By Gingivere the Shadowreaver

Disclaimer: I do not own any character in this fanfic unless otherwise stated. Lu Xun, Gan Ning, Lü Meng, and all other characters are copyrighted to KEOI Productions and are used for fan reasons only. Please do not steal or alter this fic.

However, the villains are completely made-up and I make no claims that actual people like this ever existed, especially around this time. Also the fact that the Philippine Islands and playing cards didn't exist back then should be brought into focus, but you know what? If KOEI can shove a samurai with a katana and slingshot ninjas into their historical games, then I can add those facts into my fan fiction. =p

Chapter One: A Night at the Bar

The night sky could only have only been compared to fireflies dancing within the cold, windy mists of the world, and the wind tried to push back the horde of boats, to spare this land of their savage ways, but it seemed futile. Tonight, the land of China would soon hear of Captain Hua Seung and his grey-sail fleet.

This very man stood on the stern of his own flagship, letting these pathetic winds attempt to push him back, letting it dance with his long, fizzled black hair. His eyes were like slanted balls of coal, deadly and dark as if they would pierce into the very souls of his enemies. His fizzled black beard matched his hair, but even if it were freed from its braids, it would not touch his bare chest.

Hua Seung was a pirate well known throughout the islands of the southeastern hemisphere, later to be known as the Philippine Islands, yet his name wasn't as far spread as he hoped for it to be. No one heard his name and feared it, and that angered him. However, soon that would change… So he set his coal-black eyes off to China.

Yes, China, his homeland. He hardly remembered the land, but he longed to be there once more. Of course, he wanted this land for himself; however, the task of overthrowing the strong Han Empire that had ruled the land for 200 years was a challenge to him, one that he could not dare think to oppose.

However, just as the winds had changed in his favor, so did time. Now, the news of the falling Han Empire meant only one thing to him. China was his for the taking.

And with his million-man armada, what did he have to stand against?

Each boat held at least a thousand well-bodied men, each wielding a double-sided javelin, and bow and a quiver of arrows strapped across their plainly armored chests, and at their waists, two short swords, meant for hand to hand combat. For every man there were two horses supplied, as the horses were given their own ships, along with the supplies. And he had counted his ships well… his fleet, unstoppable, his force, fast and deadly. Within a month's time, China was as good as his.

However, every general knew that force alone could not conquer the land, and that brought him to another problem. He needed names of men, of heroes of this land that were going to be a problem to him. Dispose of them, then the land was theirs.

Hua Seung was ready, but the real question was, as he gave a sickening smile to the northeast. Was China ready for such a force?

Turning about, he stormed his way towards the lower decks, knocking aside any guard that dared stand in his way. What use were a few guards anyway? He had many, many more to back him up!

He found his destination and threw the door open, waking the startled man that rested inside. The sight of the man was never a pleasant one, despite how many years they worked together. The cripple known as Sei Rong jumped from his bed, his bent over features now evident through the dim candlelight.

Sei Rong was a crippled old man that, at one point in time, practically raised this warrior, though now through their differences they had grown apart. He was no taller then five spans tall, his back suffering from a cursed birth defects, and one arm laid limp in the sleeve of his cloak, shriveled up and worthless to the rest of his body.

Seeing the crippled old man in front of him, Hua Seung bellowed, his deep bass voice booming and making the old man tremble. "Sei Rong, tell me when we will arrive at China! I'm sick of waiting!"

"Captain Seung, we are running on schedule, as you commanded!" Sei Rong replied in his hoarse, scratchy voice, one that irked the captain greatly. "We will be docking soon; you merely need patience."

That was certainly not the wisest thing one could say, and Sei Rong paid for it dearly when he found Hua Seung's boot on his chest, pinning him deeper into the ground. "Don't tell ME to be patient! You will make the fleet move faster, or I'll have your head!"

Like any man would do, the crippled strategist begged for his life, using his one good hand to grip the foot. Hua Seung could have easily killed him; however, he had an ace up his sleeves for an occasion like this. "Captain! Captain! Surely you realize… that if you kill me… then you haven't a slight CHANCE at conquering the land!"

