Disclaimer:  This fanfic is based on the KOEI video game Dynasty Warriors 3 and its expansion, Dynasty Warriors 3:  Xtreme Legends, a game that is based on Romance of the Three Kingdoms, a historical novel that covers the Three Kingdoms period of Chinese history.  Dynasty Warriors 3 and all Dynasty Warriors 3 elements, including its dialogue, are the property of KOEI, while invented characters such as Cao Fodder, the sword Mucao, and the actual content of this fanfic are the co-authors' property.  Other material is the property of its respective owner(s).  In no way may this piece of writing be used for any kind of commercial profit, nor may it be altered and republished by anyone other than the two co-authors.

This fanfic is the result of its two co-authors, aliases Cao Fodder and Wonko, playing KOEI's Dynasty Warriors 3 on hard mode (and with XL, very hard) entirely too much.  We had an absolute blast writing a fic about this particular battle, and we're going to try to write about more battles in the future.   The more you've played DW3, especially in two-player mode, the more humorous stuff in the fic you'll understand.  This chapter of the fic is essentially The Battle at He Fei gone horribly, horribly wrong, so if you're looking for historical accuracy, you're in the wrong place.  If you're looking for a hilarious read involving DW3's quirks and characters, you're in the right place.  So, without further ado, let's get this show on the road!

The Battle at He Fei

"You're in good hands…you're in my hands."

---Gan Ning

In a melee at the northeast corner of the battlefield…

            Cao Fodder's hilt smash sent Lu Xun's offending bodyguard flying into the wall, killing him.  He turned to face the enemy general.

            "Do you think you can evade my swords?" Lu Xun asked mockingly, raising his blades for a powerful slash.

            Cao Fodder raised his sword Mucao in an attempt to block it, but the twin blow sent him reeling.  He waited for death to come as the pair of swords thrust forward for him.  He shut his eyes tightly to block out the intense pain he was about to feel.

            Nothing happened.  In fact, he couldn't even hear the battle raging around him anymore.  He opened both of his eyes.

            He was standing in a large, square room with a floor, walls, and ceiling made of solid stone.  There was a large torch sitting on a stand in the middle of the room, and one in each corner of the room.  There were no doors or windows whatsoever.

            "Is this…the afterlife…?" Cao Fodder asked in the usual over-dramatized sort of voice commonly used by lamenting video game characters.

            "No, you silly general, it's the D-Plane," said a mocking male voice from behind.

            "Lord Cao Cao!" Cao Fodder returned in shock.  "I received a report that headquarters was under attack!  Are we both dead!?"

            "Oh really, I would have thought that my nephew's cousin would have more sense on the battlefield than this.  The attack on headquarters was merely a single unit of five soldiers trying to play hero by taking me out.  They failed horribly."

            "We aren't dead?"

            "No…We're in the D-Plane."

            "What do you mean?"

            "The D-Plane is where those afflicted with DGS or DTS end up from time to time."

            "I didn't understand a word of what you just said."

            "The D-Plane is the Disappearance Plane.  DGS and DTS stand for Disappearing General Syndrome and Disappearing Troop Syndrome, respectively.  Didn't your instructor teach you about all of these battlefield ailments?"

            "Lord Xu Zhu only taught me about how to get my troops charge the enemy lines en masse and how to double my body mass in twenty days, Lord Cao Cao, sir."

            "Bah!  Xu Zhu!  He is a powerful warrior…yet a complete idiot.  He forgets the most fundamental bits of instruction.  All right, allow me to explain it to you."

            "Yes, sir."

            "In war, many strange things can happen, Cao Fodder.  You see, there are battlefield sicknesses…plagues, frostbitten troops in winter campaigns…and then there are the battlefield syndromes.  These things have no cure…they just happen from time to time.  Sometimes, when a very large number of troops from two opposing sides are crammed together in a tight space staring each other down, some troops or even generals themselves can experience this.  They fade out from the battlefield and appear in here.  In rare cases, a very large number of troops can occasionally DTS out along with their DGSing general and reappear at just the right moment to ambush a foe.  This is just a luck shot, though, so consciously harnessing these strange occurrences to our advantage is, thus far, impossible.  We do know, however, that it can indeed save a person's life."

            "It just saved mine."

            "Yes, I have been saved from grievous wounds by these happenings before."

