Legacy of the Lunar Spear
"How is Xiahou No Name doing this morning?" Xiahou Yuan asked as he sat down next to his brother who was holding the new baby.
"Probably insecure because her father can't provide something as simple as a name." Ling mumbled as she shoved breakfast into her mouth like she hadn't eaten in years.
"We are not naming her after your father." Dun snapped and the baby began to cry.
"Nice going." Yuan chuckled as his brother tried to shush her back to sleep.
Cao Cao shook his head as Dun finally let his brother pick up the newborn and she only screamed louder. "Why are you having so much trouble deciding on a name?"
"You took them all." Dun took his daughter back and she quieted down a little. He gave her his finger to suck on and she seemed content with that.
"You're getting a late start." Cao Cao shot back. "Not my fault all the good names are already taken."
Dun looked over as Zhang Liao entered the room with his fiancé. "Enough kids to populate a small country, but no grandkids to speak of huh?"
Ling looked over at Liao and smiled. "That's right! You're a grandpa now!"
Dun didn't bother to hide his mischievous grin. "Before you even marry my twenty year old niece! Even the great womanizer Cao Cao couldn't achieve that."
"Didn't say I haven't achieved it." Cao Cao protested. "I just haven't taken credit for it."
Qing He avoided Liao's eyes; she had led him to believe she was a bit older than she was. "Uncle Dun, I didn't think age was an issue with you."
"It's not." Ling looked over her shoulder at her husband. "He's just trying to pick on Liao. Why don't you quit being a child and let him see his nameless granddaughter?"
"You still haven't settled on a name?" Liao asked the question of the hour as Dun handed the little girl to him. He smiled down at her.
"I think we'll just call her 'No' since that is all Dun seems to say when I suggest something."
"Ling, you only suggest naming her after your father in some way shape or form. I'm surprised you don't want to name her after your horse."
"I have yet to hear any suggestions from you." Ling stood and went over to Liao as he played with the infant.
"Ling," Qing He looked at the baby and then to Liao's face. He didn't hide the joy he was feeling, he was genuinely happy to be a grandparent. "I have a favor to ask. Can you help your father settle on a uniform for our wedding?"
"You're taking her advice on clothes now?" Yuan asked.
"No. I just…" Qing He smiled. "Like him better without."
Liao could hear Cao Cao chuckling which he found somewhat disturbing. "I can dress myself."
"I'll help!" Ling smiled and gave her husband a glance. "That should give Dun plenty of time to think of a name."
Qing He smiled. It would also give her an opportunity to talk with her father about moving up her wedding date. She wasn't going to give Pi the chance to ruin the best day of her life.
"Also leave me to deal with my father by myself." Dun looked up at Ling's smile.
"Something you should be grateful for." She smirked. "One more comment from him about breast feeding and I'm going to tie him to the underside of a milk cow."
"What's wrong?" Liao asked nervously and looked back to the mirror.
"Nothing." Ling Qi smiled and brushed off a loose hair from his uniform. "You look perfect."
"I really didn't want all this fanfare."
"You're marrying the King's daughter. What did you expect?" She sat down and smiled, she had never seen him nervous. Was this how it would have been if her father had married Diao Chan?
"I hoped that she wouldn't decide to compete with her brother." Liao sighed. "I was wrong."
"Better get used to it." Ling grabbed his hand and squeezed. "I'm so happy for you."
"I'm very proud of you." Liao hugged her. "You've really grown, despite everything life has thrown at you…you've become a great woman. I have to admit I am surprised you could forgive Cao Cao."
"Losing that battle killed my father, Cao Cao just happened to be the one who won. You made me realize that. Anyone else would have killed him too. Because of his actions nobody trusted him. I don't think anyone else would have admitted to killing him because he was uncontrollable…I think they would have simply told me he deserved to die. Liao, without you I could have never seen that."
"I am very proud of you." He placed a kiss on her forehead.
"I hope you still think that when I have to kill Cao Pi."
