Disclaimer: I do not own Warriors Orochi, Dynasty Warriors or Pànduàn and his world. I only own Da Li and her buds. WO and DW belong to KOEI, Pànduàn and his world belong to Teddypro. Happy New Year, guys! It's 2012!
Warriors Orochi: The Judgment of Heaven
Chapter 5: First Strike
The autumn wind had gotten colder. It was now sweeping across the balcony on the palace of Cheng Du, bringing with it a chill; it blew past the figures of Liu Bei and Sun Shang Xiang, ruffling their hair, feeling cold on their faces. The two of them were looking out over the wooden railing, hand in hand, observing the things that were happening below them.
Liu Bei coughed, tugging on the scarf that he now wore around his neck. He watched as his younger brother Zhang Fei and his right-hand general Zhao Yun prepared their men for a mock battle down below. Zhuge Liang was watching them at the sides. He couldn't help noticing how differently the two Tiger Generals warmed up their troops.
Zhang Fei was being a downright brute. His preferred way of warm-up was a total smash-up—in which the soldiers under him were his unfortunate victims. The poor men would try to take him down, only to be beaten back or bashed onto the ground. Liu Bei watched, his heart screaming with pity, as the grizzled warrior held up a hapless fellow with both hands and threw him down, grinning widely. The tortured man barely managed to get up, holding a hand to his swollen face, and limped away. His friends choked in fear and stepped backward, to which Zhang Fei yelled at them, coaxing them to come at him.
Zhuge Liang was shaking his head, giving a sigh of pure exasperation. It was apparent that he also did not approve of Zhang Fei's brutal method of training his troops. If he had wanted to, he could've plunged his face into his fan to show his contempt, but he wisely refrained from doing so.
Liu Bei copied his gesture, sighing at the brashness of his younger oath brother. He loved him as an older brother would, but sometimes he just couldn't understand his behavior. Why would a man with a good heart inside love to beat his men up as a hobby? It was a frustrating question that sometimes prompted him to slap a hand into his own face.
But of course he refrained from doing that, too. Just as his strategist was not a man to face-fan so easily, he was not a lord to face-palm so easily.
His wife seemed to sense his intention. "It's alright," she said. "Just leave him be. He's your brother, after all."
"I know, my lady," he replied. "But still I am baffled as to why he would act in such a way…"
He sighed again and shifted his attention to Zhao Yun.
The Young Dragon was using a way that was much more nonviolent. His men were gathered around him in a circle, and he was talking to them, possibly rallying them to put up a good fight—even if it was a mock one. The soldiers were absorbed in his speech, eyes wide, occasionally nodding. They listened to him as he spoke about Zhang Fei's might, but also of his weaknesses and how to use that against him. He was making sure that every one of them would be as skillful and alert as an elite officer.
Liu Bei smiled and nodded at that. He had always admired Zhao Yun for his intelligence; the young warrior was not only a potent fighter but also a very smart man. Zhuge Liang often praised him, too, and so did the other Shu officers and warriors of the land. Even though Zhang Fei was his brother, Liu Bei secretly hoped that Zhao Yun would win the fight. He would like Zilong to show his brother that beating up soldiers was definitely not the right way to toughen them up.
Sun Shang Xiang nudged him, giving him a sharp glance. "My lord," she said again. "Why do you like to keep her with you so often?"
Liu Bei blinked, turning to his left. He mentally slapped himself. How could he have forgotten about her presence?
Before him was a teenage girl about seventeen or eighteen years of age, with long, reddish wavy hair. She wore a green top and skirt, green bracers, and a green headband decorated with a large yellow flower. A red belt was around her waist with two long vine-like ribbons hanging from it, strung with more yellow blossoms, and she wore fake eyebrows that looked like blades of grass on the edge of her eyes. She held in one hand what resembled a large metal disk on a string, surrounded by all sorts of rather nasty-looking blades. There was something about her expression and her face that made her look annoyingly cat-like.
She cocked her head when he looked at her. "Why are you looking at me like that, Lord Liu Bei?" she asked.
"Oh, it's nothing," he replied quickly, turning back to his lady. He almost laughed at the way she was looking at him—with one eyebrow raised and a tinge of suspicion.
