Rose Tint My World
by Gingivere the Shadowreaver
Disclaimer: I own no characters in this fanfic. All are copyrighted to Koei.
Author's Note: Listening to 'Broken' helps with inspiration... and we're coming close to the ending of this fanfic, so I shall make sure that it will get done! So... let's hope that it's all worth the wait.
The march to battle was nothing new to Wei Yan, as it had grown accustomed to. He was used to the rhythmic pattern of the stomps, falling in perfect line with the soldiers even with his own odd walk. War was just something he grew to live through, despite the wishes of Zhu Rong.Zhu Rong…
Instantly, that name brought a burst of joy within his refreshed body. Why did that name bring him such peace… and suddenly, a new feeling of dread?
Within the past few days, he knew true happiness. He finally felt worthy to someone, enough to want to live, enough to want to fight again. Yet, was it too good? Could it be that this, too, was only a mockery of his existence, that he could easily lose what he had worked so hard and waited so long to gain?
He missed a step, but no one cared. The men behind him seemed to have accepted his service all too well, and he pitied that. These men he fought against were now his allies, and his former allies, his foes.
No, the battle was obvious. There was no possible victory for the Nanman forces, Wei Yan knew that much to be true. After all, after six victories, it was amazing at how much morale these men had left in them… the spirit of the Nanman could not be ignored, obviously. Yet, with that undying spirit came the courage to accept the brutal annihilation of their men, all for the sake of their land and their king. Yet… weren't any other kingdom and its people?
The battle… was not a real fight at all, but a slaughter for the Nanman. Wei Yan knew this… yet why did he fight alongside them now?
Deep in his heart, he knew, knowing that it was not for the sake of the people, nor his new ruler, nor for the sake of revenge against Zhuge Liang, but instead, he fought for the sake of his heart, the heart of his very existence. He did not fight for himself, for once, but instead, he fought for the sake of the Goddess of Fire, Zhu Rong.
It was this truth that brought him peace, to know that should he have died here, than it was not all for nothing. Unlike the Shu forces, he didn't fight here to calm the spirits, and unlike the Nanman forces, he did not fight to live. He merely fought so that there would be a chance to see her again…
He had to survive… so that he could see her again.
Zhuge Liang looked upon the Nanman forces, eyeing them closely with a sense of anticipation, though upon inspection, no one could tell, really. After all, he did such a wonderful job of holding in his emotions that many thought of him to be a statue at times. And at this very moment, in Zhao Yun's eyes, that's exactly how he looked.
The aged man stood at the front of his own army, scanning the enemy forces before him and letting that be his only movement. He breathed so lightly that no one noticed if he was breathing at all, and his white feathered fan rested against his chest lightly, as he looked on the scene, as if to be lost in thought.
Well, it wasn't too far from the truth. He knew that his forces were unseen through to the enemy, and he was merely waiting for the right moment to strike. His men were surprised at how much spirit the Nanman forces had left, yet that was hardly his concern. They were at their peak, and this was to be the final blow, so everything had to be perfect.
And so far, the plan was working out perfectly.
He smiled lightly, and only Zhao Yun, who stood right next to him, noticed it beyond the protective exterior that Zhuge Liang allowed to be shone. Something bothered him… "It is time… inform the archers to light their fires."
The soldier instantly bowed and left, leaving with not further questions, and Zhao Yun did not know what to do. No, he could not speak up yet, but it seemed that Zhuge Liang, though well aged, had his wits about him still, as he asked, "Why your concern?"
"Sir?" Zhao Yun was a bit surprised, though it did not last for long. After all, this WAS Zhuge Liang they were talking about. He lowered his head slightly, wondering how to even begin, and he replied softly so that the soldiers could not hear them. "I am concerned for… I mean, about Wei Yan, Master Zhuge."
To that, the Sleeping Dragon merely snorted, "You shouldn't. Everything is well, and one soldier cannot make a difference against us."
"That's not my point."
"Oh? Then what is?" Zhuge Liang did not look at him, not even once, and though Zhao Yun thought of this as a sign of disrespect, he knew better than to speak out against Zhuge Liang at the moment. Something just was not right about this sudden calmness that seemed to have lingered over him… "I have taken Wei Yan's betrayal into consideration from the minute we arrived here… so not think that I would take Lady Zhu Rong so lightly."
Hearing her name was a bit of a surprise, and Zhao Yun never even got the chance to ask, as Zhuge Liang explained, "Yes, I knew that Zhu Rong would have attacked if we embarrassed her husband a few times; there were rumors that she was quite an ill-tempered amazon, a battleaxe so to speak, and if provoke, she were to strike out against us on her own as well."