            "Does anyone know what causes these things to happen?"

            "Not for certain, but Zhuge Liang of the kingdom of Shu did request enlightenment on the matter from Heaven itself at one point, or so he claims."

            "Did he get a reply!?"

            "Supposedly.  The answer is mysterious indeed, though.  The answer was, 'PS2 RAM is not enough to represent the motion of that many polygons.'  It is a rather cryptic response.  Even more peculiar, Zhuge Liang claims that the cause of DTS or DGS is linked to the cause of soldiers on the battlefield suddenly slowing down their rate of swinging, reducing combat and motion to less than half of its normal speed.  He also says this phenomenon is also responsible for the large amounts of fog that impair eyesight on a crowded battlefield.  Still, it is probably just an attempt to fool us."

            "This is strange indeed.  What do we do now that we are here?"

            "We wait until it is time for us to reappear."

            "How will we know that?"

            "Keep your eyes open and be alert.  Time here passes more slowly than normal, so you will return to the battlefield only seconds from when you disappeared.  This room should start to fade from your vision and you should be able to make out your surroundings on the battlefield before you reappear.  If there are foes nearby, you can even move around a bit before you fully reappear or prepare for a good swing with your blade.  Be warned, though.  Though you are not visible yet on the battlefield while you are in this transition, if a weapon passes through where you are reappearing at, then there is a good chance that it'll hit you.  Be alert, as I said."

            "What do we do until we start to reappear, though?"

            "Well…if you must know…"

            Cao Cao stepped over to the torch in the center of the room and knelt beside it, carefully moving the torch stand over toward one wall of the room.  The brick the torch was now resting upon depressed into the floor, and part of the rocky wall nearby lifted to reveal a passageway.

            "You'll see.  Come along."

            Cao Cao led him into the tunnel, which was actually a descending staircase.  There were about twenty small steps in the staircase, but the two descended it quickly.  The bottom of the tunnel opened into a very large room filled with circular tables surrounded by chairs and covered in bowls of meat buns and other delicious snacks.  In one corner of the room was an absolutely colossal stack of assorted wines.  Troops from the Wei army sat relaxing about the room, a table or two at a time vanishing back into reality on occasion.  Zhen Ji sat polishing her flute at one table, Cao Pi sitting next to her trying to convince her to just use a sword instead of a flute to kill her enemies.  She repeatedly refused him, saying that she didn't care if it couldn't play any good sounding notes anymore, and that it was a perfectly good bludgeon in a pinch, regardless of what he thought.  Their rant continued for a bit before Cao Pi popped out, followed only seconds later by his annoyed wife.

            "Make yourself at ho—" Cao Cao began to offer before fading from the scene.

            Cao Fodder walked over to an empty table, eyeing the basketful of meat buns on the table in great interest.  Not able to resist having a few extra rations, he reached out to pick one up, and was mildly disappointed when he realized that he could no longer hear the raucous sounds of the troops chatting, nor touch the bun.  The sights and sounds of the Wei-Wu battle at Hei Fei returned to him, and he noticed that Lu Xun had his back to him.

            The newest Wei general raised his sword Mucao in an attempt to lop off Lu Xun's head while he was blind to his presence.  As he lunged out to swing, though, a foot connected very sharply with his torso, sending him to the ground.

            A female general shouted at him mockingly, "Don't even try that!"

            Cao Fodder recognized Sun Shang Xiang at once by her fiery red hair and her humongous chakrams.  He tried to right himself, but she kept kicking away at him.

            "My brother shall praise me for defeating you!" she exclaimed happily.

            Cao Fodder continued to be beaten badly and smacked silly with SSX's chakrams.  By the time she decided to leave him alone (due to a unit of Wei archers raining arrows on her and her bodyguards) he was rather badly gashed and quite dazed from all that kicking.

            "I cannot let myself lose to them!" Cao Fodder muttered as he shambled off toward Wei headquarters for medical attention.

            Zhen Ji turned to Cao Pi after dazing Lu Xun with an awful note from her flute to rant about Cao Fodder.  "I told you dear, I told you!  There's no room for someone like him as a general in this army!  Even if he is another of Cao Cao's relatives, he's an awfully distant one, and he certainly doesn't have any experience in the field or any sort of natural leadership ability.  He'll be dead before the battle's over."

