The author is not and never will be a big fan of yaoi nor shonen ai. So please don't expect such settings in this fan fiction. My thanks to Chibi Viki for some help. Disclaimer: Characters depicted in the story aren't mine. They belong to Koei and W-Force.
Of Exquisite Beauty
"Are you prepared to meet your former lord in the upcoming battle in Guan Du?" There was a suspicious tone in Xiahou Dun's voice as he stepped inside the serene garden of He Fei Castle. He has never before set foot on the said garden for there was no reason for him to do so. Until now.
The Cherry Blossoms were in full bloom that season, the petals slowly fell like pink snow covering the ground. Birds of different colors flew from one tree to another as they chirped gleefully. There was even a little brook running through the garden, adding to the soothing effect of the area. It was truly one of the most beautiful places in the massive castle.
But these Xiahou Dun ignored for such trivial matters held no interest to him. He only cared for the important battles that will lead Wei to victory. The renowned one-eyed warrior walked toward a lone figure leaning on a massive tree trunk. Hand on his sword's hilt, Xiahou Dun stopped in front of the newcomer to the Wei Forces.
"Cao Cao may have taken you under his wing but it doesn't mean that he completely trusts you." Xiahou Dun continued when the man refrained from answering. He wasn't even looking at him but at the colorful butterflies fluttering around him. What insolence! "Be warned, Zhang He of Heijan, you are being watched. Any actions that we find treacherous will lead you to death."
The eccentric Zhang He finally settled his gaze on the irritated warrior before him, a little smirk forming at the corner of his lips. He crossed his arms on his chest but didn't straighten up from the tree, which caused further annoyance to the strict Xiahou Dun. "With all due respect, my lord, what nonsense are you blathering about now?"
"Know where your loyalties lie, amateur!"
Zhang He merely raised a thin eyebrow. Amateur, eh? He finally straightened up from the tree and swept Xiahou Dun a flamboyant bow. "Forgive my impertinence, my lord. I should know my place."
Xiahou Dun narrowed his eye. He still didn't trust this combatant. His too nonchalant attitude was a little disconcerting. Zhang He was a difficult man to read for he rarely displays emotions. The little he shows was still doubtful since he masks his responses to events very well.
"But be assured, Lord Xiahou Dun." The young man continued as he stood on his full height. A serious expression replaced the smirk on his face. "I am now part of the Wei Forces. My loyalties lie on the Lord Cao Cao alone and no one else." Something akin to anger burned in the depth of his dark eyes. But it quickly disappeared, an unnerving calm took its place. "You have my word."
* * *
Zhang He's hold on the reins tightened as he scanned the battlefield. Finally, they are going to eliminate Yuan Shao from their path to victory. A muscle in his jaw clenched. He has served Yuan Shao before, but he felt no qualms about destroying his army now. Guo Tu, a high ranking officer of the enemy force, has falsely accused him of grave matters, which resulted to the Yuan Family's mistrust. The snake Guo Tu will taste the full wrath of the warrior Zhang He's vengeance.
"Remember my warning." Zhang He relaxed his hold on the reins when Xiahou Dun led his dark warhorse beside Zhang He's white steed.
"I will, my lord." The young man replied nonchalantly. "I shall prove to you that I am truly a warrior of the Wei Force. Shall we proceed gracefully?" The one eyed warrior scoffed his disbelief, as if saying What can you do with those iron claws? Zhang He mentally shrugged. Underestimate him all he wants. He was once the best warrior of the Yuan Force, able to defeat hundreds of men. And when Xiahou Dun realizes that, he will respect his skills.
"All units, attack!" Cao Cao roared behind them as he raised his sword high up in the air. "Strike fear to the hearts of the Yuan Family!" The Wei Force shouted and charged toward the enemy below. Zhang He dug his heels on his horse's flanks and joined the officers as they galloped toward the Yuan Army.
