically collapsing onto the ground, sitting upright and resting his chin in his hands. He looked towards the sun, not once impressed by its dazzling glow. When that sun set, Death would rise from its bed and make its slow walk.
It's destination? Yi Ling.
Death had claimed so many lives, lives that always meant something to someone else. Death had taken Sun Ce, a ruler he never served under, Taishi Ci, a general he never served with. And Death had taken many, many others he could not know.
But even though it has been years ago, Lu Xun still grieved for the losses of Lu Meng, the man that defeated Guan Yu, and the strategist that came before him, the one he tried so hard to make up for, but perhaps to no avail, Zhou Yu. These two men's death were still so painful to him, and they haunted him, off and on, refusing to let him rest. They wanted something, perhaps revenge.
That was why they were at Yi Ling now...
'This WILL be the final battle between the Wu and Shu... everything must go as planned...' Lu Xun closed his eyes, wondering if he could take the time to sleep. Surely, if he were to fight in a battle for two haunting spirits, they would allow him to sleep, right?
"You look like you could use a rest." Sun Quan couldn't help but comment as he looked towards his strategist and friend, and when Lu Xun had looked up at him, he could see, for a split second, a hint of tears trying to rise. However, they could not break through the young man's defenses, and he dared to ask, knowing that if he even ordered him he could not receive the truth. "Are you alright? Your spirit seems a bit distressed."
To Lu Xun, Sun Quan was more than just his Lord, but a trusted friend. And friends never lied to one another. The strategist leaned over, resting his chin on his palms and looking at the dead ground belong him from the rock he sat on. "I feel sorry for not really trusting your sister; I mean, she does want to aid us, but I just-"
"You just fear that she'll never forgive us for killing Liu Bei." Sun Quan finished, kicking a small rock over and then sat next to his advisor. He didn't even nod, but he didn't need one. "She is my blood, but that cannot and will not stand in the way of what needs to be done. If she could be angry with anyone, it should be me."
Chuckling softly, the strategist buried his face in his hand, sounding even more distressed now. "Dammit, I can't even sleep without that same dream haunting me..."
Sun Quan looked down at him, raising an eyebrow. "A dream?"
What was the point in hiding it now, and Lu Xun replied, turning away and speaking softly. "I... I really don't wish to talk about it, my Lord... has Gan Ning told you already?"
"He did tell me to check on you... he's told me how you wake up in tears and sweat every morning." Sun Quan crossed his arms, seeing the slightly embarrassed look upon the youth's face. He was thirty nine years old, but looked no older than twenty and acted older than Huang Gai. Confusing man, sometimes, and you'd think that you were gazing upon a true veteran if you could see him in battle, so poised and tranquil, as if stress could not become a part of him. Though, as he looked at him now, he knew his problem well; the stress would build up, then hide itself, attacking whenever it could break through its host's heavy defenses. Were his defenses falling? "Are you sure you're alright?"
How could he tell anyone of his dreams? Lu Xun sighed; it was probably the stress that was causing this. Maybe Lu Meng and Zhou Yu weren't haunting his dreams at all, and everything he worked up on now was a false statement? Was he really leading the Wu to a costly defeat, to death, as Sun Shang Xiang said?
"Physically I feel fine..." Lu Xun finally answered, as he looked to the land that would soon become the battlefield. There would be a lot of death tonight... was he the Grimreaper tonight, having the right to chose who would die and who would live? No, but he was a General, and Lord Sun Quan had faith in him to pull this all off, not to mention two haunting spirits. "Again, I am sorry about your sister... I only mean the best for her, and the best for Wu."
"Of everything going on, you're worried about that? I know her; she's definitely a demon when it comes to words, and she's no less of a demon on the battlefield. She knows you mean well for us all."
Sighing, Lu Xun tried to let the matter go, though it seemed difficult. As he rose, he heard a shout, and when he looked into the fields again, all he could see was flames. How and what started the flames, he could not tell, but he gasped when he saw who laid in the middle of them, the one shouting his name.