"It's not me keeping her around," he said. "I'm allowing her to be around. What, you think she's planning to steal me?"
"No, I was just asking!" Sun Shang Xiang gave the girl a quick look. "She would never in a thousand years plan to steal you. Troll you, more like."
"She doesn't troll me," said Liu Bei. He ran his hands down his wife's arms. "She's grateful to me. It was I who allowed her to join us so she could stay with Guan Suo. Is that right, Bao Sanniang?"
He gave her a wink, to which she laughed.
"Yes it is," she chirped.
Sun Shang Xiang sighed. "You don't know how many weird looks you receive when these two are around you," she said. "Most people regard her and her mate to be annoying."
"Well, aren't you about her age?"
Sun Shang Xiang rolled her eyes. "My lord, I totally deny that you are thirteen years my senior."
"Hello there, my lord and ladies."
All three of them looked up. Pànduàn was walking towards them, smiling, with Himiko at his side.
"Did I hear Lady Shang Xiang saying that Lord Liu Bei was no older than her?" he said casually.
"Oh, no, no," said Liu Bei, tugging on his beard as if to prove something. "She was just joking."
Pànduàn laughed. "I was just joking, too, my lord. Of course you're not your lady's age."
They all laughed along with him.
"Say, Master Pànduàn," said Liu Bei. "Has Himiko gotten over with what she did yesterday? With Mei Li?"
"I have," said Himiko. "I'm sorry, Lord Liu Bei and Lady Shang Xiang. I didn't mean to be so brash."
"It's alright," said Pànduàn. "You know well that nobody can replace you in my heart."
The Lord and Lady of Shu exchanged glances.
Himiko nodded, looking past them.
"Hey," she said, "Who's that?"
"I'm Bao Sanniang!" said the cat-like maiden in the back, grinning. "But you can call me 'Bao' for short. I'm Guan Suo's mate!"
"Wow, really?" Himiko looked at her sideways. "What's that thing you're holding?"
"That's my weapon," said Bao Sanniang. "It's a bladed yo-yo. Cool, right?"
"Yo-yo?" Himiko raised an eyebrow.
"Hmm…nice, but I don't think it'll be much compared with…" she raised a hand. Instantly, two white roundish objects with hole-like mouths materialized around her, painted with closed eyes and a yawning expression.
"Whoa, whoa!" Bao Sanniang leaned back, staring at the strange contraptions around the Shaman Queen. "Did you just summon ghosts?"
"These aren't ghosts," said Himiko. "These are my dogus, my Goddesses of Light. They can shoot energy."
"Wow. Can you show me?"
"No. If I did I might destroy something."
Bao Sanniang's shoulders sagged. "Anything else?"
Himiko raised her hand further, and a second pair of dogus appeared. "Enough?"
Himiko lowered her hand and all four apparitions disappeared.
Bao Sanniang chuckled. "Those were the coolest things I've ever seen," she said. "I can't wait to see them in action."
"My lords and ladies!"
A soldier, frantic and dressed in peasant's garbs, suddenly came running towards them. He ground to a halt before them, panting heavily.
"What is it?" asked Liu Bei.
"My lord…an army has been sighted outside the Southeastern Gate!" the soldier exclaimed. "There seems to be about a thousand or so men…they bear the flag of Wei!"
The kingdom's name seemed to send a shock through the all of them. Pànduàn gasped. Liu Bei frowned. Himiko clapped her hands on her mouth, and Sun Shang Xiang did the same. Bao Sanniang raised her eyebrows.
"Who is their leader?" asked Pànduàn.
"I don't know…but it has to be one of the Five Generals of Wei!"
Liu Bei frowned even further if his brow could've allowed it. Apparently he knew what that meant.
"Raise the alarm!" he commanded.
The soldier nodded and ran away. In moments the sound of the alarm was ringing, sending its echoes through the palace.
There was a great sound of scrambling from below. Pànduàn and Himiko looked over the railing. Men were running everywhere. Zhang Fei had stopped beating up his soldiers and was taking his rather relieved troops away, with a wide grin on his face. Zhao Yun was taking his soldiers in the other direction. Zhuge Liang was heading for the main palace building, undisturbed by the flurry of people.