            "Now, now, my dear," Cao Pi consoled.  Don't worry about Cao Fodder.  He will do well enough back here away from the front, I think.  Plus, and don't you forget this, he has us to back him up.  Now quit worrying and resume with beating up that silly boy over there.  He's coming around, so get to it!"

            Zhen Ji swung her battered flute at the dazed dual wielder once more, and was annoyed when he vanished before the blow could strike.  She decided to rip through his forces while he was gone.

            Sun Shang Xiang and her bodyguards ran back down the hill from where the archers had been, triumphantly bringing along an extra quiver of arrows.  Lu Xun reappeared just as she ran by.

            "Sun Shang Xiang!"  Lu Xun called out to her.

            "Lu Xun?" she asked.  "What do you need?"

            "I need you to go to your brother in the village and help him out," he stated.  "I have a gut feeling that something terrible is about to happen, and I think that Lord Sun Quan will need all of the guards he can get."

            "I will guard him with my life, Lu Xun!" she confirmed before running off along a southbound road leading back to the village, leaving Lu Xun and his force alone with Zhen Ji and Cao Pi's troops.

Meanwhile in the southwestern corner of the battlefield…

Lu Meng and his bodyguards hid themselves in the nearby bushes and spied on Xiahou Dun and Cao Ren.  Getting rid of the Wei troops in this corner of the battlefield would be a simple task indeed if his plan worked correctly.  As Xiahou Dun's troops approached, they looked about for any signs of Wu forces in the area.  As they neared the hiding place of Lu Meng and company, one of Lu Meng's bodyguards disguised in Wei armor jumped out of the bushes.

            "I-I…It's…I-I…It's… LU MENG!" he shouted in his best impersonation of one of Yuan Shu's troops from many years prior at Hu Lao Gate.

            Lu Meng charged out of the forest on a brown warhorse and swung his spear at the Wei-disguised bodyguard, taking care to only hit him with the shaft of the spear.  "Ha!  Get out of my way!" he shouted as he charged forward.

            Xiahou Dun and Cao Ren's forces turned and fled in terror, running north as fast as they possibly could.

            Lu Meng stopped and dismounted.  He and his bodyguards watched the fleeing Wei troops for about twenty seconds before falling to the ground laughing.

            "Suckers!" the bodyguard yelled as he laughed riotously.  "I said Lu Meng, you Wei fools, not Lu Bu!"

            "Hmm, that went well," Lu Meng decided.  "Okay, let's wrap things up down here and get most of our troops back up in the village.  I would like you to stay down here with your troops, Dong Xi.  The rest of us, we'd better get moving.

At Wei HQ in the northwest…

            "Good, good.  Is Zhang Liao prepared?" Cao Cao asked the messenger who was standing alongside his horse.

            "Yes, Lord Cao Cao," the messenger confirmed.  "He is preparing to lure Taishi Ci as we speak."

            "Very good.  How is young Cao Fodder faring on his first battlefield?"

            "Not well at all, sir.  He was caught by a pair of Wu generals and was badly hurt.  It's a miracle he wasn't killed."

            "Did you take him to the aid station yet?"

            "No, he said that he wanted to see you before he died.  I assumed his wounds were too much for the aid station to help from the way he was talking."

            "Bah, he won't die.  I'll go to him and show him to the aid station.  Where is he now?"

            "Bandaged up in his tent, Lord."

            "All right, get back to your post.  I will go see him momentarily."

            The messenger turned to leave.

            "Wait a moment, I need you to send a message to Cao Pi's unit," Cao Cao said to halt him.  "Tell Cao Pi and Zhen Ji that I would like them to entertain Lu Xun's troops for only a short while longer.  Tell them to pull their troops back to our HQ whenever an opening for them to do so emerges.  We will reform at our base camp, press southward and sneak around the Wu army's main force.  Then we will have the option to either go for their base camp or attack them from behind, a win-win situation."

            "Yes, sir."

Shortly afterwards in the central village…

            "I've got you now, Taishi Ci!" Zhang Liao shouted in an intimidating manner as he shot an arrow straight for the proudly mounted Wu general's heart.  The arrow did not strike, however, as Taishi Ci and his horse experienced a spurt of DGS.

            Zhang Liao took off his little hat thingy and threw it into the dust of the village square.  "I had him that time," he whined as the arrow whizzed off into the distance and killed some unlucky Wu private who was staring down a Wei private, both of them strafing around opposite sides of an imaginary circle.