Seeing Zhou Yu within a swirling sea of flames, was frightening enough, yet his face alone would turn any man white. He had seen his fury before, and he had the Bloodwrath in his eyes once again, even through death. He called his name again, raising the beautiful sword that he once held as a living being. "Lu Xun!"
Sun Quan saw the look of pure horror on his strategist's face, as he shouted again. "Lu Xun, what's wrong?"
Just as suddenly as the flames had erupted, they were doused, and all of the strength in Lu Xun's legs abandoned him, letting him sit amongst the grass again. Immediately, his Lord was at his side, trying to break the man from the short trance. "Lu Xun?"
"I... I saw Zhou Yu, sir..." Lu Xun almost stuttered, trying to find the strength to stand again. His mind raced, trying desperately trying to make sense of what had just happened. He was in the same state as he was in every morning he was haunted, sweat, tears streaming down his face reluctantly, as he tried to wipe them away. He had no right to cry; it was only a vision, a hallucination! "The field was on fire, and he was in the middle of it... bloody eyes flaming like blood... he... he..."
He nearly screamed when Sun Quan's warm hands touched his cold shoulders, but he bit his tongue, proving to be a mistake as blood now seeped through his clothes lips. He could barely feel it though, as his now worried lord tried to console him, seeing the slight rise of panic in his eyes. "Was it like your dreams? Lu Xun, tell me now, is he haunting you?"
Nodding slowly, Lu Xun noticed the blood, wiping it away on his bare arm, trying to speak. "Yes... him and Lu Meng will not let me rest... not until I fulfill whatever it is they want me to do..."
Now, horribly embarrassed and trembling in slight fear of what his Lord would think, Lu Xun brought his knees forward, allowing himself to sit more comfortably on the cold grass, then brought his knees to his chest, trying to stop the tears from rushing forward. He couldn't cry in front of him; he could not cry when Zhou Yu did, nor could he shed a tear when his close friend Lu Meng had died. But those tears wouldn't stop, as hard as he tried, they would not stop themselves for Lu Xun's pride.
Sun Quan did not know what to do; he had never seen Lu Xun like this before, broken apart. This was exactly how Sun Ce was, when the wizard has haunted him; he knelt next to his strategist, doing his best to be a friend to him more than a lord. "Why didn't you tell me earlier? Surely there's a way that I could help you-"
"I... I guess I was too afraid that you'd think I was insane or something..." Lu Xun quickly regained his composure, wiping away the tears that stained his face. He was more embarrassed then ever now, and he quickly apologized, trying not to look into his Lord's eyes. "Forgive me, my Lord, but I should have told you sooner..."
One so quick to forgive, Sun Quan offered him a hand, helping his strategist to his feet. "The ground is no place for an officer of your caliber, Lu Xun! To your feet now, and marched to your tent. I command you to rest; we don't need you in the battlefield looking like this."
Lu Xun gave his Lord the best smile he could give, giving his head a bow before turning to obey his orders. He was in dire need of sleep, as his eyelids wanted to slam shut at this very moment. He willed himself to find his tent, to see Gan Ning laying back on his cot, readying a scroll. Wearily, Lu Xun asked, "What are you doing, scoundrel?"
The ex-pirate looked up, nearly jumping out of the makeshift bed and hiding the scrolls behind his back, trying to cover his bit of nosiness. He put on a fake smile, though it was a dead giveaway. "Ohhhh nothing! And don't call me such bad words; I'm a good little boy!"
"Right... please place the scroll back from wherever you got it and leave... I'm ordered to sleep..."
"Sleep? But it's broad daylight..." To make sure of this, Gan Ning poked his head out of the tent, looking about as Lu Xun slumped over to the cot, plopping down and not even shifting himself right before closing his eyes. The ex-pirate saw this, and he spat, quickly rushing over to mother him. "Geez, you know you're suppose to take off your shoes before going to sleep, not to mention you're laying down all wrong! I swear, with the way you are now it's no wonder why your dad when psycho!"