Liu Bei turned to them. "We must go to the Southeastern Gate," he said. "At once!"
"Yes, my lord," said Pànduàn. He gave Himiko a quick glance, took her by the hand, and followed the lord and ladies of Shu as they headed away.
"Kirshun," he muttered under his breath. "You asked for this."
Within moments they were all on the walls above the Southeastern Gate. Zhao Yun and Da Li had joined them on the way and were now standing beside them.
The seven of them looked over the wall at the scene below.
It was a grand force of about a thousand men—just as the soldier had said. They were all clad in blue clothing and armor, armed with spears and dagger-axes. Some of them were mounted on horses, carrying long, deadly pikes. But it was certain that the all of them were preparing to fight under one standard—to fight under the large, blue flag that flew above them. On it was imprinted a large black symbol: Wei.
Wei. The Kingdom of the Phoenix, the Northern Empire; the mightiest force in the Three Kingdoms with the biggest and most imposing army. The former enemy of the Dragon and Tiger; the equivalent of the Japanese Oda. And now its soldiers were right under the walls of Cheng Du, ready for an impending battle.
Pànduàn shaded his eye and peered at the blue-clad army, searching among them. He lowered his hand and sighed when his scrutiny brought nothing. There was no sign of a leader, of a man who stood out from the rest. But if a commander was absent, then where could he be…?
He turned to Liu Bei, who was standing to his right.
"My lord," he said. "There is no leader with them. No commanding officer of any rank."
The ruler frowned, tugging at the end of his beard. "No leader?"
"Yes…I feel that this may mean something."
The two men looked over the walls again, with the others gathering in around them.
"He could be hiding," said Da Li, shouldering her teardrop chakrams. "You know, standing behind this lot so he can surprise us later."
"It is obvious that he is," said Zhao Yun. His gaze scanned the ranks of men below. "I think this might be a part of a larger plot."
"I believe so too," said Pànduàn. "If there is no leader, this could very well be a lure. Or something to cover him up so we can't see him."
He looked up, trying to see beyond the battalion before them. But he saw nothing but a thick mist and the ghostly figures of trees in the distance.
"If the commander is choosing to hide behind these soldiers, then he must be very resourceful," He said. "We all know that there is a forest facing this gate. He may be lying in wait there."
"Resourceful?" Both Liu Bei and Zhao Yun turned to the Dragon of Judgment.
"Yes. Resourceful." Pànduàn placed his hands on his hips. "If he is not hiding behind this legion and is elsewhere, then he is also resourceful at that. He is using our uncertainty of his location to his advantage."
"Could it be that Cao Cao has come himself?" asked Liu Bei.
"It's possible. But at the same time, it is not."
"Then if it is not him, who could it be?"
"There's only one way to find out," said Pànduàn. He turned to the Lord of Shu.
"This is going to be a huge gamble," he said, his tone serious. "We must make sure we are ready. My lord, how are the preparations?"
"Zhuge Liang is assembling our forces. They should be ready within a minute." The ruler turned to his right-hand man. "Zilong. Are your men ready?"
"Yes, my lord," he replied.
Liu Bei turned to his wife. "And your guard, my lady?"
"I have given orders for them to join this battle," she said, nodding.
"Good…Master Pànduàn, I believe we are ready." Liu Bei looked at the young warrior, a meaningful look in his chestnut-colored eyes.
Pànduàn returned the gaze and looked back at him.
"Normally it would be you making this command, but now with things as they are, I need your full cooperation," he said. "Inform the troops. Tell them that we are attacking this battalion…now."
The large wooden doors of the Southeastern Gate slowly swung open. The Wei soldiers tensed, raising their weapons. They knew what that meant. The enemy was coming out, and the battle was going to begin.
They gripped the handles of their blades, ready to charge forward, when a single mounted figure appeared out of the now-open gates. The men's eyes first widened, then widened even further with stark fear—for now, charging towards them with brutal fury, was a grizzled man with a mane-like beard holding a wicked pike. He roared a battle cry and barged into their ranks, swinging his weapon, crushing them under his sheer might. The soldiers' hands started to wobble as they shivered and backed away, awed and utterly terrified at the beast they were now facing.