That stopped any pressure at that moment, and, taking a breath, Sei Rong explained himself, answering to the coal-black eyes. "You know nothing of our enemies, Captain, and without a well-devised strategy, you will surely lose, even with your massive force!"

Even though the foot freed him, he wasn't spared from his captain's booming voice, "What, you say? Strategy?! What strategy would even touch my force? Count them all, one million to the general to the mere foot soldier! No strategy can defeat my army, but you are correct that I must keep you alive!"

Sei Rong was too thankful for words, and as Hua Seung took his leave, he stopped, glared at the old man again, and snorted, "I will keep you alive to prove you wrong! First dock we come to, I will use my power ALONE to conquer, then I can kill you easily, you old fish mongrel!"

With that, he left, leaving Sei Rong to tremble alone in his shadow. He trembled in fear, in rage, and in general anticipation. Could Hua Seung DO such a thing!?

Sei Rong gave a heavy sigh, now thankful that he had sent out scouts a few days before departing from the islands. He swore he would be the brain of this man, even if it were the death of him. He rather pitied China, if Hua Seung would win this war. To have such an idiot as a ruler…

"Pity yourselves and be weary, China…"


Under that very sky, a young general stared upon the constellations, admiring the rich, radiant lights that formed the starry night before him. The night seemed to peaceful that no one would have guessed the Million Manned Grey sail Fleet was heading towards China at this very moment. But why would they care? Tonight was a night of rest and peace, and no man wished to ruin it.

However, to Lu Xun of Wujun, this was quite disturbing. He knew well of the stars, as well as many other things, and as he continued to stare upon the blinking lights, he could see a cluster gathering to the southwest, a white, milky cluster.

'Odd… what does this signify?'

Lu Xun of Wujun was known to be a bright kid, even as a child, many would say that he would do wondrous things. He was well known to be a scholar, learning the Art of War as if it was his bible and able to read his comrades and enemies as if they were books. It was as if he could reach into their minds and tell a story of their life by mere observations alone.

He was no older then seventeen years old at the time, but he knew more than others did. His looks were quite surprising as well, as he was small and looked more of a child than a teen, his baby face features distinguishing him apart from the rest. His face was soft, round, and smooth, that of an angel untouched by war and politics. And his eyes were something else, round and golden tent, the eyes of a child demon.

Those eyes were an omen almost, one that inspired and struck fear at the same time. To have golden eyes like his would mean good-fortune and misery to all he knew, and he knew of this at an early age. To be a lucky jinx because of one's eye-color… what a fate.

Beyond his golden eyes and angel looks, Lu Xun was a humble young teen, but distant from others. To see him around a crowd, you could tell he was an only child, seeking the loneliest corner, to avoid looks and attention. This was his greatest fault, one that he tried to hard to overcome.

And this was not helping. Every time he was alone, he knew he should be elsewhere, with someone, discussing his strategies and opinions on the politics and situation. But, the mere thought of such a thing spooked him put completely, only locking himself further away from the rest.

Now was no different, really, as he continued to ponder the meaning of the milky white cluster in the southwest. What did that mean? It was an omen, but Lu Xun could not decide rather it was a good or a bad one.

Perhaps he never will figure out the stars, as he felt two strong, powerful hands grasp at his naked shoulders, pinning him down and onto the grass with a vicious roar. As any man would have normally done, Lu Xun began to panic, flailing his arms and clenched fists about hysterically as he tried to free himself from the grip. Whatever attacked him gave up, retracting its warm claws and giving a shout before raising the hands in the air, "Woah, woah! I surrender! Have mercy!"

When Lu Xun turned around, he expected to find an enemy general, or a demon, or something. Anything but the sight he DID see, and the pirate draped in bells fell on his rear, the jingle of his bells rattling as he laughed. "Good thing I didn't have a spear or my sword, otherwise you'd be my victim tonight!"

Of course it was Gan Ning to do something like that, and the pirate merely laughed all the more when Lu Xun gave him such a look. Gan Ning was everything Lu Xun wasn't; playful, outward, strong, and powerful, every trait that Lu Xun lacked, the pirate would make up for it.

