Tamed Steed of Thunder

By Gingivere the Shadowreaver and Quicksilver the Archangel


Disclaimer: All characters mentioned in this fanfic are copyrighted to KEOI and Omega Force (though they were real people at some point in time) and I stake no claim to them. Please do not copy, alter, or flat out steal my idea or I'll be very depressed.


Perhaps the biggest difference between Lu Meng and Lu Xun were their tastes in horses. Lu Meng, a native of Ru Nan, was well skilled on horseback, as he preferred to do many of his campaigns riding among them, as Lu Xun of Wujun, who had a slight fear of the creatures, did not share the same abilities.

And so, that left Gan Ning wondering, what in the HELL the tiny strategist was doing taking riding lessons from Lu Meng!

Now, Gan Ning didn't know this new strategist for very long, as he was just introduced to him (in the middle of battle, mind you) a few weeks ago, but he knew enough to tell that he was still just a kid, with deep admiration, and like most strategist, a humble and gentle nature. But a man with those capabilities never had problems with horses... at least HE thought so until now.

"Lord Lu Meng... are you SURE this is a nice, calm horse?" Lu Xun spoke in a calm, but almost timid, voice, one that made the pirate watch him more as he tried to stay balanced on the saddle. The horse would just shift his leg, but still it was enough to worry him.

Lu Meng sighed, "I'm sure. I'd trust this horse with the lives of my siblings, if I had any."

Gan Ning knew that for a fact, and he watched from where he laid about lazily, not really interested any anything else going on in Jian Ye today. It was a boring day, as Sun Quan was off on another political campaign, cruel enough to leave HIM alone with nothing to do. So, he went tot he stables and tagged along with Lu Meng, to see if HE was at least doing anything interesting today.

And sure enough he was. He smirked, yawning like a cat before calling out, "If you want, I'll come up and ride with you. No horse is going to buck you off with ME holding you!"

That gave him a indescribable look from the young Lu Xun, and a scolding from his superior. "Pat Se can't take two passengers, at least not you and him... he's an old horse as it is..."

"Aww... you never let me have ANY fun..." Gan Ning gave a fake pout, stretching and now laying on his back. Hay wasn't very comfortable, but he didn't care, watching the session through the corner of his eyes.

Lu Xun looked at the reins clutched in his hands, holding onto them like lifelines, "Now what do I do?"

'What's up with this kid? Hasn't he EVER ridden a horse before?' Gan Ning turned his head again, barely seeing them over his biceps, but enough to see Lu Meng's patient face, going to the horse's side to pat the old creature's neck.

"NOW you try and remain calm. You're making poor old Pat Se nervous..."

It was a soft, nervous chuckle that rose from Lu Xun, as he tried to hide his fear well. "I'm sorry... I guess it's the height..."

"It's not that high," Lu Meng assured him. "And there's plenty of soft hay around in case by some MIRACLE you fall off..."

Rolling his eyes, Gan Ning started to count the little lines along the ceiling, as Lu Xun replied in a respectful manner. "I'm sorry, sir..."

"Nothing to be sorry for, Lu Xun. But whatever emotions you have towards the horse, it will return it to you. If you're nervous, the horse senses it, and they become nervous... do you understand now?"

"So if I'm happy, then the horse is happy?"

Like a kid to his father, how sweet? Gan Ning went back to counting...

"Something like that. Now, in order to get the horse to go forwards, apply pressure with your knees."

Turning over to look at them, the pirate snickered, "Why not send him into an all out gallop, Lu Meng? I'm sure he has other things to do on his day off other than learning to ride a pokey old horse the slow and boring way..."

Lu Xun sent him a glance that was frigid, "I will learn the way I must, and I confess that I believe the slower the horse... the better. Please hold your tongue."

"Gan Ning, either help me, stay silent, or leave..." Now Lu Meng lectured him. "He came to me personally for my aid and this is the only way, not to go blazing saddle into the sunset..."

"I already OFFERED to help! You both looked at me like I was nuts!" Still, the pirate laid back down, sighing. This was better than lazing about the boring castle...

"Silly pirate; shouldn't expect you to know anything about horses. Stick to navigating boats..."

Did THAT come from Lu Xun? Gan Ning sat up, just to make sure, but he saw no hint on his face that the young strategist said such a thing. He spat, "Hey, you should learn some manners! I know more about boats then you ever will, runt."

Lu Xun's eyebrow rose, "And more than I ever care to know, I am sure."

Perhaps it was a mistake to say that, and the pirate leapt off the top of the haystack, his bells jingling as he landed. How dare he speak to him like that, however, he tried to play it cool, as he replied to the comment with a sarcastic one on his own. "Well if you're going to be a part of Wu, the greatest navy forces, you HAVE to know the basics, which if you fail to know the basics on riding a horse, then I doubt you can even LAST on a boat on rough tides!"

Lu Meng sighed, "Are you two CHILDREN quite finished?"

"Yes, sir, quite finished..." Lu Xun said calmly, waiting for Lu Meng to turn away to give the irritable pirate a rather arrogant glance. Only to find a pair of crimson eyes sending him a burning stare, one that seemed to penetrate to the very depths of his soul. He knew when to back down from a fight he could not win, so he returned to the task, finding himself quite comfortable now. "Is the horse already trained, sir?"

"Oh yes. Pat Se is quite old and experienced." Stroking the horse's fuzzy neck, he smiled warmly. "It's a wonder this thing is still alive, and as timid as ever..."

"I suppose he must have become more timid, with age?"

