The Young Conqueror
Disclaimer: I did not invent Sun Ce or any other major character in this fanfic. Konami is responsible for the general appearance and mannerisms of the characters contained herein. I drew on the game personae for the sake of variety.
Since this is a story about sun Ce, I've changed a few events to focus more on him. After Guan Yu he's my favourite character in the game and a li'l gratuitous action for the oldest Sun boy can't be a bad thing, right?
A peal of thunder and a flash of lightning lit the night sky. In the large and sumptuous bedchamber, the newlywed wife squeaked and buried her face in her husband's chest. The young man chuckled and put an arm around her.
"C'mon, Da, Lei Kung's just hammering down on some troublemaker. He's not coming after us."
"It frightens me, my lord," the young woman said, looking at him, her eyes wide. "You know how I hate loud noises."
"Well, it's our wedding night and he's not interested. Tonight, Chu Jung and Lady P'an are watching over us, not to mention Kuan Yin…"
The young bride nodded, reassured by her husband's confidence. Ce was always so calm and unafraid. Indeed, the patron deity of his clan was Chu Jung, the great god fire. Her own family's divine patron was P'an Chin-Lien, the goddess of courtesans.
Da Qiao came from a long line of courtesans. She and her sister had been raised from birth to be married to a mighty lord or prince. She came to her husband, Prince Sun Ce, as a virgin, but she was fully trained in all the arts of love. No man had ever shared her bed until now.
Indeed this night had been heralded by great celebrations across Jion Dong. The eldest son of Lord Sun Jian had married. Surely this heralded great things for the future of the illustrious Sun family.
The thunder seemed now far away and the only light in the room was from the oil-burning braziers in the corners. This whole pavilion, nicknamed "Bai Fu" (White Tiger") for the colour of the wooden frame, had been built to house Da Qiao once she was wed to Ce.
It was a beautiful structure- three stories, crafted of ornate, gilded wood with a view toward each of the four great ways. On each side the pavilion was guarded by a carven image of its protector deity- Dragon for the East, Phoenix for the South, Tiger for the West and Tortoise for the North. With the pavilion at the center, the Five Cardinal Points were made and good fortune was assured.
Today had been everything she'd hoped. She had sung, she had danced for her new family and she had shared warm bowls of wine with the young Lord Ce. Looking back on it now, even this thunder could not dampen her joy. How happy she was that this marriage meant she would be able to love!
A week hence another wedding was to happen, that of her younger sister Xiao to Lord Zhou Yu, Sun Ce's childhood friend and staunchest supporter. She reflected on the differences between these two men- Ce, a man of decisive action, unwavering and unafraid. He was friendly and genial, a natural leader of men. He was adored by all the people of the realm. He had a keen intellect, although he took care not to let it show through too frequently. He retained a common touch and manner of speaking that endeared him to the common folk and his soldiers. He was very masculine and handsome, his skin tan and his muscles pronounced. A paragon of male virtue he seemed.
Zhou Yu, on the other hand, was renowned as a man of refined intellect. His love of poetry and the arts, coupled with his boyish attractiveness earned him the moniker "Beautiful Warrior Zhou".
The two men were inseparable, a formidable duo for any to reckon with. Sun Ce loved to be in the thick of battle, pummeling his foes into submission with his tonfa. Zhou Yu was every bit as formidable in combat, but as the Sun family's strategist would hang back and direct a battle, only charging in to the fray when a critical juncture had been reached. He wielded an ancient curved blade that no enemy could seem to resist.
Da Qiao rested her head against Ce's chest, listening to his heart beat- a strong, steady rhythm. The family's totem animal was the Tiger, and indeed the great patriarch of the Sun clan, Jian, was called the "Tiger of Jiang Dong". Da Qiao adored her new father-in-law. He considered her a member of the family even before his son was wed to her. Never had she met a more loving or devoted father; and his children, Ce, younger brother Quan and sister, Shang Xiang, returned that love with all their hearts. The bonds of this family were stronger than any she had ever known, matching that of her sister and herself.
She, Da Qiao of the southlands, married to one of the most illustrious families in China. And she loved her husband, she loved him deeply. Everything about him appealed to her- his honesty, his loyalty, his charisma and his unwavering belief in his destiny.
No woman alive was luckier than she. And now was the time to say so.
"I love you, my lord."
Ce smiled and cuddled her close. "You too, Da Qiao."
The young prince rose and made his way to the window. He stood in the moonlight, which gleamed on his naked skin. Da Qiao rolled onto her stomach and rested her head on her arms, watching him. Never had she known such contentment.
She thought then of what lay ahead, a mere eight days away.
"I am distraught that you must leave so soon, my lord."
"What can I say?" replied Ce, shrugging as he looked out the window at the river to the west. The land held a deep shade of blue in the moonlight. "These Yellow Scarves have become a real threat to the stability of the Han. They must be eliminated."
"But surely others out there can handle this?" she reasoned, trying to keep the pleading tone out of her voice. "Is not China full of great warriors who can bring down these fanatics?"
Ce turned and smiled. "I gotta go, Da. It's my destiny. We married before this campaign precisely because it was so dangerous. Should anything happen to me, well, at least we had our time together, as husband and wife. I don't think we should'a held off, do you?"
"No, my lord." Da Qiao said quietly. "It just seems… unfair."
He smiled and shrugged again. "Hey, there's nothin' to worry about. I'm not gonna die or anything. I'm gonna rip through these Yellow Scarves like a tiger through silk. Don't feel sorry for us, feel sorry for any who get in my way."