Gan Ning of the Silken Sails, in short, was described in Lu Xun's eyes as a tall, muscular man with Short brown fair, fiery crimson eyes, strange tattoos, even stranger bells that jingle lightly in the breeze. In short, he was definitely a pirate by looks. Still, he wasn't ALL pirate, at least not the type that Lu Xun was told about as a child.

"So, what you doin'?" Gan Ning asked, a man of curiosity and a sense of getting into everyone's business. Rather he did it because he was just nosey or if he liked to bother people, Lu Xun didn't know about it, as he tried to AVOID the pirate, in fearing of looking bad in front of him. And what was worse was that the damned pirate could tell it bothered him, as he inched a bit closer. "Hey, you can tell me! Our little secret!"

To this, Lu Xun laughed, though it was a nervous one, "The stars don't really keep secrets."

The pirate raised an eyebrow, his crimson eyes like a cat's. "Stars? Oh, you were looking at them?"

"Yes sir… trying to read them like most other strategists can do." Lu Xun admitted, drawing his knees to his chest and looking up at them again, to avoid the glance he was given. Now he didn't really feel too uncomfortable being around the pirate, as the stars and their odd ways drew his attention. He wondered if Gan Ning noticed the cluster lingering over the southwest, as he muttered aloud, "Perhaps if I were as intelligent as Lord Zhou Yu, I could tell what that cluster over there meant."

He heard the sound of the bells whisper behind him, as the pirate grew closer, plucking him on the nose, "But you wanna know a little secret, kid? He's not here! So it looks like you're just going to have to forget about the clusters and enjoy what's left of our break!"

Giving a wince, Lu Xun suddenly remembered why he was even here and not in his quarters in the first place. Then he remembered with a grunt, as Gan Ning's artful smile lit up on his dirty face. "I did promise to meet you and Lord Lü Meng at the bar, didn't I?"

"Something like that, a pirate would NEVER forget!" said Gan Ning, jumping to his feet in a leopard speed fashion, and he grabbed Lu Xun's arm, to help him up. "Now let's get going, before they notice our absence!"

Something about that sentence didn't feel quite right, however, Lu Xun did not argue nor did he regret ever promising to join the two generals. Perhaps it was the break he needed?

Still, a bar to a seventeen-year-old was quite frightening, and it would certainly be a new experience for him. However, he felt a bit safer knowing that Lü Meng was there…


If there was one thing that Lü Meng of Runan feared, it was being caught in a bar, especially a bar like this. Prostitutes galore, drunken idiots running about and stalking the prostitutes, and to his left, he could hear a lucky drunken and the unfortunate woman making out. It made a man like him twitch his eyes, but say nothing more as he waited. And waited…

Lü Meng was a general who was known for his strict 'by the book' mentality, one of the rare generals that stood on the equal side of brains and brawn. Perhaps that was why he was favored so much by the king of Wu, many wondered, other then for his talents and experience alone?

Whether or not it was for those reasons, Lü Meng was a well-known general throughout China, especially in the kingdom of Wu. So if anyone were to notice him in a bar, hanging around with the likes of hookers and drunken sailors, he feared that his reputation would be tarnished forever.

'How did I let that mangy pirate talk me into this?' Lü Meng thought, drumming his fingers against the table to block out the sounds of the couple next to him. He feared looking in that general direction, in fear of violating them and his eyes as well. Of course he knew what they were doing (he did it before), but is disgusted him to see them doing such a thing in public! 'I'll have his head…'

How a general so strictly into rules and regulations got himself here, he wondered, giving an annoyed sigh and looking at the open doorway, hoping to see his fellow comrades walk through. He'd been waiting at least half an hour now and Lü Meng grew impatient, something he hardly ever did.

A waitress was nice enough to approach him on his left side, to divert his attention elsewhere as she played the bowl of wine on his table. Her face was filthy and worn down from work, but she kept her smile as she asked, "How many cups?"

Tempted to be selfish, Lü Meng reluctantly answered, "Three, ma'am."