The old beast gave a snort, rubbing its wet snout on Lu Meng's chest as it demanded more attention. Lu Meng shook his head, scratching his forehead as he took the reigns. "No, it's because YOU'RE timid... just relax. The horse couldn't hurt a fly even if he wanted to."

Lu Xun tried to obey the command, taking a deep breath and willing himself to relax. Just as he was feeling comfortable, he felt someone leap to sit behind him, he heard Gan Ning's shout, "GIDDYAP!"

It was pure chaos for a second there, as Pat Se did what any normal horse would have done, panicking and obeying the command as Gan Ning slapped its rear. It took off like a bat out of hell, knocking aside Lu Meng and taking its now terrified passenger and the laughing Gan Ning with him.

"OH MY GOD! WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?! I'M GOING TO KILL YOU GAN NIIIIIIING!" Lu Xun shouted, clinging onto the reigns with his life, thankful that the pirate was gripping his waist, otherwise he would have fallen off.

"I'm going to teach how to ride a horse; good and quick!" The pirate responded with a laugh, smacking the horse on the rear again, making it go even faster. They rode through the village, passing by peasants and soldiers on guard duty, receiving strange looks. But this did not bother Gan Ning, as he shouted to the horse. "Faster, faster, FASTER!!!!"

Lu Xun did the only thing he could think to do; he closed his eyes and held on. However, he wasn't even allowed to do that. "No, you keep your eyes open, so you can control the horse better."

Lu Xun obeyed for reasons he did not know, but he shouted back, "I DON'T HAVE CONTROL OF THE HORSE NOW!"

"Of course you do... he's just waiting for you to give the proper commands!"

"How do I get him to stop?!" Lu Xun asked, seeing as they were entering the woods now, barely avoiding the bushes. He feared getting too far into unknown land, and he did not wish for the horse to harm itself in its burst of speed.

"Just pull down back on the reigns, but not too tight! You don't want to hurt him..."

And, taking a breath, Lu Xun just did that, and though he gave it a gentle tug, bringing the ball of the reigns to his stomach as Lu Meng had taught him to. It stopped the horse dead in its tracks, the force sending Gan Ning flying over the horse's and Lu Xun's head. He landed in some bushes nearby, and Lu Xun leapt off the wailing horse to go find him, "Are you alright?"

He rummaged through the thick bushes, and he screamed when two hands grabbed him, hearing Gan Ning's shout. "GOTCHA!!!!!"

His response was a punch to the fast, and Lu Xun's angry voice actually TOWERING over him, "HOW DARE YOU?! IF YOU TOUCH ME AGAIN I'LL KILL YOU!"

"Geez, what's your damage? Can't you take a little joke?" Gan Ning dared to show his face again, wondering how Lu Xun could strike him if he could not see him. Now he could see the rare anger and fear, as he rubbed his cheeks. "Come on, you've learned how to STOP a psychotic horse, doesn't that make you feel a LITTLE bit better?"

"NO! You scared the living daylights out of me! You KNOW I'm trying to learn how to ride a horse, and you threw me head first into a situation I could not handle. You make me angry! I think I hate you!" Lu Xun screamed, trembling.

Never had Gan Ning see someone tremble so much, and, all playfulness put aside, he asked, his tone very serious, almost frightening if you knew this pirate well. "Hey, you going to be okay?"

Turning away, Lu Xun hissed, "In the end? Yes. I am not that pathetic..."

"Well, are you okay NOW?"

"Do I LOOK okay to you?" To be honest, he was a wreck! He long since lost the funny looking hat he wore, letting his now wild light brown hair cover some of his sweat and tear stained face. Gan Ning had noticed he was ever crying, and Lu Xun tried to stand on his wobbly feet, though he failed miserably, crashing back down. He recoiled from the pirate as he stretched out his hands, "I can stand... on my own..."

Seeing as he was now on the kid's most wanted list, Gan Ning stood first, wincing as he finally noticed his scratches. They weren't even near serious, so he did not even bother complaining about them. He could see Pat Se looking at them, as if the entire incident did not happen. "Maybe you should rest awhile... at least until your legs don't shake like noodles."

"Well, if it wasn't for a certain rash, irresponsible pirate, I wouldn't BE in this position!" It seemed now that Lu Xun had regained his composure, standing on his own now, but hesitant to walk anywhere near the pirate and the horse. Now the feeling of guilt rushed through Gan Ning, as Lu Xun, still hurt, looked away. "I should stick to my strategies... and stay out of the battles I suppose."

"Now, why do you think that? I can testify with some accuracy that for a little guy, you sure pack quite a punch!"

That was a weak attempt to cheer him up, and, of course, it failed. "But how can I fight when I can't even control a horse? The way I handle a horse can easily be compared to the way I handle a situation; if I am timid, then so are my soldiers..."

Gan Ning shrugged, "That's true. But so what if you are timid? If you act strong, and give your troops someone to believe in, then they'll fight for you. Win their hearts, not their heads, and they'll fight to their dying breath for you. That's part of being a good strategist too..."

"I suppose... you're right..." Lu Xun berated himself so badly, though he seemed to be a masochist, only inflicting more pain upon his barely-evident ego. "I still have much to learn..."

He sighed, "And who is going to take one so young, seriously?"

"Are you quite done yet? Why don't you just grab a knife and stab yourself in the foot while you're at it so you can badmouth yourself even more?"

Lu Xun's golden eyes flashed as he looked towards the pirate, "It is so easy for you! You don't have to prove yourself to anyone. How can you even TRY to judge me?!"