Zhang Fei laughed hoarsely as he knocked away a hapless cavalier, watching as the helpless man thudded onto the ground and was trampled by his own steed. He swung his pike again, and another five men were sent flying off their feet, crashing into the blades and bodies of their own allies.
"That's what my smash-ups are for!" he shouted. "Brother Liu Bei, you fail to see how well it works!"
The Wei soldiers choked and whimpered at his voice, and some started to run away. Zhang Fei roared with laughter and began to smash his way after them.
Himiko and Da Li watched him, silently, as the Tiger General started to cause total carnage among the enemy troops.
Da Li smiled. "It's freaky, isn't it?" she said.
"Yeah," said Himiko. She had her dogus floating around her, ready to charge with her into the fray.
The fox maiden raised her teardrop chakrams, the blades gleaming in the gray daylight. She turned her head over to look at the Shaman Queen, a grin upon her face.
"Do you remember, Himiko?" she said. "That time in the forest where we first met, when I told you that I pulled on Guan Yu's beard to overcome him?"
Himiko looked back at her. "Yeah," she replied. "So what?"
"I said that to you because I already saw the potential for a great friend in you," said Da Li. "It was only for the first time, and I already saw it. You know what? I was absolutely right. You've become one of the greatest buds I've ever met!"
Himiko's eyes widened. "Really?"
"One would be worried if I didn't think so!"
Himiko laughed. "You sure know how to talk, Da Li!"
Da Li flushed. "There was a time when I could say absolutely nothing, just to tell you," she said. "Well, that was long ago. Himiko, I'm promising you that once Guan Yu gets back, I'll demonstrate to you that pulling on his beard is the best way to overcome him. Only that all the poor guys before had been too scared to think it up!"
"Of course. I'll be looking forward to that," said Himiko, smiling.
Da Li smiled back. "Let's go, then!"
With that, the two of them charged forward, plunging themselves into the chaos conjured up by the beastliness of Zhang Fei.
Liu Bei heard it. He spun around, lashing out with his sword, the Gold Moon Dragon. The gleaming blade slashed the Wei soldier in the stomach and he stumbled backwards, falling into one of his startled friends.
Liu Bei took the chance. He charged forward, driving his sword into the second soldier's abdomen. He choked and fell, his soul fleeing his body.
A chorus of slaughter arose as a disk-like object suddenly flew into the enemy ranks behind, shearing its way through them. A whole row of men were knocked down, their lives dashed out, and the thing whizzed out of view. Liu Bei looked over his shoulder, just in time to see his wife catch one of her chakrams, grinning widely at him.
"Did you think your sword would be so great?" she taunted.
He scoffed. "You may have your rings of death, my lady, but I am not a warrior to go with a single weapon!"
He jumped into the air, and to the astonishment of all, drew out a second blade—seemingly from nowhere. He smashed back down, his dual blades digging into the ground, stunning the enemy soldiers and causing them to momentarily lose their balance. Sun Shang Xiang gasped as her husband proceeded to finish them off with a spinning attack, taking them out with both his swords.
He turned to face her again, this time with a smile on his face. "How's that?"
"Whoa, whoa," she said, stepping back. "You didn't tell me that you were hiding another sword there. Where was it?"
Slight mischief slid into the lord's expression. "I won't tell you," he said.
Then he dashed away.
Sun Shang Xiang sighed and rolled her eyes. "My lord," she said. "I absolutely deny that you are thirteen years my senior!"
Zhuge Liang heard the comment from below and chuckled. It seemed that his lord still carried a hint of his youth. But he quickly put that aside and focused on the task at his hands.
He had been ordered to keep watch of the battle and look for any signs of the mystery commander. To date, there was still no trace of him. Pànduàn had hypothesized that he may have used the forest as a hideout, but it was equally possible that he was elsewhere, probably planning on interrupting the battle by making his entrance from the sides. Zhuge Liang was prepared for that. His wife was now standing by on the sidelines, her Juggernauts ready to go. Recently she had been working to upgrade the machines' flamethrower mechanisms to catch up with his arbalest.