With a bow, she was gone, and once again Lü Meng was alone, but this time he had the wine to stare at, seeing his reflection through the ruby red liquid. What a depressing sight.

He was in his mid thirties and already he had a hint of bags forming under his dark chocolate eyes and lines along the side of his face, knowing they would form to be wrinkles. Oh how he aged so quickly over the past few years. However, Lü Meng knew the cause, as he was easy to stress over matters and the years in combat did not offer him youth.

'The cost of war is a heavy one indeed… dying young seems to be one of the easiest ways out.' Lü Meng thought to himself, looking away from the wine and staring at the doors again, almost imagining the two sauntering in.

Well, Gan Ning would saunter, while Lu Xun would have kept behind the general and scuffle along, in fear of the chaos around him. Yes, Lü Meng found himself quite fond of that boy…

The kid had talent; he could clearly see that just by noticing his golden eyes and his features, despite how odd that seemed. There was something about Lu Xun that guaranteed promise in Lü Meng's eyes, and he was going to make it his personal goal to make sure that his talents would be known throughout Wu and China.

However, there was one thing that shot that ambition down. Lu Xun was a humble young man, one that would put everyone in front of him to avoid too much attention, and that fact alone made Lü Meng back away from the idea. He respected that wish, thankful that he wouldn't let such a thing, despite how good it is, get to his head, unlike SOME people he knew…

Again, he cursed that pirate…

By the way that Lü Meng thought of Gan Ning, many swore that they were enemies until the bitter end, but to those that knew him, they knew it to be false. From the moment they met they were friends, and Gan Ning owed a lot to the seasoned general, thankful to his good judgment and quick tongue in getting him under Sun Quan's command. Despite their obvious differences, the two were almost inseparable.

Almost, anyway…

Just when Lü Meng was going to curse his friend again, lo and behold who should saunter on in through the opened doorway. It didn't take the pirate long to spot his comrade, and he raised his hand to draw further attention to himself, "Heeeeeeey!"

All Lü Meng did to flag him down was a flick of his sleeve, and instantly the pirate was there to stop him from rising. "Leaving so soon?"

Giving him a look that only a friend could give and get away with, Lü Meng replied, noticing Lu Xun still standing at the doorway, appalled by the sight before him. "Care to explain as to WHY I've been waiting here for the past forty-five minutes? They are sure to notice our absence by now!"

"You worry too much, Meng! What's the worst they can do if they find us missing, eh?"

"Swift execution after a thorough interrogation!" Lü Meng barked back, his temper flared.

To this the pirate merely laughed, digging his hole deeper, "I said worse! That's EASY punishment!"

Oh, how Lü Meng wanted to ring his fingers around that throat of his, and he spoke with fierce words, neglecting to notice the group of women that found their way to the observing Lu Xun. Lu Xun was almost too busy watching the argument to notice them until one of them spoke up, "Hello…"

The boy blinked, now seeing the flock of girls around him, and, as his heart raced, he replied, eyeing the one that spoke to him and prostrating himself. "Good evening, ma'am. Can… can I help you?"

"No, no, sir…" One began, standing in a position that Lu Xun had never seen before, his eyes as wide as her breasts. "The question is… how may we help you…"

To this, Lu Xun couldn't utter a peep, trying OH so hard to stop his heart from racing, to stay calm in front of these women that KNEW he was far too young to even be here. He spoke with such calmness that he surprised himself into silence before beginning again. "I apologize… I apologize, but I must be going. I have company here-"

"What's the rush? Don't you want to talk to us?"

One grabbed his arm, and as the argument between his two superiors intensified, Lu Xun almost began to panic as another gripped his pants. That was when one of them noticed his wild blush, laughing, "One so young walking into our bar… they seem to being desperate to grow up so fast, these kids!"

"Excuse me, misses, but I really must be going! So can you please let go of my-HEY!"

By this time, he was only saved by the sounds of the jingles, and the women paused from their excessive roaming hands and the gentle ripping of his garments to look at the pirate and the angered general. Bliss was written all over Lu Xun's face as one of the women asked, "Is this your child, kind sirs?"