Leaning on the horse, the pirate pressed his weight against the creature, though it did not budge, even for him. It just gave him a look, as Gan Ning rested his head on the saddle, looking at the still angered but now upside down looking man. "You think that I, a pirate, a scoundrel of the oceans, wasn't judged too? Everyone has to prove themselves to someone..."

"I want to do my best, my very best, and I cannot think of what it will be like if I fail..."

At this time, Lu Xun was nothing more than a messenger for Lord Sun Quan, though he fought in a few battles, but none significant to be noticed by anyone. And still, as he was now stationed in the capital city of Wu, there were many who overlooked him so easily because of his age, looking to the superiors of Zhou Yu, Lu Su, and Lu Meng.

"You worry too much; you're going to psyche yourself out!" The pirate chuckled, and seeing that he was not taken seriously, he turned and looked at the young officer from the other side of the horse. "Look, you're new, you're fresh, and you have a lot of time to prove yourself to your superiors. Don't rush everything, otherwise you grow up too fast and you end up like Huang Gai!"

Now he could see the hint of a smile on the strategist's young face, making him smile and nod, "That's better. You're cute when you're mad, but much, MUCH prettier when you smile."

Lu Xun only sighed, though there was a small hint of a blush, as he turned away. Something caught his ear, a soft, sweet little melody that simply could not be ignored. Except Gan Ning did not hear it, "Hey, where you going?"

"To see where that music is coming from..."

"Music?" Jingling his bells a little, Gan Ning nodded. "Sounds like a flute... must be Zhou Yu. Damn, why does he play that sissy thing?"

Lu Xun shushed him, "It's pretty!"

So the search for the source of the music began, and Gan Ning was kind enough to grab the reigns and guide Pat Se throughout the entire search, ignoring the horse's constant demand for attention, rubbing its snot off of him and onto either the horse's fur or the bushes. "Geez, Lu Meng's clothing must be water proof from this thing's ever running nose!"

Lu Xun laughed, a light, tinkling sound that mixed well with both the flute playing and the light jingle of his bells, in Gan Ning's humble opinion.

'Too bad the kid's a guy... otherwise I'd find him a lot more attractive...'

"Gan Ning? Why are you staring at me?"

Breaking his gaze for a second, Gan Ning did perhaps the most embarrassing thing in his life. He ran right smack into a tree, and as he fell over, the young officer immediately went to his aid, his stifled laughs clearly heard. "Sir?"

"I'm fine... I'm fine..." Rubbing his now sore nose, Gan Ning tried to pick up the pieces of his shattered pride, as Lu Xun tended to helping him back to his feet. The horse gave a snort, and he sneered, "Laugh it up, fuzzball..."

"You can hardly blame him for having a sense of humor," the young officer said. "After all, its not every day he sees a human walk straight into a tree..."

As the music got closer, the pirate gave a sneer, "I was distracted, that's all... lackaday when you see THIS pirate get caught off guard!"

"I don't find the music all that distracting..."

Realizing his slight mistake, Gan Ning laughed to cover it up quickly, "I suppose some of us just have different tastes..."

Lu Xun nodded, "I guess so..."

For awhile, the only noise was the serene sound of the flute, the crescendo telling them that they were getting closer. It was not long before they found its source, and as expected, they found the cultured and well known strategist, sitting upon a rock, playing the beautiful instrument. His long, flowing brown hair was brought back in a ponytail in an attempt to keep himself cool from the scorching southeastern sun, and he did not seem to notice their arrival.

Lu Xun whispered, his voice in awe, "Such beauty..."

Somehow, that comment made the pirate standing next to him stiffen, and Gan Ning's right eye twitched slightly. 'I'm hoping he's referring to the music...'

Neither of them seemed to notice that Pat Se was walking towards the strategist until it was too late, and the beast nuzzled the handsome man's neck affectionately. The music stopped on a beautiful note, and Zhou Yu turned his equally handsome face, half to them as well as the horse's. "Pat Se? What are you doing out of the stables?"

Lu Xun spoke softly, almost breathlessly "He's... he's with us, sir."

Now Zhou Yu noticed them, but he only recognized one person, as he asked, "Gan Ning, who's the young child belong to? Have you adopted him?"

Lu Xun blushed, as Gan Ning shook his head, "Me? Adopt a child? Forget it. But he's not all that young, at any rate. This is Lu Xun, a fellow strategist. You don't know each other?"

"Lu Xun?" Zhou Yu now stared at him, looking him up and down, only making Lu Xun feel even more nervous to be looked at in such a way by his superiors. "Perhaps so... he was just stationed here not so long ago, am I correct?"

"Yep. Lu Meng decided to teach him how to ride a horse... BUUUUUUT, I thought I'd make a better teacher, so here we are!"

That made the man nod, as he scratched the horse's long muzzle. Gan Ning asked, seeing that Lu Xun was either to hurt or too nervous to even speak right now. "So what brings you out here? Kind enough not to deafen us with your racket?"

THAT broke any tethers to the young man's speech, "GAN NING! How can you SAY such a thing?! It was... it was wonderful music! AND YOU DON'T SPEAK TO YOUR SUPERIORS THAT WAY!"

Gan Ning was too surprised to do anything, but Zhou Yu, now alarmed, silenced the young officer, "Don't worry, officer. Gan Ning meant it only as a joke, and since it's an off day, he can refer to me as a friend."