Liao closed his eyes and rested his chin on her head as she squeezed his chest. "Qing He is afraid things will spiral out of control with him, I really don't need you two conspiring together…"
"She can't protect herself Liao." Ling took a step back and looked into his eyes. "I won't have her be your Diao Chan. I won't have you put into danger because the woman you love can't hold her own in battle. I was jealous of Chan, I saw a woman unworthy of my father when I should have seen a songstress trying her damnedest to be strong for the man she loved. I should have protected her, but I resented her and I wanted my father to see she was weak. I was a stupid child but I'm not anymore. I will protect her Liao, more so because I didn't do it right the first time."
"Ling, that's not what I am asking you to do."
"Liao, the threat is very real. I won't be blind to it this time and I know who I am. There are no more illusions of grandeur…I know I'm a bodyguard. I'll be her strength. Pi won't stand a chance."
Liao wanted to chastise her, lecture her for starting a damned war that could destroy the kingdom. Instead he saw that his adopted daughter was trying to give him a great gift, something to thank him for his support. "Thank you."
Ling gave him a kiss on the cheek and smiled. She looked at a ridiculously shiny suit of armor in the corner. "What the hell is that?"
"Something I have no intention of wearing."
Ling looked over her shoulder as Qing He entered the room. "I just got him dressed…."
"Great! We're getting married right now."
"What do you mean we're getting married now?" Liao asked as Qing He inspected the clothes Ling had chosen for him.
"It's either now or after you come home from chasing Yuan Shao around the countryside. I won't wait. We're doing it now."
"We're chasing Yuan Shao around the countryside?" Ling asked optimistically.
"You…just had a baby. I don't think you get to go." Qing He took a deep breathe. "Plus your boobs are leaking."
"Son of a BITCH!" Ling threw the bracer she was holding for Liao on the ground. "This is just dumb."
Liao took his fiancé's hands in his own as his adopted daughter fondled her own breasts in an attempt to figure out now to stop them from leaking. The things he had to deal with. "I know you're anxious…"
"Can you go make sure Uncle Dun doesn't show up wearing those horrible gold pants? I know my Father bought him something nicer, he has to have something from this dynasty in his closet." Qing He gave Liao a gentle kiss. "You look wonderful."
"You're changing the subject." Liao gave her an amused smile. "Can we talk about this?"
Qing He smiled back. "Of course. However I think I should give you your wedding present first."
Liao sighed. He loved her, but he could do without the advanced debating skills she had inherited from her father. "Qing He…"
"Wenyuan." She looked over at Ling who was rummaging through some of the discarded clothes to find something to wear over her dress. Apparently she really needed to be more obvious when she was asking her to leave. "We're going to be having a baby."
"Excuse me?" He stared at her and saw her avert her eyes.
"I fell in love with you and I knew my Father would never let me marry you…unless…" She looked over at Ling who seemed to be impressed instead of outraged. "I wasn't going to take the chance. I want you, I want this baby and I really want to get married before anyone finds out what a conniving bitch I am."
"Oh my God." Ling said with a chuckle. "It's like you're marrying Cao Cao."
"Surprise?" She said and bit her lip.
"You deceived me about who you were and now this?" Liao asked. He felt her hands grip his as he took a deep breathe.
"She'll pay for it when her boobs start to leak." Ling mumbled and slipped one of Liao's robes on.
Qing He glared at her but it didn't seem to make her leave any faster. "I love you, Wenyuan. You just have to understand that I haven't had any control over my life and when you came along I couldn't take any chances. I should have told you who I was, I shouldn't have gone off the herbal remedy and I should have been more insistent that your daughter leave the room."
"Why? You're everything I've always hoped for." Ling said and went to the door. "You won't let his good intentions get in the way of his happiness."
Liao looked up at her and she gave him a loving smile. "Not helping."