Da Qiao left the bed and joined Ce at the window. He took her hands in his and gazed down at her. How small, pale, beautiful and perfect she seemed to him. Naked in the moonlight, he found her wholly enchanting.
"Trust me, Da, I'll be fine. Pop, Quan, Shang Xiang and I'll be back before you know it."
An hour later, having consummated their marriage again, Da Qiao looked up at the ceiling. Beside her, the young lord slept deeply, having succumbed to her technique and training.
"I cannot bear to be parted from you, my lord…" she thought to herself. "So be it. If war beckons, then I shall rise to this challenge. I shall find the strength. For the sake of my new lord…
Ce sat astride his horse, looking out over the host of Jiang Dong. A great army it seemed to him, with tall and proud warriors, all wearing the red uniforms and carrying the tiger banners of the Sun family. The blades of their halberds, spears and swords gleamed in the midday sun.
"Quite an impressive display, eh, bro?" he said to his younger brother, Quan, who stood beside him. Quan merely nodded; he spoke little, unless what he had to say was important. He was not gregarious or outgoing like his older brother or their sister. He was quiet and intense, always seeming to strive for mastery of himself.
Ce smiled at Shang Xiang, who sat on his other side, astride a white horse. Shang Xiang was very much a tomboy, with a love of things military. She was a formidable martial artist with her twin chakrams, circular blades that she wielded with lethal acrobatic efficiency.
She was held by many to be supremely beautiful, although Ce could rarely see it. She wore her auburn hair short and her clothing was form-fitting and practical, meant for combat. She eschewed formal gowns and robes whenever possible, saving such dress for formal occasions.
She saw him looking at her and smiled, patting the handle of her chakram as it sat in its fastening on the saddle. "Today's the big day!" she said brightly, her eyes bright with eagerness for the fray.
Ce laughed. "Try to leave some foes for Quan and I, okay, Shang Xiang?" he teased.
"Eat less and practice running more. Then maybe you'll get the enemy first for a change!" she replied in a challenging voice.
"You're on, shorty!" was his reply.
Trumpets sounded and drums rolled, announcing the arrival of the Lord of Jiang Dong. The palace doors opened and out rode Sun Jian, resplendent in his red and gold battle gear. His tall, peaked helmet nodded on his noble brow and his renowned sword, the Savage Tiger, sat at his hip. He rode down the palace steps and toward his children, while the host of Jion dong cheered loudly.
Ce, Quan and Shang Xiang all nodded respectfully as he approached. Ce looked up and smiled.
"All set, pop?" he asked in the jovial, light-hearted tone he was famous for. "We're ready to ride out whenever you are."
Sun Jian smiled and nodded. "Excellent. Ce, I am going in overall command, but you will lead us in this battle- it is time for the world to hear your name."
Ce nodded confidently. "Trust me, these Yellow Scarves'll be sorry they ever heard of the Sun family."
He then spurred his horse and rode back and forth in front of the troops, calling out in his loud, clear voice.
"Soldiers of Jiang Dong! Today you follow the Sun family into battle! Fight hard and fight well! Anyone who spills his blood with me today will be like a brother to me! These Yellow Scarves want to overthrow the Han! We're gonna show them that won't happen! Not as long as Sun Jian is around to stop them!"
The troops cheered with enthusiasm, raising their weapons in salute.
Ce's horse reared and he punched his fist into the air.
"Alright! Let's move out! Glory to Jiang Dong and the Sun family!"
The troops were filing out of the palace grounds, following behind Sun Jian and his family. Zhou Yu rode beside Sun Ce, brushing a strand of his long, silken black hair away from his face.
"You certainly have the common touch, Ce." Zhou Yu said softly. "These men would follow you through the Eighteen Hells if you called for them to do so."
Ce laughed. "They'll experience that sooner than they think if Shang Xiang's preparing any of the camp's meals!"
A chorus of laughter came from the vanguard. Shang Xiang scowled at her brother and threw a peach from her pack at him.
Ce looked around at the company they traveled with. Many great warriors followed the Sun family's banner. Foremost among them was Zhou Yu, but also riding in the van were others such as Ling Cao and his young son, Ling Tong. Tong seemed almost too young to go to battle, but Ce had heard from reliable sources that his prowess with his flails was remarkable.
Lu Meng, a doughty warrior renowned for his tenacity on the battlefield, also rode in Ce's company. His fighting style was once best described as a brawler's, but he was working hard to learn technique and strategy, a path Sun Jian had encouraged him to follow.
Old Huang Gai was also present. This was the third generation of the Sun family he had served. Bald, burly and as tough as old shield leather, he carried his great iron club on one shoulder, regaling those nearby with tales of serving Lord Jian's father.
Zhou Tai rode along silently, not speaking, as was his wont. A scar crossed his dark face, lending him an even more menacing demeanor. His great curved sword was at his side, waiting to be released on the enemies of the Sun.
Fully ten-thousand soldiers marched behind Sun Jian and his family. The ground shook beneath their precision marching. They sang martial songs, the air ringing with their voices.
Deep in the throng, one soldier looked at another and winked.
"Remember, Xiao…" Da Qiao said quietly to her younger sister. "Don't do anything to blow our cover. This was the only way we could stay with Ce and Zhou Yu."
Da Qiao's younger sister nodded and kept marching.
"What is it, Xiao?"
"I've gotta pee."