Celestial Palace,

Zhi Jin Cheng(Forbidden City), Sian,

Sian Commonality, Capellan Confederation,

4th May 3065

Chancellor of the Capellan Confederation, Duke of Sian, and Unifier of Worlds Sun-Tzu Liao stared at the innocuous piece of paper in his hands, aghast at the implications of the message Tsen Shang, his father had left to him. He allowed the piece of paper to slip from his hands to float down to the table, Justin Allard's desk. He slumped in his seat, drained as he pondered the words within that letter from the dead.

Impossible, he tried to deny the facts laid out in front of him on the table. Impossible… Why didn't they tell me? He rested his head on one hand, trying to ingest the implications of that message.

Sun-Tzu thought back to the times when his mother had seemed half inclined to kill him, when his sister Kali had never been threatened even once despite her worst misdemeanors. He had never thought much of it then, but now he wondered if there was another reason behind her mercurial moods towards him.

He looked around the desk, refitted on his orders despite the shame attached to it due to Justin Allard's presence. He began to wonder if he had chosen this place to plot the rebirth of the Confederation on some subconscious level, some hidden knowledge that he possessed but never really acted upon.

That verigraphed letter was supposed to be delivered to him on this day, almost 13 years after the death of his mother. Tsen Shang had arranged it to be so, and it contained the true details of his birth and parentage, including DNA tests and the like. It came from Tsen Shang.

He was actually the son of Justin Allard and Romano Liao.

Barely a day before Morgan Hasek-Davion had descended with fire, blood, and treachery to whisk Justin Allard and his aunt Candace away from Sian, his mother had drugged Justin Allard and dragged him into her bed, in hope of conceiving a child. She had every intention of using that one act to bind Justin to her instead of Candace for all time, which would strengthen her claim to the Capellan throne when backed by the Champion of Solaris and the man who was Tsen Shang's superior in almost every way.

Nobody had foreseen that Justin Allard was actually a deep plant Davion spy, sent to infiltrate the Confederation at its highest levels, and Hanse Davion's plan had succeeded spectacularly. The aftermath of the 4th Succession War had ended with his nation in ruins, his grandfather driven mad, and his mother a bloody tyrant intent on preserving their fragile state at all costs.

Strangely though, she kept the child which would become Sun-Tzu. Apparently, she thought it a fitting irony that perhaps the child of Justin Allard would prove to be the instrument of House Davion's downfall.

Sun-Tzu wanted to laugh out loud. House Davion did not seem to need his help in tearing itself into pieces. The brutal ongoing civil war was proof enough of that. He was more than happy to sit back and watch the carnage, along with a pot of jasmine tea and some bamboo sticks as snacks.

His birth was carried out in the most secret of circumstances, and his existence was announced only after Romano had consorted with Tsen Shang to prevent any suspicion that he was actually the scion of one of the Confederation's most hated enemies.

True to her madness, Romano soon forgot about that part of her plan to use him to extract vengeance, and she later decided on the straightforward assassination ploy after the Outreach conference. Justin Allard was killed, Candace Liao survived, and a few months later he, Sun-Tzu, was Chancellor of the Capellan Confederation.

He had appropriated Justin Allard's sealed office soon after, and from there he had orchestrated his forces that had finally reunited his nation and reclaimed their lost territory from the ravenous Davions.

Perhaps he should thank Justin Allard at the incense altar for having granted him this office of good luck, as well as the genetics of fine acting which had allowed his foppish act on Outreach to cause his enemies to drastically underestimate him, to their everlasting regret.

After all, Justin Allard was his father. But the Heavens forbid his sister Kali from ever finding out. Sun-Tzu repressed a shudder as he tried to come up with the possible scenarios should that happen. They were all equally depressing.

Sun-Tzu did not regret not having known his biological father. In many ways, Tsen Shang was his real father, having brought him up and nurtured his abilities. Sun-Tzu had never realized just how much he owed Tsen, but he was beginning to. He simply could not fathom how Tsen Shang was able to stomach the sight of him, the son of his greatest rival, much less teach him everything he knew of manipulation and politics, and still be wholly devoted to the woman who had betrayed him.

Love makes the bravest of men do foolish things. But I do owe him too much… Sun-Tzu thought. I can only repay him in my next life.

He glanced at his watch. Kai Allard-Liao had requested an audience with him, but had not stated what the purpose was. Sun-Tzu guessed that it had something to do with Victor Davion's message that had arrived a few days ago. The deposed Prince had finally wised up and decided to call in all his allies for the final push for victory, which Sun-Tzu silently applauded.

He had no desire for Katherine to win the Civil War, and he felt he had much better chances to reclaim even more of his lands with Victor or any other one of his incompetent siblings in place.