"Wenyuan, please say something." Qing He began to cry. This was supposed to be the happiest day of her life. Pi was the one she was afraid of ruining it, however she had done a much better job. "Please…."
"Ling, you should make sure your husband is ready for the wedding." He brought Qing He's hand up to his lips and kissed it. "You should stop crying or you're going to have puffy eyes for your special day."
"You're not mad?"
"I have come to accept that you are your father's daughter." Liao said quietly. "It's who you are and why I love you. I can see your good intentions behind your actions. I just hope, once I am your husband, you'll allow me some control over our relationship."
Qing He burst into tears and threw her arms around his neck.
Ling slipped out of the room and closed the door. Finally, after almost a year, she understood why Dun said he couldn't stand women. Although Qing He was exactly what Liao needed, she could see him offering his head to Cao Cao for disgracing his daughter, she also could see where the schemes and ploys would wear thin on a man like Dun. Liao was a man of honor, Dun a man of honesty. She knew that if she hadn't gone back to Xia Pi that Liao would have demanded he die with Lu Bu, just as Chen Gong did. He needed to learn how to be selfish and if anyone could show him, it was going to be a relative of Cao Cao.
Liao kissed her neck and smiled. "A baby…wow."
"I know." She leaned back and looked into his eyes. "It's really going to be hard to top that gift."
"Your family really likes procreating." He chuckled.
"Yours really likes protecting you. I'm glad. Without her I would never have you. I can't tell you how happy you make me. I love you Liao and I can't wait to start the rest of my life with you."
"Start?" He smirked. "You've already cheated."
"Like you said. I'm my father's daughter." She kissed him again. "I pray that all of our children are just like you and inherit nothing from me."
"That's going to make some ugly girls." He let her push him back onto the bed and then added. "I just got dressed…."
"Shut up and make love to me." She crawled onto him. "We can be late to our own wedding; I have all the major aspects already taken care of."
Ling continued down the hall and thought about Qing He. She never really considered how lucky she was to have her father raise her like he did. Certainly it had been a harsh transition into the real world for her; Lu Bu wasn't invincible, her horse wasn't that fast and she was a horrible officer. About all she really possessed was the skills of a warrior, but even those had been enhanced by an array of weapons that had been enhanced significantly. It took more than an adult vocabulary to gain respect and these days she was discovering vulgarity made a bigger impact when used sparingly. However, even with all of the blessings that turned out to be setbacks, she had more control over her life than Qing He. She could understand her desperation, even if she couldn't understand her tactics. She was left with doing what she could, just like Diao Chan. Ling would fight for what she wanted, but Qing He didn't have that option. How scary it must be to be so helpless.
Ling opened the door to her room and looked at her father-in-law and husband as they sat at a table playing GO. Dun was holding their daughter as she slept and the conversation seemed to be cordial. She smiled at her husband and walked over to kiss him. "What's this I hear about hunting down Yuan Shao?"
"You don't get to go." He said with a shrug. "Sorry."
"You don't get to wear those awful pants to my father's wedding." Ling shook her head.
"What's wrong with these pants?" Dun asked.
"They belong in a museum." She pointed to their daughter. "I need her to be hungry now so I can quit dripping."
"She's sleeping, Ling." Dun held the baby tightly. "Figure out something else."
"Fine." She looked to her father-in-law who was getting ready to say something about breastfeeding. "Well then let him hold her and you come suck it out."
"I can see you two are completely prepared to be parents." Xiahou Qin mumbled.
"Don't start with me old man! You have no idea what this is like." She growled. "I don't want to drown in a puddle of milk at Liao's wedding."
"I really can't help with this." Dun said as she began to stroke his cheek and pet his beard affectionately.
"What is your cousin's fascination with giving people clothes?" Ling asked recalling Guan Yu had a custom vest Cao Cao had given him.
"Are you feeling alright?" Dun asked and tilted his head to look at her. "You're planning on burning these pants, aren't you?"
"I…"She thought about it as his eye scrutinized her face. "I love you Dun. I'm glad your taste in women is as unique as your taste in clothing."