It was bloodbath. Cries of fallen warriors were music to his ears. Zhang He's golden Peacock Claws proved to be as efficient as swords. More efficient, if truth be told. For the five long blades on each hand inflicted deep and fatal wounds, which can make his enemies curl in agonized pain before dying. Much to his vicious satisfaction. But he didn't waste his time on mere soldiers. He wanted to kill officers.
And Guo Tu was the first one on his list.
Zhang He galloped pass enemy soldiers, his attacks aimed at their throats for instant kill, and spied a comrade fighting not far away from him. He remembered him introducing himself as Xu Zhu. While the other officers were still quite reserved, Xu Zhu was the first one to welcome him in the Wei Force the moment he entered the cold stone walls of He Fei Castle. Zhang He found him stupid and annoying, yet friendly. A foolish trait a warrior should rid himself of. Then again, the large Wei Officer has begun to trust him.
And was terribly being outnumbered by the enemy.
Tch! That fat lout couldn't do anything right!Zhang He thought in irritation. He galloped toward his comrade. Springing from his white steed before it halted, he somersaulted in the air and executed a perfect swan dive. The enemies around him were thrown away from the impact. Zhang He took advantage of it. His feet barely touching the ground, he swung his claws in a graceful yet deadly dance.
"Thanks for coming!" Xu Zhu wheezed as he swung his gigantic mace around, hitting his opponents hard on their heads and killing them instantly. "I knew we could count on you. I told Lord Cao Cao so!" The stupid grin was on his face as he spoke.
Zhang He didn't answer as he flicked away the blood dripping from his razor sharp claws. Why Lord Cao Cao would even want someone like Xu Zhu as his officer was beyond him. The large warrior was so simpleminded, Zhang He would bet his life that Xu Zhu would believe anything he was told… Unless he had strict orders not to listen to anyone but the Prime Minister himself.
Ah, so that's it.
The tyrant lord Cao Cao demanded complete obedience and loyalty from his officers and soldiers. Anyone who dared to oppose him would meet the cruelest of punishments. Any oversight, may it be minor or of grave importance, will result to one punishment alone. Death. Lord Cao Cao leads with an iron hand, and his men respect him for that.
And perhaps that's the reason the Wei Army was powerful.
Nodding toward Xu Zhu as his answer, Zhang He proceeded to mount on his white warhorse, but caught sight of his prey, Guo Tu, running away with his tail between his legs. He quickly directed his steed toward the treacherous snake, positioning his right hand for the deadly blow he's going to inflict on the man.
He finally caught up to him and swung his claws, wounding Guo Tu at his back. Blood gushed out, Guo Tu screamed in pain as he knelt on the ground. The lithe warrior dismounted, grabbing the officer by the scruff of his neck. Zhang He leveled his claws on his prey's throat, blood trickled down as the sharp points lightly dug on his neck.
"Well now, this is interesting." Zhang He said, a menacing look glinted in his eyes. "How ironic. I should be the one to die in your hands but lo and behold, I have you in my mercy instead. The tables have turned, my friend." Zhang He pulled back his claws in order to plunge them inside his enemy's throat. "Now, you die. Unpleasantly, I might add."
"W-Wait! Please! Hear me out!" Guo Tu begged. "I was merely following orders, Lord Zhang He! P-Please, spare me!!!"
Only a brow shooting upward betrayed Zhang He's thoughts. If he was surprised from that revelation, he didn't show it. Instead, he displayed mild curiosity. "On whose orders?"
"I-It was Lady Zhen! She ordered me to spread those rumors about you!" The pathetic officer stammered. "Lady Zhen Ji said that if I didn't---"
Guo Tu didn't finish. Zhang He pulled out the iron claws he plunged inside Guo Tu's skull. He released the inanimate body of the officer as he flicked his weapon clean of his blood. "What a pity that a man with a great mind and skill like yours merely lived to follow the perverse whims of a woman. Such wondrous gifts are a waste on you."
Zhang He walked toward his white steed and mounted. He galloped toward the castle to hunt down the Lady Zhen Ji. To kill her or not, he remained undecided. But he most probably will because of her treachery.
But first, she has a lot of explaining to do.