Besides, with the information from the letter, he now had a plan to tie Kai to the fortunes of the Capellan people for all time, instead to the Davions. He would play on their ties of blood and brotherhood to force Kai to choose a side for all time. Hopefully, it would be for the Capellan Confederation.

Sun-Txu picked up the letter when there was a knock on his door. "What is it?" He asked.

"Duke Kai Allard-Liao requests an audience with your Royal Highness." One of the two Death Commandos on guard outside reported.

"Send him in." Sun-Tzu commanded.

He rose from his seat as Kai Allard-Liao entered the room. It was as much a show of respect for Kai as it was an unspoken challenge that he would not allow any of Kai's outside allegiances to disrupt his plans.

The two of them were strikingly similar, Sun-Tzu noted, not for the first time. They both had oriental features, both were tall, and both were blessed with good looks. The difference came from Kai's more athletic build, and Sun-Tzu, while fit, was not a mechwarrior in the same mold. Kai was also often said to have more presence, but Sun-Tzu did not really mind that.

Because he more than made up for it in cunning and political skill.

"Huang shang wan sui, wan wan sui," Kai offered the traditional greeting as he half bowed, somewhat stiffly. Apparently, he was not about to prostrate himself on the carpeted floor like so many other of Sun-Tzu's subjects, traditional when uttering the blessing. Sun-Tzu did not care.

"I greet you, Duke Kai Allard-Liao," Sun-Tzu replied with a more shallow bow, more relaxed than his erstwhile foe and recently discovered brother. "Please, have a seat." He gestured to the seat in front of his desk.

As they sat down, Sun-Tzu remarked, "Did you know this was your father's office when he was working for our grandfather?"

Kai halted halfway into his seat, a look of surprise on his face. Sun-Tzu relished the shot, knowing that there were many more he had in store to throw his dear brother's way.

"Remarkable man, really, your father," Sun-Tzu continued as Kai sat down fully in the cushioned chair. "Despite the handicap of the loss of an arm, he persevered until he had the full functionality of his artificial arm. From here, I can see how he managed to accomplish what he did."

Kai replied, "The almost total destruction of grandfather's mad reign. But I did not call for this meeting to talk about the past. I came to talk about the future." From the tightness on Kai's face, Sun-Tzu guessed that Kai was more than miffed that he had chosen this place as his personal office, where he had undoubtedly planned the conquest of the St. Ives Compact.

"Ah," Sun-Tzu shook his head slightly, "but to plan for the future, we must first know our past. And so I must first ask you to look at our past, both our common, shared past, as well as the different paths we are, we were on."

Kai narrowed his eyes. "I came with only one request for a favor, and I can do without that just as easily."

"I doubt it." Sun-Tzu said resolutely. "If you could have gone to help Victor without my permission, you would have done so. As it happens, you and your family now owe allegiance to me, and I fully intend that you honor that promise."

"It goes both ways. What right do you have to obstruct my passage when I can claim it to be a private matter?" Kai shot back.

"Because, dear cousin," Sun-Tzu injected some venom into his words, "your going to aid Victor Davion is anything but a private matter. It confirms the image of you being completely independent of the Capellan Confederation, nothing more than a wayward vagrant who does as he likes without consulting his rulers, rulers which he has sworn fealty to. I need to clarify matters with you once and for all time, before our petty squabbles tear the Capellan nation apart as it did in the days of our mothers. Would you like that to happen again?" Sun-Tzu stared at Kai.

Kai retorted, "I do not believe you have the best interests of the Capellan Confederation at heart. Why should I listen to anything you have to say? You attacked the St Ives Compact, resulting in the deaths of untold thousands of Capellan lives. It was you who caused all the lives of those people with your actions, when it was my mother who shielded you at every turn from Hanse Davion's wrath. And you repaid her by bringing war."

"I had every intention of strengthening our people, and if war is needed for that to happen, then neither will I shirk from it. Know that I am not my mother, nor our grandfather. Everything I had done was for the good of the people. This I swear on my father's grave."

Kai scoffed. "Considering what Tsen Shang was, that vow means nothing."

Sun-Tzu tossed the verigraphed letter towards Kai. "Read this. It might change your mind."

Kai picked up the sheaf of paper warily, then he began to read. Sun-Tzu noted grimly that Kai's hands began to shake slightly as he went through the letter.

Kai collapsed back into his seat when his eyes reached the bottom of the letter, as Sun-Tzu said, "I do not make promises lightly, xiong di." Brother.

Kai shot upright in his chair, one hand shaking the incriminating letter at Sun-Tzu. "What are the chances of this being a fake?" He demanded.

Sun-Tzu smiled thinly. "We can always do a blood test and find out. However, I see no reason for Tsen Shang to lie to me here, when the truth is already damning enough, even to me."

Kai bunched his jaw muscles. "So where does that bring us? This changes nothing."