"Indeed, Master Zhuge…" Zhao Yun was amazed, though somehow, it seemed deeper than that. He swallowed the knot in his throat, as he then asked, "Tell me, please… but how much did you think this through, and how does this have to do with your consideration on Wei Yan's defect?"
The Sleeping Dragon closed his eyes, as if to be tired, but he answered, never the less, pretending not to notice the anger rising in Zhao Yun's green eyes. "I also knew that Wei Yan would capture her rather than kill her, so I gave the order for him to kill her. Seeing that he did not notes two things: he was not going to obey my orders, and also, the fact that seeing another woman fight would strike a feeling within him, one that would entice him to ignore my initial order to kill her."
Zhuge Liang could not see the Little Dragon seething, even as the man replied, "I see."
"I was not expecting him to fall in love with her so soon, though… perhaps I have underestimated her charm a bit."
"Or perhaps you thought that little could reach his heart?"
Yes, now Zhuge Liang could hear the anger in him, hearing it almost loud and clear, despite the whisper. He merely nodded, "Perhaps so… there is much about Wei Yan that is hidden."
Zhao Yun spoke up again, his sense of justice swelling within his heart and ready to explode. "Yes… there is so much about him that you fail to see, that you fail to even want to see! He held so much pain within him that releasing it only made it worse!"
"You sound angry."
Boy, wasn't that the obvious?
"Zhao Yun, before you shout and give away our position, listen to my reason, will you?"
What was Zhao Yun to do? He knew that, no matter the injustice being done, that announcing their position would make matters worse. So he silenced himself, staring deep into Zhuge Liang's eyes and hanging on to each and every word, hoping that he would not fall victim to that charm of his that he had done so many times before.
"I know what I did to him is cruel and inhumane, but to expose the traitorous soul within him, I had to resort to this tactic. Do not think for an instant that I didn't recognize him when he walked into the tent of my lord… though grown and hidden behind the mask, I knew instantly who he was. That was why I wanted him killed… it was why I wanted to leave him on the banks that day, and hope that the soldiers gave him a quick death. It would have been better off for Shu had he been killed with his mother… that is why I decided against saving him in the first place."
Somehow hearing this wasn't as surprising as Zhao Yun wanted to think, but that did not soothe the anger and pain within him, as he asked through clenched teeth, "So you knew… you knew all along?!"
What else was Zhuge Liang to say?
Zhao Yun was known for many things; he was brave on the battlefield, unmatched in skill and able to break through hundreds of soldiers and returned unscratched. He could have killed Zhuge Liang right there, but he did not. Instead, he turned his head away, to spat, "Then… why? Why… did you not just slay him with your own sword? Why all this?"
"Because, as reliable as I am, no one would have ever have believed me." Zhuge Liang explained. "I could not convince Liu Bei to slay him when he came to request joining his ranks; I alone could not do it."
"So you relied on his love for Zhu Rong to do it?!" Zhao Yun growled. "All this time you said he was going to betray us, and you are correct… for it was you that implanted the thoughts in his brain, it was you… that pushed the stake into his heart, to cause him to fight back!"
And what came next made Zhao Yun gasp in pain, for hearing such a statement made his heart ache and stomach twist, "And thus I created a monster… so that he may die here before he falls into the hands of a greater foe…"
Zhao Yun could say nothing, as hearing the confession seemed to have drained him of all logical words. All this time, Zhuge Liang was planning this… and it worked! What a cruel, yet ingenious, plan! If Wei Yan were to die here, than at least he would not fall into the hands of Wei… genius! He hated to admit it, and it brought up a tear as he did so, "Brilliant, per usual, Master Zhuge Liang…"
And, as the first Nanman gave a cry, as the forest began to ignite around them, Zhuge Liang nodded, asking, "Is there anything else you wish to know then, Zhao Yun?"
As Zhuge Liang looked back at him, his face was void of all emotions, and it only pained Zhao Yun more, to know that he could not nothing against him. "Then let us proceed with the plan… this will be the final strike against the Nanman, and this time, we will strike more than their souls, but their very heart…"
'Wei Yan... if there was a way to forget the past... do you think... that all of this would have happened?'