Lu Xun would have laughed at his antics, but sleep desperately called for him, and he murmured softly as he fell into sleep. "Thank you, Gan Ning..."
And the pirate grinned, throwing the blankets over him and leaving the tent, feeling a bit safer to leave the tired man on his own. He was thankful for Sun Quan, for talking to him, and he gave Lu Xun one last look before heading off to talk with his Lord himself. "Sleep well, for once, anyway..."
But sleep would not come well to him, for the haunting spirits would not rest until they were sure that Lu Xun knew of their requests. And soon, another spirit would join them in their quest...
"Are you sure it's Wu?" Lord Liu Bei asked, looking at the messenger that bowed before him, slightly trembling in fear. The messenger quickly nodded, and he looked to Zhuge Liang as he walked into the chambers. The strategist looked half asleep, and he asked as the man took a seat at the table with his fellow generals. "When I first heard of their journey towards Yi Ling I thought it was merely a bluff... appears I was wrong. But this is not like Sun Quan at all..."
Zhuge Liang seemed to have the same problem that the strategist of Wu was having, for his dreams would not let him sleep. When he would rest, he would see the sea of flames, and in them came a voice he heard before. It was Zhou Yu, threatening him with a death almost unimaginable... but when the figure would walk through the flames, all he would see was the younger strategist, standing before him and swords raised. Those eyes, those flaming eyes...
It was Zhao Yun that woke him from his thoughts, and he heard pure confidence behind Little Dragon's words. "But it's the foolishness and misfortune of the Sun family that runs in him."
"Do you take Sun Quan for a fool?" Zhuge Liang butted in, with the lack of sleep came the lack of patience, scolding the older officer. "He has his reasons, and he would not do this without the approval of his advisor."
Liu Bei nodded, "He's nothing but a child... but he is definitely behind all of this."
"So defeating him would most certainly drop their moral, as the soldiers and Sun Quan place a great deal of faith in their strategist, as any man would." Zhao Yun looked to Zhuge Liang with a nod, seeing his weariness but saying nothing about it. "For a child, he is intelligent and confident, never letting his ego drive him to victory, unlike others. That makes him a threat; we cannot let the Wu take the victory here, sir."
And Zhuge Liang agreed with everything he had said, for he remembered a time when he was Lu Xun's age, and many had underestimated him for his age. This Lu Xun was definitely a threat, one that had to be dealt with immediately. It was he who advised Lu Meng in defeating Guan Yu, and there was no doubt that he and Sun Quan could lead the Wu to victory if taken lightly. "Defeat either man, and the Wu is finished..."
"Any suggestions, Zhuge Liang, as to how to defeat them? Taking down either man will be hard enough; remember they also have the pirate and the spirited daughter of Sun Jian to worry about." Liu Bei kindly reminded him, trying to sound as un-bias as he could when mentioning the woman of his heart. The one thing he knew he could not do was to greet her on the opposite side of the battlefield; it would be the death of him, and herself. He cleared the thought from his mind, going back to the battle at hand.
"I will have to study them, to see exactly what they are planning to do. Perhaps, if we can lure them into the Stone Formations, we can set up an ambush... they do not know the place, and no one beyond our troops has ever been able to find their way out alive."
Zhao Yun looked to him, slightly skeptical, "But what if they are able to make it through the Stone Formations, Master Zhuge Liang? It will lead them directly towards the front, and closer to victory."
He had seen it in the same dream, seeing the image of the young strategist trapped within the walls of the maze, with archers surrounding him. The flames had overcome his vision there, unable to see what would happen to the man. He often trusted his visions, as well as Liu Bei always had. "If so, then I shall await the fools' arrival, and they would have to face me before reaching Lord Liu Bei... but I will trust your forces to make sure that they don't get anywhere near the Formations. It is only to be used as an emergency plan."