Child? Lu Xun thought to himself, feeling their hands release him in an instant at Lü Meng's icy reply, "Why, of course not, ladies. However, he is a general under Sun Quan's command, and it would not be wise of you to harm a general, else how can he defend your bar and your village if a group of bandits should attack?"

A look of surprise registered on the prostitutes' faces, as they quickly fell to the floor and touched their heads on the ground before them, each begging for forgiveness. When Lu Xun found his voice again, he sent his mental thanks to the two generals that saved his innocence. "All is forgiven… however, I will ask of you women to please go to your homes before it gets too late."

Without hesitation, the women gave their thanks and left the bar without a hassle, leaving Lu Xun to gather himself before the two generals. Now he gave a bow, but halfway there Gan Ning rested his arm against his chest, preventing such a motion. "Best be careful around that lot, otherwise you'd probably be singing soprano."

"Thank you," Lu Xun said, bowing his head to hide his face, but he wasn't even given that option as the pirate practically forced him to stand straight. Even then he was only up to his chest, and he feared straining his neck, wondering if that was enough to satisfy him.

"Relax already, before you grow up to be like him!"

The finger pointed to Lü Meng, who replied with a spat, "At least he'd be guaranteed a longer life; you're likely to be killed pulling off one of your insane stunts if your ego doesn't take the blow for you."

"Oh! Low blow!"

The two cut their argument short, and Lü Meng returned to his table, forgetting about the two lovers until he noticed how pale Lu Xun's face became. It was Gan Ning that shooed them away, "Hey, get a room already! And quit making everyone jealous!"

Finally there was some peace, and Lu Xun dared not sit until someone pressed down on his shoulders. There was an odd silence for a little while, as Lu Xun noticed the features of the frustrated general across from him. Was he angry for being late? Lu Xun began to apologize, "Please forgive my tardiness, Lü-"

"All is forgiven; you're not really late because it was the fact that I had arrived a bit too early," Lü Meng lied, to make Gan Ning happy. He was quick to forgive, Gan Ning thought thankfully, and he spoke as if all of his past frustration had suddenly disappeared, wearing a false smile to ease Lu Xun's tension. "Though, you really do need to relax a little, Lu Xun. Being all on the edge for your birthday isn't a way to celebrate."

Now this surprised Lu Xun into a deeper silence, as an almost evil grin rose onto Gan Ning's face. How did they know it was his birthday?! He tried to speak, but Gan Ning cut him off, "We have a very reliable source, Lu Xun, so don't bother to deny it! How old are you now, eh?"

"Eighteen, sirs…" Lu Xun answered, flattered that anyone could remember his birthday (or sneak their way into finding it out, since he wasn't known to give out much personal information about himself). Now he understood why he was here, as he now thanked them. "Thank you so much for noticing… you didn't have to take time off of your busy schedule to celebrate…"

"We didn't!" Gan Ning blurted out, and he screeched when Lü Meng slapped the back of his head. "Hey, what was THAT for?"

Lü Meng's answer was a heated glare, but it turned into a grin at he turned to Lu Xun, replying truthfully, "Well, not completely taking time off. Not officially, anyway."

As if the pieces of the puzzle began to fall into place, Lu Xun nodded, realizing the two were neglecting their duties against their Lord's wishes. With that, he gave a nod, "You're secret is safe with me, sirs. The least I can do."

"See? You worry too much, Meng! Besides, it's not like we won't be returning to our posts in the morning anyway, right?" Gan Ning laid back in his chair, resting his arm along the back but careful not to anger the seasoned veteran with his lack of table etiquette. "So no worries; it's the kid's birthday, so let's enjoy it, even if it'll be the last!"

"Our last? Since when did YOU think that the world may end tomorrow?" Lü Meng asked sarcastically, raising an eyebrow.

However, the pirate's response was far greater than his, "Well, if Sun Quan finds out what we're about to do, then we'll be as good as dead ANYWAY, right?"

"You mangy pirate!"