Lu Xun turned a deep shade of red, mumbling his apologies. Now he felt horrible, unable to believe himself. He was a hypocrite, disrespecting Gan Ning and Zhou Yu in such a manner. However, he wasn't given time to mope about it, as Zhou Yu answered Gan Ning's question. "I just came out here to think... and I'm playing my music in hopes of luring the Red Hare out..."

"THAT old legend! You know that thing isn't even real," the pirate scoffed.

Lu Xun knew of the Red Hare, remembering reading about it when he was much, much younger. It was the fiery tempered steed that the might warrior Lu Bu rode, and it was such a beast, with tremendous power and speed. It was the fastest among horses, and he shuddered to think, that Pat Se's speed was nothing in comparison to this beast's.

Gan Ning saw his reaction, and he chuckled, "I'll bet Lu Xun over there will be JUST as happy if he never comes out, eh?"

"I thought pirates believed in legends..." Zhou Yu gave a confident smile, turning and once again, bringing his lips to his small instrument and playing a sweet, almost upbeat little melody. It sounded like something one would dance too, but no one did. Lu Xun would have been content to hear it all afternoon, but it stopped when Zhou Yu pointed towards the darkest part of the woods. "There... look for yourself!"

Both men obeyed, seeing the outline of a horse against the trees, and its deep, rich color was evident even from there... It left them both in awe, as Zhou Yu played his flute again, trying to draw it out even more. The creature was huge, much larger than Pat Se, and as it slowly emerged from the shadows, they could still see the golden armor that it once wore into battle, when it joined its master in his campaigns.

Neither of the two spoke; both hardly breathed, for fear of scaring the creature. Pat Se had noticed it also, but the creature only showed its respect with a shake of his head, breaking the silence with a snort as Zhou Yu's music came to an end. The Red Hare was truly the horse among horses.

Even as the music stopped the horse seemed hesitant, and without another thing being said or done, disappeared back into the woods. Finally, Gan Ning spoke, "Well, I'll be a panda's uncle... you weren't joking, Zhou Yu!"

"Do I ever joke, my dear Gan Ning?" Smiling, Zhou Yu looked back at them, still seeing their looks of pure awe. He mainly addressed Lu Xun, speaking softly, "I thought the beast died when its master did, or perhaps it was given to the warrior Guan Yu. Guess I was wrong..."

"He seems almost too... mystical to capture. So beautiful and unique," Lu Xun murmured. That horse, even for the short amount of time it was there, was so amazing, and for a second, Lu Xun wanted to stroke it's black mane, to make sure that he was not truly seeing things. "Yet he seems to like your music..."

Gan Ning chuckled, "No accounting for taste, eh?"

The look Zhou Yu gave was almost priceless, only making Lu Xun's admiration for him grow. "If we can lure the creature out from the woods, then perhaps he will be of some use to us..."

The pirate cocked an eyebrow, "But the only thing we KNOW will lure him out is your playing, and I don't think you have the lung capacity to play forever..."

"Do... we REALLY need to capture him, Lord Zhou Yu? He seems perfectly content with his freedom..."

The pair of moist, chocolate brown eyes met his own golden ones, and the older Wu strategist asked, "Are you questioning my judgment, Lu Xun?"

That quickly silenced him, "Sorry my lord... I was wrong to speak out."

Gan Ning smirked, "Good grief, Lu Xun! Look into the man's eyes; can't you tell he's joking?"

To be honest, Lu Xun couldn't tell at all, but Zhou Yu's rich laughter eased the tension. "At least HE'S considerate and respectful to his seniors... you're not that obedient, even on a working day!"

"But if I were obedient, I wouldn't be half as fun!"

"If you really wish to capture it, then I'll assist you, sir..." Lu Xun said quietly, not wanting to Red Hare to hear him.

The smile that was part of the response to his statement made him feel good, "Thank you, Lu Xun."

Gan Ning had nothing better to do, so he shrugged, resting his elbow on Lu Xun's shoulder. "Eh, count me in too... what better way to waste a day trying to capture an almost mystical steed?"

Lu Xun blinked, gently removing the offending arm, "What would you like us to do?"

Within that short amount of time before Zhou Yu responded, Gan Ning felt a bit hurt. He saw how much the kid looked up to Zhou Yu and Lu Meng, but he got no admiration from him. Then, he wondered, why the heck was he even THINKING of wanting admiration from him?

Zhou Yu saw his hurt expression, and he asked, "Whatever is the matter, Gan Ning?"

"Just moping... I'm going to have to do most of the work, aren't I?" Gan Ning quickly covered it up, and he pointed to the officer next to him. "He's not really all that skilled with horses as it is, you know..."

Zhou Yu couldn't help but laugh, "Well, Lu Xun, why don't you go tie Pat Se up somewhere out of sight, hm? That way the Red Hare won't be frightened off by him..."

'The Red Hare, afraid of another horse?' However, Lu Xun did not question the order, walking through the bushes and grabbing the reigns, giving the horse a little pat. "Come on..."

Once he was out of hearing range, Zhou Yu turned to the pirate, "Now; tell me what is REALLY wrong. I know that look, and it is not because of your phobia of work..."

"What? Are you calling ME lazy?"

The Wu strategist saw his attempt to change the subject, and then suddenly it struck him, "You're captivated by little Lu Xun, aren't you?"

The pirate's eyes widened, and he was quick to defend himself without even much of a thought of what really to say. "What, are you insane?! I'm not like that, not at all!"

"Okay; can I have him then?"