Sun-Tzu shook his head. "It changes everything." He stood up. "Come with me to the altar." He started walking for the small altar set up in a corner. The Chinese god and ancient hero Guan Yu sat as a statue atop the altar, ready to accept the prayers of the dedicated ruler.

Kai did as he was told, following Sun-Tzu to before the altar.

Sun-Tzu took a flask of wine from the altar, and poured it into a cup. He then took from a pocket a small knife, which he used to cut his thumb. He squeezed several drops of his life fluid into the cup. He offered the knife to Kai.

Kai drew in his breath. "Why are you doing this?" Obviously, he knew what the ceremony meant.

"I wanted to prove to you that I meant every single word of what I'd said. And now I expect you to do the same, if you truly have the best interests of the Capellan nation at heart. Let us truly be brothers in spirit and in blood, and fight together for our people. Let this exchange of our lifeblood affirm our loyalty to each other in our great cause."

Kai nodded solemnly, then took the knife and repeated what Sun-Tzu did. He took up the wine cup, and held it with both hands as he raised it before Sun-Tzu. "Wo jing ni yi bei." A toast to you. He drank down half of it, then offered the cup to Sun-Tzu.

Sun-Tzu was extremely pleased. "Hen hao!" Very good. "Let this represent a new milestone for the Capellan Confederation!" Sun-Tzu held up the cup in both hands, toasted Kai in return, and threw his head back as he finished its contents. Then he held the cup upside down to show that it was empty.

"Hao xiong di!" My good brother! Sun-Tzu exclaimed, his spirit light for the first time in his life. "I allow you to go to Victor's aid, with four conditions."

Kai had a curious light in his eyes as he asked, "And those are?"

"One, the exact nature of our relationship must forever remain a secret. I cannot afford this stain on my rulership, not at this critical juncture. Neither can you and the St Ives Commonality afford the risk of Kali rising to power should I fall."

"Two, I will offer Victor Davion my support for his campaign to oust his sister. It's entirely in my self-interest to do so, you see, not because I harbor any loyalty or goodwill towards Davion. Katherine is simply too dangerous to leave on the throne of a Successor State."

"Three, any attack by members of the AFFS under Victor's command against the Capellan Confederation will be dealt with swiftly and decisively. I especially would not tolerate interference in my plans for the Chaos March. Since George Hasek has not submitted to Victor, I will play fair by not including his rabble on my list."

Sun-Tzu narrowed his eyes. "Fourth, and most importantly, in the event of an attack by Victor into the Capellan Confederation, you will fight for me against him. You will declare so in front of the St Ives Lancers, in a public announcement, just before you depart." He noticed Kai clenching his fists, but continued on.

"These are my terms. Take them or leave them." Sun-Tzu stared at Kai.

Kai nodded his head slightly. "Very well. I agree to those terms. If this is what it takes to help my friend, I will do so."

Sun-Tzu said, "I expected no less of you. What is it about Victor that inspires such fanatical devotion? He is neither the best of warriors nor politicians. He has made blunder after blunder that would have any other House Lord vilified for all of history, yet there are still men willing to follow him unto death and beyond."

"Do you envy him?" Kai asked.

"Maybe. I could only wish that perhaps one day, you will hold the same devotion to the Capellan people that you now hold for Victor."

Kai started for the door, then turned back. "We are now brothers, so I shall return your honesty." He looked Sun-Tzu straight in the eye. "If I ever find that you had abandoned the welfare of our people and succumbed to the madness of our grandfather and your mother, I promise to hunt you down and destroy you."

Sun-Tzu did not even flinch away in the slightest as he replied grimly, "I shall hold you to that promise."

As Kai left the office, Sun-Tzu let out a long breath. Nothing must ever threaten the Capellan Confederation. Not Victor, not Kai. Not the many Houses rampaging on our borders, searching us out for weaknesses. Not Kali, with her mad schemes.

And finally, not even me.

I wrote this down after watching the last episode of ShuJianEnChouLu, or Legend of Book and Sword, which was shown on my local channel just last night. Man, the ending was really bloody. I decided to go on a burr and adapt some parts of it.

Simply put, both Sun-Tzu and Kai fit the main roles of the Emperor Qianlong and the rebel leader Chen Jialuo perfectly. Anyway, the whole story by Louis Cha is long, complex, and entertaining. I simply plucked out some parts and had some fun with the history of the Inner Sphere to come up with this piece.

Kai never explained what exactly Sun-Tzu did to draw out his pledge of allegiance, and I never liked the way he was so wishy-washy between the Fed Suns and the CC. After all, you can't have your cake and eat it too. It's simply not being fair to both sides.

So I had Sun-Tzu basically present an ultimatum. Make a choice, and live by that choice for all time.

Any and all comments are welcome!