Zhuge Liang chuckled again. He had improved his invention so she could improve hers, and now thanks to that her Juggernauts have become even more effective. In a way, he was using the friendly competition between him and Yue Ying to improve both their creations, thus ensuring a better chance of victory for Shu. Now was the time to see what this strategy has brought.
A Shu soldier ran up to him. "A second force has been sighted—it's approaching from the right!"
Just as Pànduàn thought, mused Zhuge Liang. He smiled and turned to the soldier. "Tell Lady Yue Ying to order her Juggernauts on the right flank to start moving immediately," he said. "Xing Cai and Lady Shang Xiang's guards should be told to stay back in case the enemy has a way to repel the machines."
"Yes, my lord!" The soldier ran off to carry out his task.
Zhuge Liang nodded and waved his fan. "Whoever you are out there, you are certainly to be scorched."
The Wei soldiers of the second battalion charged forward, holding their spears up high. The battle was drawing closer; they could see their brothers fighting against the green-clad forces of Shu with their own ferocity. It filled them with excitement and they ran even faster.
Suddenly, however, they slowed and frowned in confusion. Before them, blocking their way, were a row of strange contraptions resembling large wooden tigers. A woman with flowing red hair and a dagger-ax was standing atop one of them, smirking.
She raised her scythe-like weapon and pointed it forward. "Charge!" she said.
Instantly the machines began to roll forward, closing in on them like real tigers. The soldiers realized what they were facing and began to quake with fear. They yelped as one of the automatons shot out a burst of flame from its carved mouth, roasting them.
"J-Juggernauts!" they screamed.
Yue Ying smiled. Obviously they have never tasted the might of these war machines before.
She jumped down from the Juggernaut she was on, raising her dagger-ax and plunging it into a Wei soldier's chest. She shook the body off the blade and charged forward, flinging herself into the fray.
The Wife of the Sleeping Dragon was not only an inventor, but a fighter too.
Himiko jumped, just in time for the soldier's blade to slide under her. She somersaulted in mid-air, pushing her dogus forward. The twin white contraptions shot out beams of fiery energy, burning the men below to a crisp.
The Shaman Queen landed on her feet and let her floating cannons swerve around her, firing round after round of energy balls. The foe soldiers yelped and ran for cover. The ducked, and as they did so Himiko caught a glance of the man she was looking for.
"Pànduàn!" she called.
The young warrior was initiating his own ferocity. He was almost a blur of movement as his sword, Black Phantom, cut down soldier after soldier. One of them tried to catch a gap in his motions and charge him, but there was a burst of white light and he fell to the ground. Pànduàn stopped, his blade glowing with a slight white aura. He knocked away another minion and turned to Himiko, smiling.
"Himiko!" he called back. "How did you find your way to me?"
"I don't know. I was just looking for you all over the place!"
"Is anybody else with you?" asked Pànduàn.
"Yes!" A new figure popped up. The blades of her teardrop chakrams were stained with blood.
"Ah, Da Li!" Pànduàn grinned and nodded. "It's such a pleasure to be seeing you out here!"
"Same goes to you," said the fox maiden gleefully. She leapt into the air above a confused Wei soldier and came crashing down on him, bringing him down in one go. Another attempted to thrust at her, but she whirled around and drove one of her chakrams into his stomach.
"Disgusting work, I know, but sorry!" she said, pulling the tip of her weapon out of the body. "Hope you have a nice time in heaven. By the Mystics, it'll be forever until I join you!"
Pànduàn laughed. "You do know how to be casual in these matters," he remarked.
"Well, aren't you casual in these things too?" she replied, donking yet another soldier on the head. "Believe me, there was a time when I absolutely couldn't bring myself to kill anyone!"
A Wei soldier appeared, charging towards Da Li with rage on his face. Before she had time to react, a disk-like object came smashing into him from the side and dragged him away.
Bao Sanniang jumped into the picture, her attire looking very inappropriate and out-of-the-place among the flurry of death and weapons. She grinned as she drew her bladed yo-yo in, the black disk stained with blood.
"See?" she chirped. "I have as much a right to be here as anybody else!"