"No!" Gan Ning shortly realized what he said, and he went into a cursing fit, his shouting probably heard by Lu Xun, as well as the Red Hare. "No, I don't mean it like that! I mean, aren't you and Xiao Qiao a couple already!?"

Zhou Yu gave a toss of his hair, "She has a crush on me, not vice versa. She's cute, and I care for her as a sister, but we have no relationship other than that. And you DO want Lu Xun then?"

'Damn... he's got me trapped in a corner...' The pirate did not answer quickly, and he sneered, "I just want him to look up to be like he looks up to you and Lu Meng, that's all! I'm getting a little jealous because you're hogging ALL of the attention, per usual!"

"It's not my fault I'm more beautiful than you..."

"Low blow..."

Zhou Yu winked, drawing near to whisper in the pirate's ear, "Don't worry; your secret is safe with me..."

That only made him angrier, not seeing Lu Xun walking from behind. "THERE'S NO SECRET TO KEEP!"

"Secret?" The younger officer asked, cocking his head. "Whatever are the two of you talking about?"

As hard as he tried, he could not stop the blush, but Zhou Yu was nice enough to divert Lu Xun's attention from it. "Nothing... we were just scheming on how to catch him, without harming him..."

"Or harming ourselves, right?"

"Hey, I'm not making any sacrifices! Me dirtying my clothes is enough!" Gan Ning joked with a sneer, clapping his hands together and asking anxiously. "So, what's the plan, oh great one?"

Zhou Yu raised a hand to cup his chin, "I'm still thinking..."

Now, Lu Xun was a quick thinker as well, though he was hesitant to say anything, uncertain of how Zhou Yu would react to his suggestions. However, he found the nerves to speak, keeping his voice calm and steady. "It likes your music, so perhaps you can lure him into a spot where either Gan Ning or I could tie a lasso around his neck..."

Gan Ning blinked, "Surely it can't be THAT simple?"

"Unfortunately it isn't, but it's a basic start... perhaps we should come back with Lu Meng..." Lu Xun almost giggled, "Yes; he would lure the beast out with nothing more than his 'I love horses and they love me' presence!"

Zhou Yu shot down the idea before it was truly even given a chance. "No, that will take too long, and the Red Hare might leave before then. And my music alone will not lure him anywhere near us. The most he's done was bat an eye towards me."

"Well, you can't always hope your unnatural beauty will tempt any living thing to come to you," Gan Ning chortled. "Maybe he's hungry? Would THAT help?"

"Only if we knew what he liked to eat..."

Getting a bonk on the head by the pirate, Lu Xun felt rather foolish when he gave the obvious answer. "What do ALL horses like? Apples!"

"So we need some apples?"

Seeing them talking without an argument made Zhou Yu smirk, and the pirate seemed to have forgotten the little bit of teasing earlier as Gan Ning smirked, "Well, yeah."

Still, it was fun to tease, "How about you go get the apples, then Gan Ning? I' m sure Lu Xun wouldn't mind staying here with me for a little while..."

"Since when do I have to do all the work? All you strategists are the same, lazy and let other people do the dirty work while you sit back and drink your tea!" Gan Ning gave a spat, as a joke, but never the less, he started his hunt, still grumbling below his breath.

Lu Xun blinked, "Now how on earth did he know I liked tea?"

Flicking his hair from his face, the other strategist shrugged, "He knows more than you think..."

"He knows, but he doesn't THINK!" Lu Xun grumbled, plopping down into the soft grass next to Zhou Yu. "Like today. He KNOWS I'm scared of horses, and what did he do? He hijacked Pat Se while I was still on him!"

That made Zhou Yu raise an eyebrow, asking softly, "Then if you do not like horses, why were you on Pat Se? You have nothing to fear from that horse..."

"I know, Lu Meng assured me of that," the younger man sighed. "I know I need to learn to at least tolerate horses. I was hoping to do it rather slow and easy, but obviously Gan Ning had other plans..."

"He's impatient, and perhaps he was just looking for a bit of excitement... I'm sure he meant you no harm..."

"He should get his kicks some where else! I am not his toy!" Lu Xun gave an exasperated sigh, trying to keep his voice at a respectable tone to his superior. He seems frustrated and hurt by Gan Ning's actions, and Zhou Yu didn't blame him at all. "At least I should be comforted that I amuse somebody..."

He heard the other strategist snicker, and he blushed with embarrassment, "I-I'm sorry, sir. I shouldn't really be complaining..."

The liquid-smooth laughter from Zhou Yu only increased, but still, he was able to formulate words. "No, it's forgivable... don't worry about Gan Ning, okay? He only teases you to show that I likes you... as a friend."

Lu Xun cocked his head, "Well, how else would he like me?"

Realizing his mistake, Zhou Yu's laughter almost died, but he quickly covered it up. "Pirates can be loyal people, so most likely he'll look out for you in battle if you stay on his good side."

"I shall try, though to tell the truth, I cannot really tell the difference."

"If you are a good strategist, then you can find that part out for yourself... now, let's get back to the topic at hand." Zhou Yu grew serious, looking to the horse that glared at them, snorting and defying their presence. "He will truly be a challenge..."

Lu Xun drew his knees to his chest in thought, staring at the beast, "I would not wish to be the one to contain his spirit..."

Yes, Zhou Yu could see the slight fear in his eyes, and he tried to soothe it, "He knows you're afraid of him, so he's probably thinking that you would be the last to approach him... perhaps we could use this to our advantage somehow."

Oh to have such beautiful golden eyes. How could a mere human have such a wonderful color, "As you command."