The only thing that Wei Yan knew now was pain, as he trudged through the ankle deep water, flames all around him and knowing that the Shu soldiers were hot on his heels. Good, he thought, grasping his side and thinking to himself. The plan was working... as long as he drew their attention away from her-
'The past is really painful... but... perhaps if you had enough will power, you can just will it all away.' Her voice haunted him, even now, during a crisis? He gave a grunt, nearly tripping over himself and running in an odd pattern, one that was sure to confuse his foe. He still heard her, as if it refused to be silenced. 'I don't want to see you in such pain anymore...'
He dodged a fallen, burning branch, letting it hit the stream harmlessly as he continued to run.
Could she really just take it all away? After a life he lived, trying to escape the pain, how could she just make it all go away? It made no sense; even Zhuge Liang could not be able to make sense of it, but somehow... she did it.
When he held her slender form within his arms, he felt nothing... nothing but a sense of pleasure, a sense that he finally won against the horrors of his past. The demons that haunted him were powerless when she was there, resting her small head against his scarred chest, and the memories seemed to fade away by that smile alone.
It was impossible... he gave a hiss, leaning against the tree for support for a second before catching his breath and continuing onward, not hearing the sounds of the soldiers that followed in close pursuit over the sound of burning wood. He had to get them away...
Get away... get them away from her, get them away from him...
Yet all he could see was not the flaming jungle in front of him, but her ivory face, dampened with sweat, as he laid upon her on the cool jungle floor. What was he thinking? He truly wasn't thinking of the man that was her husband, nor any thought of spies following them. He thought nothing of the consequences, but instead, of the rewards that came from this. Was it so wrong... to enjoy it?
He felt her slender, gentle fingers rise to touch his unmasked face, enjoying the sensation of flesh touching it once more. It brought up a sensation within him that he could not ignore, even now. He just could not get it out of his mind... perhaps he would be blessed and die with that memory still within his mind. Yes... what a pleasant death that would be.
"Wei Yan, stop right there!"
Did he listen? Yes... why could he not? He came to a sudden halt, quickly turning and catching the spear with a swift movement that no one had ever seen before, especially Zhao Yun. The Little Dragon was surprised but only for a second, knocking his former general back and holding his ground, not advancing but making sure that he did not get away. It was so odd to look at him and see him without the mask, Zhao Yun had to admit, holding up his spear as Wei Yan straightened himself up again. "Wei Yan, please, reconsider this act of betrayal to Shu! It'll only bring your death!"
What Wei Yan did frightened him, and to see the smile that lit his face was beyond all reasoning, as it was not one of pride, nor defiance... but instead, it was one of pure joy, one that made Zhao Yun's heart break. Why? Why couldn't he have seen that smile at another time, when he was on his side? Guilt ran through him, as he tried again, "Wei Yan, please listen to me... I don't want to kill you, but... if you turn your blade upon me, then I must follow Lord Zhuge's orders!"
Orders? What were orders to him? Orders... were what held him down, what forced him into that position of the weak, to be mocked and ridiculed by those around him. Why should he even bother now, and Wei Yan said nothing, his smile merely deepening as his mind wondered towards a more happier subject.
She was waiting for him to return... but he had to complete his mission first. And his mission spoke up again, tearing away any sweet vision within his mind before it could unravel itself. "Wei Yan, are you even listening to me?!"
Was he? No, he heard everything, but he blocked it all out. He did not matter... getting back to Zhu Rong did. She was all that mattered now... he began to back away, slowly, but obvious to Zhao Yun's point of view. What Zhao Yun did not see was the small gorge that was there, but it didn't matter. Nothing was going to stop him anyways... nothing would keep him from her anymore, not Zhao Yun, not Zhuge Liang, not Meng Huo... not even God himself.
Looking into Wei Yan's dark eyes, Zhao Yun felt tears wanting to rise, as he asked, "You... you really do love it here... don't you? You're happy here... your smile tells me that. And that woman... are you staying because you hate us so much for what we've done to you... or... is it because of her?"
Wei Yan just smiled, taking another step and getting ever so closer to the edge. And though Zhao Yun stepped up, to stop him, he couldn't do more than reach out his hand, as if to have some kind of hope that he was going to return to his senses. However, just by looking into those eyes, he knew... that there would be no other way. Swallowing the knot in his throat, the Little Dragon asked, "If you die with her... will you then be happy?"
'Don't leave me... not yet... not just yet.'
Her voice called out to him, and who was he to ignore it? He looked to Zhan Yun, to see his saddened expression, and he merely smiled, before taking one last step and allowing himself to fall over the edge of the gorge, but only after he gave a silent, "Yes..."