"What the hell is wrong with you?" He asked as she went over to his closet and began to dig for a new outfit.
"I think she's finally come to terms with the idea of being your wife." Xiahou Qin said quietly so only his son could hear. "Finally buried her Father and joined the rest of us in adulthood."
Dun looked at his father as he stood and cleared his throat. "What?"
"I said I like this long tunic." Ling repeated. She didn't think he could hear her mumbling. Apparently his hearing was getting much better to compensate for his missing eye.
Qin bent down and gave his granddaughter a kiss on the head. "I want to be a grandfather to her, Dun. I don't want to have a dead man be a bigger part of her life than me."
"Good luck with that." Ling said and held up her choice of clothes for her husband to wear to the wedding. "She's going to be named after him."
"We're not naming her after your father!" Dun hissed.
"Yeah, we are." Ling said and put a kiss on his lips. "He's the reason I have you. Without him, there would be no baby girl in your arms."
Qin looked at her face and knew she didn't mean that his death brought them together. "If this is the legacy of Lu Bu than I think you should be honored to bestow that name upon your daughter."
Cao Cao sat on his bed in his robe and looked at his panicked cousin and groaned. "What do you mean they're missing?"
Dun ran his hand through his hair and glared at Lady Bian who was hiding under the silk sheets behind her husband. "Ling and Feng Xian are not in our room, the kitchen or anywhere. They're missing."
Lady Bian piped up. "She's in the harem with Lady Ding."
Cao Cao just wanted to come home after the long and tedious hunt for Yuan Shao and go to bed. He stopped first at the bath, cleaned up and then made his way to his soft bed and warm wife. However that comfort and sleep he was longing for was going to have to wait as his closest friend stood before him after bursting into his bedroom. He looked at Dun's reaction and knew he better ask the next question before he did. "Are you sure?"
"She has been there since this morning with her baby." Bian slipped out of bed and found her own robe in preparation for the cataclysmic event that was sure to follow. "She thought the baby was sick."
Cao Cao stood and followed his cousin as he stormed down the hall and towards the harem. He didn't want to know why Lu Ling Qi felt the need to visit his harem all he knew was that if he didn't help, the screaming match would keep him up. He just wanted to go to bed. Certainly after all he had done he was entitled to do just that.
Lady Bian followed at her husband's side and waited for the inevitable.
"Why would you come here?" Dun snapped. "Who the fuck goes to a harem for help when their baby is sick?"
"Someone who doesn't know what to do!" Ling watched Lady Ding cradle the child and whisper soothing words. "I don't know what to do. I'm a bad mother. I can't do this. You weren't here to help and I needed help! Am I just supposed to know all this? Or is this my fault again like it was when we made her? I thought only horses coliced!"
Cao Cao sat down on a small couch and rubbed his weary eyes. His robe was still open and he could hear some of the dreamy sighs from the neglected girls of the harem as they ogled his chest. Normally he wouldn't come in here looking so disheveled, even his own harem needed to be kept inline by seeing him in his normal, professional attire. However he was too tired to care. "Dun, what does it matter?"
Lady Bian gave an aggravated huff and slammed the doors to the harem closed, leaving the antechamber to the small gathering to have this foolish discussion. She knew the girls on the other side were already up against the door, listening, so she kicked it. To her satisfaction she heard a startled yelp from at least three concubines. "Obviously, you're just going to have to take a concubine or second wife to raise your child."
Cao Cao flashed her a scowl before Lady Ding joined the verbal fray.
"Of course you would think that." Cao Cao's first wife quickly jibbed. She went back to rocking the baby girl in her arms.
"I had to take care of what you were unable to provide for my husband. Why should General Xiahou suffer the consequences of his wife's inept mothering skills?"
Cao Cao just put his head into his hands and groaned.