Da Li turned to her. "Why, Bao-girl," she huffed. "Thank you sooo much for saving my tails!"
The maiden smiled back. "Who would want your tails ruined?" She spun around, putting out her yo-yo which rotated like a deadly mechanical razor. It cut its way through another rank of men and returned to her like an obedient pet.
Himiko sweat-dropped. "Uh…that is just too ironic."
Pànduàn chuckled nearby. "Don't you look a bit ironic too, Himiko?"
The Shaman Queen blushed. "No!" she said defiantly. "I'm a warrior too. I'll just show you all!"
She raised her hands and a second pair of dogus appeared. The four Goddesses of Light rose above the bewildered Wei soldiers and each shot out a beam of energy into the sky. In moments a relentless torrent of fiery comets rained down upon them, bombarding them and making craters everywhere.
Pànduàn gasped and ducked to avoid being hit. The comet shower subsided, and he raised his head to see piles of dead men and smoking ruin.
"What in the name of…" he looked at his mate in shock and surprise, and she glanced around herself, seemingly alarmed at the deed she just did.
Da Li and Bao Sanniang got up, shaking themselves off.
"Uh…Himiko," said the fox girl. "I think you just showed us all."
"…What did I just do?" cried Himiko, suddenly frantic.
"I don't know…and LOOK OUT!" shouted Pànduàn. He pointed his blade behind her and shot a beam of white energy. It hit the brute just in time and the man stumbled backwards, dropping the sword he was holding.
Himiko looked behind her. "Whoa," she breathed. "He almost got me!"
"Looks like you still have a teensy bit more to learn," said Bao Sanniang, smiling uneasily.
Himiko brushed herself off. "Looks like it," she muttered.
Pànduàn sighed with relief, still partially stunned at the feat his mate just accomplished.
When did she become so powerful? He thought.
The scream echoed in Liu Bei's ears as one of his swords took the soldier's life. He spun around to slash another, then crossed his blades in front of him as a spear attempted to stab him. He pushed it off and somersaulted backwards, taking out two more foes at once.
Sun Shang Xiang was still beside him. It was apparent that she had caught up with him after he had dashed off; she was now performing deathly acrobatics in front of the enemy. She did a cartwheel, flipped, and threw her chakrams like boomerangs, catching them as they returned from their deadly flights.
"Won't they ever stop coming?" she said, running up to him as he stabbed another soldier.
"I don't know," he said, looking around. The enemy didn't seem to lessen in their numbers; they seemed driven by the deaths of their allies and were pushing in on them even harder. It almost reminded him of the Odigan troops back in the Odigan War: relentless and full of rage.
There was a sudden crashing as a large figure came through. Both husband and wife turned around, and their eyes lightened up with delight.
"Zhang Fei!" exclaimed Liu Bei.
The Tiger General gave his older brother a wink. "Good to see you here, Brother!"
Liu Bei turned again. This time it was Zhao Yun. The Young Dragon was running towards him, swinging his spear to clear a space about him. He slammed it on the ground, stunning the soldiers, and came up to his lord.
"Zilong!" Liu Bei ran up to him. "How have things gone?"
"Lady Yue Ying's Juggernauts are successfully keeping the second battalion at bay!" he reported. "Everything is going well!"
"Good!" Liu Bei nodded. "We're going to win this battle!"
He looked around, suddenly noticing something strange. The enemy soldiers were running past him without attacking. They were receding. Retreating. They seemed to be running away, as if there was no more fighting to be done.
"What's…happening?" he said.
Zhang Fei looked about in confusion. "What's going on? They're putting up a decent fight one moment and running away like cowards the next?"
Zhao Yun showed a similar look of questioning on his face. "My lord?"
The Wei soldiers continued to retreat. They rushed past him as if he didn't exist. Liu Bei looked after them. He frowned. They seemed to be making…for the forest.
The minions receded like the tide. They washed away to reveal that the four of them were standing right behind a row of large Juggernauts.
Liu Bei frowned further. Something was definitely not right…
The forest was now in view. It seemed to shimmer in the mist, eerily wavering in the distance. And then, all of a sudden…