"Do not worry... as long as you lure him to Gan Ning's position, he won't harm you. He'll put up a fight, but I think our pirate can take care of that part..."

Lu Xun chuckled, "You speak of him with such affection. I'm afraid the two of us are not as close of friends as you and he. Maybe one day I shall be able to trust him as much as you; I hope it will be someday very soon..."

"Soon indeed..." Oh, Zhou Yu's grin was so devious, that Lu Xun felt a twinge of fear, just by looking at it.

"Sir... I somehow get the feeling you know something that I don't..."

They were interrupted when an apple flew out of no where, hitting Lu Xun's head before it fell onto his lap. Gan Ning returned to the scene, a sack with a few apples in it, and Lu Xun's hat resting on his head. "Zhou Yu knows a lot more than ANYONE does... perhaps too much..."

Lu Xun gave a smile of delight, "You found my hat! Thank you so much!"

"I fought off some of those demon sheep to get it back, so you owe me, big time!" Striking a pose, Gan Ning handed the apple-filled sack to Zhou Yu. "Now what?"

Lu Xun placed his hat on his head, waiting for orders. Zhou Yu did not leave them waiting for long, pulling out an apple and handle it to the young officer, giving him two apples now. "Lu Xun will be the bait... I'll play my music and lure the beast out, while Lu Xun will lure him with the apples..."

Gan Ning nearly freaked out, "WHAT?! NO WAY! THAT THING COULD SERIOUSLY HURT HIM!"

That took them all by surprise, and as Lu Xun looked at the pirate with golden eyes full of wonder, Gan Ning tried to explain himself to the Cheshire cat grinning Zhou Yu. "The horse was rumored to be ruthless, right? I don't think he'll mind stomping on a few people to get wherever he wants, y'know..."

"Well, Gan Ning, if that's how you feel, you can be the one to lure the horse, and pretty little Lu Xun can stay back here with me..."

'Cornered again! Damn you...' Gan Ning sneered. "Again, I'll be doing ALL of the work around here, per usual!"

Lu Xun's eyes flashed angrily, "I am QUITE capable of luring the animal out! Do neither of you trust me?!"

"Hey, I just don't want you getting' hurt, that's all..."

"You didn't seem to care before when you stole Pat Se! Why so much concern NOW?"

Before Gan Ning could come up with a witty comeback, he was silenced by Zhou Yu's hiss, anger actually rising in his voice. "You both will scare the horse away with your shouting... we should settle this like men and not argue over who gets the glory..."

Lu Xun gave a pout, settling back onto the grass, "I care not if he wants the credit; I just don't want anyone to doubt my abilities..."

"Hey, that's putting words in my mouth! I never said I wanted glory, but to make sure that this horse doesn't turn you into butt gravy!" Gan Ning sighed, rubbing his temples. "Fine... fine... do whatever you want."

For a moment, the only sounds were the crickets chirping and the horse's laughing-like neigh, and Lu Xun rose again, looking to Zhou Yu. "Is that all of the plan, sir?"

Zhou Yu smirked, "If Gan Ning is quite done protesting, he can take up his position with the lasso."

"Yeah, yeah, sure sure..." The pirate's mood was shattered as his pride one, and it was only so obvious as he looked at Lu Xun. "Hey, kid, I need your belt..."

"But what will hold my pants up?"

Not in the mood for games, he actually grabbed Lu Xun's belt, giving it a little yank and bringing him closer to him, seeing the slight sparkle in the golden eyes that he found himself admiring so. "I dunno, maybe you can go around pants less for awhile, but I need SOMETHING to lasso the horse..."

A warm blush spread across his face, and Zhou Yu smirked, "You can use my sash, Gan Ning. Although, if you'd RATHER see Lu Xun pants less..."

"You're putting words in my mouth again!" Gan Ning sneered as Lu Xun's face got as red as his shirt, and Gan Ning released him, seeing his hurt expression. "Whatever... let's get the horse before midday... the sun's killer then..."

As Lu Xun moved forward with the apples, the pirate turned to the other strategist, snatching the offered sash, "I'm so going to kill you after this..."

Not taking his threat seriously, the older of the strategist only grinned, preparing his flute once again. "I see nothing wrong with it at all... if you really fancy him, or are you just looking for kicks?"

"Go jump in the lake..."

"Later... right now we have a horse to capture..."

Gan Ning sneered, "Yeah, but after that... just WAIT until we're around Sun Ce again..."

He was cut off, as Zhou Yu began his part of the plan, playing a soft, gentle melody that silenced the crickets. The great steed rose his head and his ears went towards the skies, as he looked towards the source of the music again. He could clearly see Lu Xun with his apples, and Gan Ning with the sash into a lasso. He snorted... stupid humans...

Oh well... he might as well have fun with the little one. Yes, the Red Hare could smell his fear, and if he had been human, he would have smiled devilishly. This should be entertaining...

This was the worst time to begin the plan, as Lu Xun's mind was elsewhere, seeing the horse and unable to stop his fears and thoughts from rising. 'Did Gan Ning really want the glory... or was he really concerned about me?'

What thing to be wondering?! It wasn't like it mattered...

He could hear the soothing music playing, and he looked at the horse, as it eyes him with those demonic black eyes. He stopped... was the horse actually walking towards him?

The strange beast nuzzled his hand, seeking the apple before completing its master plan. After all, the human had to trust him first...

'Okay, just keep him still, Lu Xun...' Gan Ning thought to himself, wishing he were telepathic at the moment. He didn't like the horse... somehow, if it was believable, the horse was planning something. 'Don't tense up...'