"You fucking bitch," Ling was grabbed by Dun before she completed her sentence. "He's mine and I'll take care of him as I see fit. I just needed advice for something I've never done before from a woman who actually raised her children well. I don't even know what you're doing here, why don't you go back to bed where you obviously belong, you conceited old whore!"
"I'm too tired for this shit." Dun pulled Ling over to where Lady Ding sat and extended his free hand. "Can I have my daughter back if she's okay?"
Lady Ding smiled and placed a kiss on the girl's head. "She's beautiful. I'm very happy for you." With that she held the baby up for him and his large hand scooped the girl up against his chest. She smiled as the baby giggled, knowing she was close to her beloved father. She gave Ling's hand a squeeze, "Don't be so hard on yourself."
"That's right. You can always make more if something goes wrong." Lady Bian added and saw Dun's body tense. She retreated to her husband's side knowing very well that she had gone too far.
"Lady Ding, why don't you help Ling put Feng Xian to bed?" Dun handed his daughter off to his sulking wife and gave her a shove to the door. He saw her furrowed eyebrows and he just stared back. She raised her chin slightly and looked over at Lady Bian and back at him. He never could understand how she could read him so well, however she moved to the door with Lady Ding.
"We'll finish our discussion later, Lady Bian, if you can ever pry yourself away from scheming with your asshole son." With that she followed the quiet and proper Lady Ding into the hallway.
Cao Cao shook off his wife's hand on his shoulder as his cousin spun on his heels to target her. He rubbed his right temple with his finger as another migraine began.
"Don't think you're not expendable." Dun grabbed her by the arm and put his hand around her neck. She shivered under him and squeaked. "Your immunity won't save you from me. I'll snap your fucking neck if your meddling continues to undermine Mengde's empire. You can manipulate as much as you want where your son is concerned, but he's walking a fine line. This empire is already choosing sides and that is not what we need. Keep your hands out of politics and just run your damned harem."
"I'll protect him from you if it comes down to it." Dun let go of her and pushed her back into his cousin. "You better figure out what your place is before I put you in your grave. Don't fuck with me."
Lady Bian shook as he left, slamming the door behind him. She heard the giggles from the harem behind the door. "Damn you, Cao Mengde! How could you just let him…"
Cao Cao stood up and wrapped his robe tightly around him. He pushed his hair back over his shoulder and sighed. "I'll go to bed alone tonight."
"What?" She grasped at his chest and looked at his deep sienna eyes. For once they were calm and indifferent, where as most of the time they danced with the light of the passion of the moment. "Mengde…"
"I trust him more than I trust myself." Cao Cao pushed past her and moved to the door. "You are beginning to cause some very noticeable tremors within my court. I love you for your manipulative skill and political ambition…but it is beginning to interfere with my own."
"Pi is our son and I will sculpt him to be King since you wasted all your effort on that insubordinate brat of Lady Ding's." Bian backed up as he gave her a look, this time his eyes were beginning to light up with the signs of his rage.
"You are alienating him from my officers by allying him with court officials. A man is nothing without his army. You overlooked that."
"I'll rectify that."
"If he goes after anyone…he will be killed before he ever takes my throne." Cao Cao knew that tone. He himself had chosen to 'rectify' the Lu Bu issue with his sword.
"Are you threatening the life of your own son?"
"I have many children to take my place when I die, however I'm not dead yet and he is unraveling my empire as I build it. Consider it…culling." Cao Cao saw her panic. "You had better reassess your strategies on Pi, he is traveling down the wrong path for my dynasty."
She could say no more as he left. She didn't want the eavesdropping sluts at the door to hear anything else. He was shrewd, the girls would gossip and word would spread that he had made a decision for the benefit of his people. His officers often had these girls in their beds and they would be the first to hear of these developments. Pi had already established a very undesirable reputation and Wei's loyal officer and officials would be thrilled to hear their lord was looking to put a stop to it. Son or not, Cao Cao would do what was right for his Empire and his devoted cousin would ensure that it was executed flawlessly. She hated them both for it, more so because she had been used and the man she loved had once again outwitted her. Even half-asleep and with his migraine he had managed to take advantage of the situation and she took his bait. He knew that would arouse her and as punishment for this whole endeavor, he ordered her to stay out of his bed. Someone was going to pay for this.