"They will not pass my forces as long as I live..." Zhao Yun said bravely, never the one to fall back on his words. He was prepared to die this night, rather than to live to see his forces fail.
'Good...' Zhuge Liang was slightly worried now, but now was not the time to panic. They had all day to come up with a counterattack, and he only hoped that the Wu strategist was under the same spell he was under now... was this going to be their ultimate defeat? How could they accept defeat here?! He was not going to let that happen; he was not going to fail Lord Liu Bei, not tonight.
Gan Ning and Sun Quan were there the minute they heard the news, and as they entered the tent, they could see Lu Xun gearing up, replacing the formal hat he often wore with the traditional battle helmet his father ahead of him wore during battle. He was suppose to be asleep, and Sun Quan demanded as the strategist just now realized they were there. "Lu Xun, what are you doing out of bed? I thought I commanded you to rest!"
Lu Xun looked to them, clapping his hands together and bowing slightly. He looked refreshed, as if his breakdown earlier had not occurred or affected him at all, at least that's what his face and body movement told them. His eyes still looked a bit lost, but he tried to cover them up, speaking to his Lord. "Yes, sir, I know, but I cannot sleep. I need to revise the plan, sir..."
"Revise? You revised that thing ten times already!" Gan Ning proclaimed, placing his hands on his hips, shaking his head. "You need to revise your SLEEPING habits, or you'll fall asleep on the battlefield!"
"It has a fault..." Lu Xun walked directly past them, walking to his desk and pulling out one of the many many scrolls he had. It was a small map of Yi Ling, filled with several different color markings, notes that he had left for the many times he had revised it. Grabbing a feather, he ran it through red dye, then circled two sections on the map. "Where I thought there were only two ways of getting to the final quadrants, I was wrong! There's three..."
Lord Sun Quan and Gan Ning looked over his shoulders, as he had circled a section to the far corner of the left, then what looked to be a whole within the mountains at the center. He explained, "The quickest way to get to Lord Liu Bei's forces is to go through here... Zhuge Liang's Stone Formation... while some of our forces distract the Shu here, another force can go through the Formations and surround them!"
"Impressive..." Sun Quan muttered, looking over the map himself. "But perhaps that's what he wants us to do... the Stone Formations is still a mystery to us, and it could lead us directly to a trap."
Seeing the look on his face was frightening, as they could not understand it. "I... I know, Lord. And stationed there will be Zhuge Liang..."
He spoke the name with such venom, one that they had heard leave the lips of another man before. Gan Ning shared the same worried look that Sun Quan had, but Lu Xun seemed to have ignored it, going back to the revisions. "Now, our main problem here is making a suitable distraction, one that will catch Zhuge Liang off guard and lower the Shu's moral."
"If you say fire, then are we talking to Zhou Yu?" Gan Ning meant that surely as a joke, but the pale expression on Lu Xun's told him otherwise. "Are you possessed?"
"He came to me in dream...he wants to destroy the supply bunkers. The only problem with that is that Zhuge Liang might suspect us to do something like that..." Lu Xun once again said the name with venom, just as Zhou Yu would have done. "But that's where we can use most of our forces, have them strike through the east, as your forces, Gan Ning, sneak through the small opening here and burn them."
He seemed confident, almost arrogant, and Sun Quan tried to make sense of the plan for himself. He failed, of course, but it seemed somewhat logical. "When Lord Liu Bei finds his bunkers on fire, he will send his troops forward-"
"Leaving the passage through the maze only half guarded." Lu Xun finished, almost giving a triumphant laugh, but he was able to stop himself, scribbling down a few more notes before rolling the scroll back up and turning to Sun Quan. "Allow my forces to go through the maze, sir; all I ask is that the bunkers be alight and the forces in the front hold."