What could Zhao Yun do? Stop him? No, Zhao Yun couldn't bring himself to grab him in time, and he stood still for a second, to hear the sound of the body crashing along the side of the hill, letting it fade away before gathering the courage to look over the gorge. Wei Yan was no where to be seen…
"Wei Yan… I'm so sorry…" Never in his life had he felt so helpless, and he looked to the sky, to see the smoke rising from the direction of the Nanman village. It was done, he thought… the plan had worked, just as Zhuge Liang said.
Speaking of Zhuge Liang… was there ever a thing that he was wrong about? Throughout his vast memory, he couldn't think of a single moment where the Sleeping Dragon's words had not failed to be true. He was right about almost everything… especially the part about Wei Yan betraying Shu.
Somehow that seemed too harsh of a word for Wei Yan's situation. What else was there left for him to do? His only protection from the inevitable had died, and now he was exposed to whatever punishment that Zhuge Liang seemed fit for him. And here he was, seeing through this plot, and yet, could he do nothing?
"What kind of warrior am I… if I am helpless here?" Zhao Yun spoke aloud to himself, turning away from the gorge and giving a heated, yet defeated, sigh. He wanted to correct things, but how could he when it would be considered treachery to the cause of Shu-Han? He could not betray his kingdom and his cause, but… he did not want to forsake Wei Yan either. He snorted, finally walking away, heading back towards the camp to report to Zhuge Liang. "Hm… what kind of warrior am I then to stand and do nothing? A fine warrior indeed!"
Perhaps after all of this was settled, his time would come to where he would rest, and maybe by that time he could settle this uneasy feeling within his heart. This… was not right, not right at all.
The woman that fought valiantly on the battlefield had no problem at all, rather enjoying the flames around her as he threw her large boomerang around, slaughtering the Shu soldiers that dared to some near her. She fought more than to protect her kingdom, but for a little bit more. For the first time in awhile, she fought with all her heart, showing no mercy to anyone that dared get in her path. She, the Goddess of Fire, wasn't going to go down without a fight, not when she had so much to look forward to.
'They attack with flames… Nanman doomed…'
How true were Wei Yan's words, she thought to herself, using the blade part of her boomerang to slice through the soldiers, releasing her battle cry as she did so. The fire attack was brilliant to say the least, however, that did not bother her. Seeing Wei Yan jerk away from her, with tears in his eyes, hurt her so much. 'We… all die… no want… you die…'
A soldier leapt at her from behind, and thankfully her reflexes saved her, kicking up her leg and knocking him back, giving her enough time to wail her weapon about and crush his chest with a single blow. Fighting these peons was easy, though she had a bit of trouble concentrating. For some reason, she just could not get her mind off of him… and how could she not, when she was in love?
Seeing the soldiers surround her again, and gave a cry, letting her natural, cocky self take over for a second as she taunted them, "Come on! Prove to me that you're men! Come on!"
They did not back down from the challenge, and neither did she.
She could still see Wei Yan's tears, even as she brush them away with her fingers. His naked form seemed so little in comparison to those wanting eyes, and she spoke softly, her words giving her some kind of strength right now. 'Hey, as long as you're here with me… I can never die.'
Zhu Rong and Wei Yan had a plan; they knew that the downfall of the Nanman was inevitable, and that there was no point in false hope. So instead, they placed their hope into this simple thought: allow Zhuge Liang to have the Nanman territory… and they run away together.
Yes, that was the perfect idea, the perfect little scheme, woven by their hearts. This was their bond, their hopes of seeing one another all implanted into this one idea. Even as she cut through the forces, she knew that the downfall was here, and all that was needed to do now was the flee, to meet Wei Yan in their final destination.
As the last soldier around her fell dead, she stood ready to flee, however, she could not bring herself to move. Though her heart and mind told her to flee, to find Wei Yan and to escape, there was something that forbid her to go now.
Seeing her distracted enticed a soldier, rushing at her with his sword drawn and hoping to gut her from behind. She did not even see him coming, not until she heart her husband's ferocious cry, spinning around to see the man crushing the soldier within the palm of his hands. "Losing your touch… sweet heart!"
Somehow, she wished he did not use that word, and he knew it. He looked back at her, and she could not move, wondering if now would be the best time to tell him of her heinous act. However, there was no chance, as they heard the order from Zhuge Liang, all too late. "Fire!"
Zhu Rong looked at Meng Huo for one last time, seeing his look of pure pain, even as the arrows came. He fell to his knees and reached out to her, his pained cry inaudible to her ears. He mouthed her name, yet, as she slowly began to sink into the ground, she heard another voice in place of her own, though Wei Yan was no where to be seen.
"So much… for the happy ending…"