Lady Ding looked up at her husband and gave him a weak smile. "Our son made quite an impact on her."
"You'll never forgive me, will you?" Cao Cao asked quietly as he sat down on the bed next to her. His hand brushed away her hair so he could touch her face.
"No." She let him wipe away a tear as it fell and then pulled her head from his grasp. "You were supposed to protect him. My baby…"
Cao Cao fought her weak attempts to push away from him as she broke down crying. He felt his own tears streaking down his face as two parents fought to survive a child's death. He knew his first wife had endured a lot from him, but she had always supported him nonetheless. They hadn't broached this topic since he had come home from Wan Castle. "I am so sorry."
"Me too." She pushed away from him and stood up. "Qing He is in the care of a good man. I…think we've come to an end. Just be rid of me, don't make me endure Lady Bian any longer. Release me from our marriage."
"As you wish." He replied as she left the room, needing to be away from him. He took a deep breath and looked around the private bedroom, not quite taking in the scenery as much as the solitude. His private life was chaotic, more so than the war-torn nation. His empress was going to need time away from him or his words would never sink in. His first wife desperately needed to get away from him to begin to heal from their son's death as his presence was a reminder of what happened. His harem was filled with women whose purpose was none other than pleasure and his children hardly knew him. His closest children Pi, Zhi and Qing He were kept at a distance while he concentrated on making his heir worthy of his empire. Now Ang was gone and suddenly he realized that Cao Cao the man was no more than a hollow shell. Without the titles of Prime Minister, General, King, Tactician, Poet….he would be nothing.
He looked at his reflection in the mirror and saw the years on his face. His life had been about achieving his ambition, but now that it was so close what did he have to show for it? If they won the war tomorrow, could he return home and enjoy it? Could he enjoy the hell that his neglect had created? Lady Bian's schemes, Lady Ding's hate, Cao Pi's mocking arrogance, Cao Zhi's pleading poems and Cao Qing He's paranoia. His immediate family was miserable and it was all because of him.
Why could he not succeed at this? How could his cousins manage to secure a happy family while still assisting him and devoting themselves to his dream? If Dun could find happiness…how the hell could he not? Perhaps it was his partner's doing and not his own. Ling Qi would demand his attention and was forgiving where he was concerned. Zhang Liao also had the calming affect on Qing He, when he was away she saw conspirators at every turn. He was going to have to force the woman he loved to quit trying to do his work for him. He was also going to have to be a father to the children he had neglected for almost 20 years.
Suddenly, he felt very old.
Ling's eyes rested on her child as she crawled over her father's chest giggling and squawking in delight. Why was it that her daughter was so much more comfortable with Dun? Was it something she was doing? Her tiny hand reached out for Dun's long black hair and clutched at it. She didn't seem satisfied unless she had a firm hold of him in some way or form.
"What's wrong?" Dun asked as he saw the look on her face.
"Come here.." He held out his arm for her and invited her to sit with him on the bed. He was flat on his back playing with the baby and really didn't want to disturb the kid. When Ling sat down her eyes never left Feng Xian's face. "Something wrong with her?"
"Ling, tell me. I don't want to get into a yelling match with you, not around her."
"She likes you so much better than me. I don't understand what I'm doing wrong."
Dun laughed and brushed away a hair from her face. "You of all people should recognize a daddy's girl when you see one. She gets it from somewhere."
Ling rolled onto the bed and snuggled up close to his body. His spare arm quickly wrapped around her and she rested her head on his firm shoulder. She felt safe and happy now. Xiahou Dun was a good man, and she was happy to be his wife….even happier to give him a family. It felt right, and she closed her eyes to drift off to sleep.