Seeing those two argue was confusing to Lu Xun, and he kept silent, watching Lü Meng wave his clenched fist at the pirate's general direction, threatening to strike him again. He wondered how anyone could be friends if they treated each other like this constantly, and, while he was pondering this, he wondered if he would ever grow to have such a friendship with either of these two men. Was he worthy?

"Now behave before I do the executioner's job for you!" Lü Meng threatened, a slight laughter in his voice. Seeing Lu Xun's distant expression, he grabbed one of the cups and dipped it into the bowl that took up most of the table. His hand got drenched in wine, but he didn't complain, "Now, we're going to do what NORMAL men do to celebrate a friend's birthday. Lu Xun, fill your cup!"

This only made Lu Xun laugh nervously, raising his hand to decline the offer, "Forgive me, but I've never drank before, other then minor sips."

The pirate took his fill now, dunking his cup in and looking at the glistening wine, "So Lü Meng bought all of this for nothing? Surely you don't think we can drink this alone!"

"With your bottomless pit, I wouldn't count on that. It'll be gone within a matter of minutes." Lü Meng retorted. He then took them by surprise, grabbing Lu Xun's cup and filling it, giving a rare smile before handing it to the youth. "Either way, best we hurry up and finish this before Lord Sun Quan finds out… he'll never let us return to Jian Ye knowing that we were celebrating with wine without him."

"Lü Meng, you're a sly dog!" Gan Ning laughed. "And here I thought you were the elder of the three of us!"

Taking the cup now, Lu Xun gave another bow of his head, before bringing it to his lips. Gan Ning stopped him, "Hey now, wait a second! We need to toast first!"

Raising an eyebrow, Lu Xun asked, lowering his cup again, "Then what should we toast for?"

It did not take long for them to find a reason, as Lü Meng brought his glass up first, "To Wu, that our kingdom may last out many generations for our children to live in peace."

Adding on, Gan Ning replied, "To women, so that we can HAVE children to live in that land of peace."

"To Wu and women then," Lu Xun replied, closing his eyes to prevent his tears from being seen. Their glasses touched, and he wondered if they truly knew how much this touched his heart, to have friends like this. He never had anyone close like this before, and, as he followed their examples and let the burning liquid flow through his mouth and down his throat. Oh how it burned, be he drank every last drop before removing the smooth wood from his lips. How could anyone get used to this?

To his surprise, Gan Ning filled his cup again, pressing it against his lips until he has no choice but to swallow, "Not done yet! After a good ten rounds, you'll be a REAL man!"

A real man, Lu Xun thought to himself, as the liquid burned at his throat again. What choice did he have? If Lü Meng enjoyed self-indulgence, then why not himself? And besides, it was only one night of a free-life, so why waste it?

This was the way to celebrate a birthday…


"So, what information did you acquire?"

Sei Rong looked to the women before him, their hands bound and blood forming on their knees. In order to not rise suspicion from Hua Seung, Sei Rong allowed the spies into the flagship, but under the cost of false slavery. He only hoped these 'prostitutes' did their job…

One spoke up, but her voice was low, in fear of the pirate captain hearing her. "The village to the south is fairly defenseless; a few generals but no soldiers above three thousand or so."

"And these generals, are they of any importance?"

The crippled old man wanted to know as much about their enemy as possible, to please Hua Seung. They did not want to be caught off guard… especially by a mere three thousand soldiers.

"I'm not sure; we did not see any sort of training and we found three of the generals within a bar… if you should attack tomorrow, then they will be caught unawares and you will attain a place to stay early."

This was certainly good news, however, this made Sei Rong sigh. "That means Hua Seung will want us to rush in head-on… but we don't know enough about these generals or the strength of their army, even if they're that small."

The women seemed restless, and Sei Rong gave the order as the guards grabbed them and hurled them overboard. Their screams were muffed by the splashes of their bodies hitting the sea, but Sei Rong didn't care. These women would have been a problem if they returned, as he found them to be traitorous and fickle in loyalty.

With that bit of business taken care of, Sei Rong half-stood, half-crouched against the side, looking towards the land of China. Surely these three generals and their mere three thousand troops wouldn't propose a problem to his master's Million Man army?