Lu Xun gulped, practically FORCING the apples to the horse, and he whispered, "Well... you don't seem... TOO scary..."

The Red Hare snorted, nibbling at the apple a bit, taking notice of Gan Ning inching closer and closer... Now he was on his second apple, and the human with the golden eyes was becoming relaxed. Now... now was the time to strike...

Gan Ning was perhaps a few seconds away from capturing the horse, when it gave a monstrous bellow, bucking onto its hind legs and wailing, just to scare the poor boy. Zhou Yu's music stopped when he heard the horse's ruckus, and Lu Xun was so frightened, he could not move. "Get out of its way, Lu Xun!"

Seeing the absolute terror in the boy's eyes, Gan Ning threw himself between the horse and Lu Xun shouting, "LEAVE HIM ALONE!"

As if the horse could listen, but the Red Hare continued his charge, knocking both men aside and making his charge at Zhou Yu now. The strategist had his wits about him to avoid his hooves, tucking and rolling aside and looking back at the others. "You two alright?"

Gan Ning called back, "I'm fine, but I dunno about Lu Xun!"

The young officer had a hand to his side where the horse's knee drove into his ribs, and Gan Ning got to his feet, just as the horse turned around for a second time. Zhou Yu dodged the beast again, and the thundering beasts set his wild eyes upon the two, not aiming to miss this time.

Lu Xun gave a slight gasp, closing his eyes and preparing for the horse's strike. Gan Ning, on the other hand, grabbed his sword and daring to strike at the horse, only to thwart him away. He succeeded, stopping the horse dead in his tracks, and he gave a cocky laugh, "Yeah, horse among horses, eh? Well, meet the Pirate of the Silken Sails, beast!"

The Red Hare snorted. A sword? What was a sword to him? He had been struck by them before...

Once again, Gan Ning was tossed aside by the horse, hitting the now rising Lu Xun and knocking them both over, to go tumbling down a hill. That left only Zhou Yu and the enraged horse, and the strategist growled, dropping his flute and going for his own sword as it turned back around. "To think... Gan Ning of the Bells taken down by a horse..."

The gleam in the beast's eyes told him that he was going to be next, if he was not careful. He only hoped that the other two were alright, as he prepared himself to fight the unlikely opponent. He was ready, but the horse stopped with a wail when another figure leapt in between the two, holding his halberd at the guard. "You've showed up just in time, Lu Meng..."

Lu Meng sent him an angered glance, "You should have told me you intended to do this..."

"We were going to... eventually..." Zhou Yu felt a little bit of shame, but he was more relieved then anything. The Red Hare stared at the newcomer, its muscles slowly unlocking and giving a few snorts before backing down. "Thank you..."

The man seemed not to hear, whispering to the horse, "Shhh... that's a good boy. You don't want to attack me, right?"

The creature gave a rattle of his head, stepping back a few more steps before stopping. It was almost amazing, to see the two different beings in the middle of their stare down. Still, though it appeared that this beast was now tamed, Lu Meng whispered, "You seem happy without a owner..."

He reached out, gently stroking the beasts nose, "It would be a shame to capture you... if you do not want to be captured..."

The Red Hare lowered his head slightly, all of its fury seemed to have vanished when Lu Meng touched him. Zhou Yu was in complete awe, saying nothing as Lu Meng gave a nod, putting his weapon to the side and backed off, as if allowing him to leave. The horse seemed confused, nuzzling his hand again.

"What? You're free... you belong in the wild, Red Hare..."

The beast gave his hand another nuzzle before neighing, and running off into the forest. Yes, for a beast as wild as he was, nature seemed to be the only thing that could contain him, and Lu Meng, as well as Zhou Yu, respected that. Zhou Yu nodded, looking at Lu Meng. "You're priceless..."

Lu Meng cocked an eyebrow, "And here I was thinking you and Sun Ce had something..."

"Hm... speaking of which, perhaps we should check on the other two..."

"Whatever do you mean?"

Zhou Yu answered him with a chuckle, walking towards the general direction of where the two had tumbled over the hillside. Below, in a patch of clovers, Lu Xun had just regained consciousness, only to discover the dead weight of Gan Ning rested on top of him. He groaned softly, trying to remove the pirate so that he could sit up. "Sir... you're... you're squishing me..."

"Hmm... I like this position... don't move me yet..."

"S-sir?" Lu Xun froze for a second, trying to stop the blush from rising. "Are you injured?"

Crimson eyes sent him a lazy gaze, and the pirate murmured, "No... but you are..."

Yes, Lu Xun did NOT forget that, and Gan Ning forced himself to sit up, relieving the injured man from his weight. "You okay? That horse went psycho..."

"Just a slight wound," Lu Xun assured him. "Nothing to be worried about..."

"Let me look at it... just to make sure." Gan Ning said, reaching for Lu Xun's shirt. The boy seemed hesitant, and Gan Ning's smile did not help the situation at all. "Don't worry, I'm just seeing if the Red Hare broke a rib, that's all..."

Still hesitant, but not wanting to show it, the boy nodded, "O-okay..."

With Gan Ning's help, they removed Lu Xun's elegant shirt, setting it aside on the clovers and letting the cool breeze nip at his bare skin. Gan Ning could see the welt, knowing a bruise would form soon. He did not touch it, and he asked, "Aw... do you need someone to kiss it and make it feel all better?"