Sun Quan could not help but worry, more for the safety of his strategist than losing this battle, but he could see the determination in his eyes, and somehow, it gave him strength. He nodded, "I've always had faith in my soldiers, and not having it now would be foolish of me. Having you as my generals always made me proud, and let's hope that we all come out of this victory alive."
The pirate laughed, saluting to his Lord for the compliment. "It'll take more than thousands of Shu to stab me before I'll lie dead before this battle is over!"
Lu Xun winced, unseen to them, and he only nodded, praying that the last part of his dreams were wrong. "I'll do my best, sir... I always will."
"Good... gather the troops and brief with them... I trust that your charm will raise their moral so we can pull this suicide mission off." Sun Quan said with a slight laugh before turning to leave. Worried, yes, but everything he had said about trusting his advisor was correct.
Gan Ning laughed, shaking his head at the tired expression Lu Xun now wore. "You better promise me that you'll sleep well after our little victory celebration, or I'll start beating you up now."
Smiling at his friend to ease his worries, Lu Xun fought back the visions of his dream from trying to overcome him. "Remember that I'm needed, so take it easy with me, okay? Now, I have an entire army to persuade with my endless charm..."
"Woah, is that some of your ego showing?"
"No... just the truth..." Then, with another forced smile, the strategist walked through the tent, leaving the pirate alone to wonder about him in his shadows. Now that he was away from him, Lu Xun sighed, still fighting off the visions. There was no doubt in his mind that they were going to win tonight, but each victory had its cost...
The heat of battle was one that all soldiers got used to after a few battles, but it still did not save them from the twisting of their stomach and the question of if this battlefield was going to be their last. No, they did not fear it, but they feared more was to die for a lost cause. They had listened to everything Lu Xun had said during the briefing, and there was not a doubt in his mind that the Battle of Yi Ling was to be a successful one. Many soldiers had admired him, to stand in front of an entire army of doubtful soldiers, using everything he knew and had to change their entire views within a few minutes. He had faith in them, just as they now had their faith in him. So now they marched with the same confidence their field commander had; they couldn't let him, nor their Lord, down.
"Leave you alone in a room with the three emperors, and you'd find a way to end this entire war."
Lu Xun looked down at Gan Ning from where he sat on the horse Pat Se, seeing his mischievous grin but never questioning it. Instead, he looked back towards the battlefield that laid ahead of him, keeping a calm expression as he had throughout the entire briefing. "What are you getting at, Gan Ning? That I can simply persuade them to stop all of this fighting?"
"Bingo!" The ex-pirate carried his sword in one arm, and carried a sack full of powder in the other. He toyed with it, as if the upcoming battle could not affect this man's cheerful attitude. "Talk like you did with the soldiers to them and it can be done..."
"My words alone will not stop the fighting... no one can persuade the Lords Sun Quan, Liu Bei, and Cao Cao to stop all of this. That I am very sure about."
Still, that did not phase the confidence that Gan Ning showed, walking alongside the patient horse. "Well, if that's true, then I pity the day you die; I think Sun Quan would gets his ups and downs mixed up and put his hat on his rear and his cloak on his head."
"Now, Lord Sun Quan is not helpless without me. Now if he was without you, then we shall start worrying..." Lu Xun did not realized what he had said until it was too late, and once again, Gan Ning could see the slight pain in his eyes, as if he was hiding something. He waved it off quickly before his friend could say anything. "You're our greatest warrior, and our battles could not have been won without you."
"Aw, we're about to go into the battle of our lives and you're making me blush! Never knew you cared!" Gan Ning laughed, then grew serious as he looked to Lu Xun one last time before heading their separate ways. "Stay alive, so that I can say that I helped two great strategist set the enemy into flames."
Gan Ning could not see the tears that threaten to fall, but they were gone as quickly as they had risen. Lu Xun nodded, holding out a hand to him, squeezing hard when the fiercest warrior he knew took the hand. Then, they separated, and Lu Xun prayed then and there that this was not to be the last time he saw him...