Lu Xun blushed, but his voice was edged with frustration, "I am not a child! Do not treat me as one. You aren't my mother..."

"Not unless I was a woman... I was joking, kid... you think you can walk, or you want me to carry you up?"

The poor strategist struggled to his feet, "I can walk..."

He nearly toppled over, but, lucky for him, the pirate was there to save him, catching him and holding him within his strong arms. He chuckled softly, "Hm... how about I play big brother and give you a piggy back ride back up, eh? Surely THAT won't embarrass you too much..."

"I... I'm not embarrassed," Lu Xun lied, knowing his face betrayed him. Then, he asked, as Gan Ning gently lifted him up, doing exactly what he said he was going to do. "Sir... Lord Zhou Yu was implying something earlier... and, I was wondering..."

"Wondering what?"

Now this was truly embarrassing, and he asked, his voice so soft that Gan Ning had to stop to hear him. "Do... do you, you know... like me, sir?"

"Well, I certainly don't hate you. After all, we ARE on the same side," Gan Ning chuckled, avoiding the question. Perhaps he was fighting his own feelings when he said this, as he heard Lu Xun's sigh. Did he really like this kid, or was he just looking for attention. "Zhou Yu, he always looks too deep into everything, you know..."

"With all due respect, sir, I would like an HONEST answer to my question," Lu Xun responded. "I like to know the truth..."

It was an odd situation, for both men. They were in the middle of the incline, in the middle of an odd conversation. Gan Ning answered slowly, though, careful as to not want to hurt his boy's feelings. "What if I said I did?"

"Then... then at least I'd know..." Lu Xun stammered. God, how he was blushing now, and his heart felt as light as a feather, as if relieved. Was he glad that this pirate liked him? Strange, how completely strange. "Thanks for helping me..."

"What about me?" Gan Ning asked softly. "Do you like me?"

That left Lu Xun in complete silence, and he resting his head against Gan Ning's bare back, as he thought about the question. He was still so young, so maybe he would learn what the feeling was that he felt now, what he felt when he first saw him on the boats, hanging against the sails and striking a pose. Maybe he did...

"Lu Xun? What, are you asleep?"

The boy shook his head, sighing, "Give me a little time... all strategists need a little time to think about what they're next move is..."

"Alright; I'll give you all the time you need," the pirate assured him. "I can wait..."

That sent a wave of relief over him, and they finally reached the top of the hill, just as Zhou Yu and Lu Meng reached them. Lu Meng addressed Lu Xun first, holding back his scolding for later. "Are you alright?"

"I'll have a bruise, but other than that, I think I'll be fine..." Before Lu Meng could lecture the pirate, Lu Xun quickly spoke for his defense, "Sir, I was able to stop the horse, and I don't think I would have been able to do it without Gan Ning's advice..."

Lu Meng cocked an eyebrow, "So, you feel you have learned something today?"

As Lu Xun nodded, Gan Ning snickered, "Yeah... other than to stay out of the way of a psycho horse..."

"Speaking of, next time you decide to try and capture such an animal, tell me in advance so that I may knock you senseless with my halberd..." Even though he said this, he gave a rare smile, turning to leave. "I'm going to put Pat Se back to the stables... he's had way too much excitement then he could take for one day."

Zhou Yu smirked, "I think I'll go with you, Lu Meng... unless Gan Ning has some kind of objection?"

"Next time you get into trouble in the middle of battle, I'm so leaving your ass to the enemies..." Gan Ning sneered, and he looked over his shoulders at Lu Xun, turning his nose up to the other two. "Come, Lu Xun... I know a perfect spot to go fishing... that's something nice and quiet for us to do..."

Zhou Yu couldn't resist, as he whispered to Lu Meng, "And a nice place to get away from it all... and everyone..."

The man looked at him as if he was an odd fellow, and he called to the two as they turned to leave. "Be careful..."

Lu Xun blinked, "What does he mean? Surely fishing isn't dangerous..."

"No idea... they're just jealous, that's all..." With that, Gan Ning gave the two his farewell with a showing of his tongue, and they continued on their way. "Lu Xun, I'm sorry I got you into all this..."

"Apology accepted... just don't try to do something like that... EVER again..."

Giving a fake pout, the pirate nodded. "Aw, there goes my fun..."

Lu Xun smiled, "I suggest you find a new way to entertain yourself..."

"Well... I think I've just found one..." Gan Ning stopped, lowering Lu Xun to where the kid's feet touched the ground. As Lu Xun looked up, to question why they had stopped, he was answered with a kiss, a sweet, gentle, and warm kiss. Lu Xun stiffened at first, but gradually melted, yielding to the pirate's touch, and when the kiss broke, he said nothing, resting his head against Gan Ning's bare chest. "Damn... I don't think I want to go fishing anymore..."

Lu Xun spoke softly, "Then shall we go back?"

The pirate shrugged, "If you want... consider this my payments for scaring the ever living crap out of you..."

The strategist turned his enchanting golden eyes to him, "What do you want to do?"

"Something, but standing here in the woods isn't getting us ANYWHERE..." Once again, Lu Xun found himself being hefted up, and Gan Ning headed out towards Jian Ye. The sun had reached its peak, but it did not effect either one of them, for they were in pure bliss. As they were reaching the gates, Gan Ning heard Lu Xun whisper to him, and he asked, "What was that?"

Lu Xun said this was a smile, a deep, sweet little smile that only Lu Xun could give, and his golden eyes sparkled before closing, resting his soft cheek on the pirate's strong shoulders. "I... I like you too..."