            The Wei general wasted no time in preparing for Taishi Ci's return to reality.  His personal force of archers positioned themselves on the edges of the thatched roofs of the houses surrounding the spot where Taishi Ci and his mount had disappeared.  When he and his horse returned, arrows would mow down the rider quite quickly.

            It did not take long.  Less than ten seconds later the Wu general popped back in, mount and annoying bonk sticks in tow.  He looked around himself and saw the ambush.

            Zhang Liao cleared his throat for take two.  "I've got you now, Taishi Ci!"

            Taishi Ci said nothing, looking for a crowd of troops to attempt to vanish into.  There was a large crowd over by the hill leading up to the bridge leading out of town, and he wasn't sure if he could make it.

            Arrow after arrow pelted Taishi Ci and Zhang Liao sidestepped Taishi Ci's charger just in time to avoid being trampled.  The wounded and dying Taishi Ci rode forward with a moan.

            "Wait!  Ah!  He's hurt," Zhang Liao told his troops, stating the obvious.  "There's no need to pursue"

            "I still have so far to go…not yet…" Taishi Ci sighed before collapsing in death.

Immediately afterwards at Sun Quan's position near the assassination…

            "Taishi Ci!"  Sun Quan shouted from behind his large force of archers and other troops.  "I will avenge your death!"

            At this point, he turned his beautiful white horse around and rode as fast as possible for a broken bridge leading to his base camp, distancing himself as far from avenging Taishi Ci as possible.  This was not a smart tactical move on his part, as there was a perfectly good and completely intact bridge not far away.  Instead of moving to the intact bridge, he sat mounted on his pretty white horse at the broken one for a very long length of time while Sun Shang Xiang ran down to him.  When she got there, him being at the broken bridge gave her a good excuse to come up on her own horse and show Sun Quan how to jump with a mount (She stole the horse from some other defeated general along the way.)  On the other side of the broken bridge, SSX dismounted and followed her brother to his new position inside the main Wu encampment.

            "Now, my brother, stay here while my troops and I secure the area outside of our encampment," SSX requested.

            "Of course.  I will wait until Gan Ning's ambush party has struck before I make any serious counterstrikes."

            SSX nodded and turned to exit the Wu base camp.

            "Quick, she's not looking," Sun Quan whispered to his bodyguards.  "Let's move to the easternmost part of the base to confuse her when she returns!"

In Cao Fodder's tent…

            "Cao Fodder?" Cao Cao asked as he entered the wounded officer's tent.

            "Oh, Lord Cao Cao…I am glad that you came to see me," Cao Fodder said, shivering.

            "Look, you.  Stand up right this instant and follow me," Cao Cao ordered.

            "Wha—what?"

            "Stand up and follow me to the aid station."

            "Surely you don't want me to walk in my condition?"

            "They're just flesh wounds, now stand yourself up before I do something unkind."

            Cao Fodder staggered to his feet, wincing in pain.

            "See, you can stand.  Now, follow me.  I'll hold your sword for you if you don't want to carry it."

            "My…sword?"

            "I'm not going to stab you with it or anything, now come along."

            Cao Cao led Cao Fodder to the northernmost end of the Wei encampment.  Just to the right side of the eastern of the camp's two gateways was a small patch of grass along a drop-off cliff.  The only anomaly in all of this was a large, gray pot that was sitting upright on the grass.  The gateway fence lay behind the pot.

            "Here we are," Cao Cao said cheerfully.

            "Where are we?" Cao Fodder questioned.

            "The aid station, of course."

            "Aid station?  All I see is a pot and one of our battlefield gateways."

            "Look in the pot."

            Cao Fodder took a peek at the pot's contents.

            "There are two meat buns in there…Is this some sort of joke?"

            "Not at all.  The meat buns are here for emergencies like yours."

            "But I'm not starving, I'm wounded!"

            "Never you mind, just break the pot open and eat the meat buns," Cao Cao ordered as he unsheathed the sword Mucao and held it out for Cao Fodder to take.

            "But if I break the pot, then not only do I waste a perfectly good pot, but I risk damaging the meat buns or getting them dirty!"

            "No 'buts' if you please.  Now, take the sword and do as I say."

            Cao Fodder sighed as he took the hilt of his sword and swung with what little force he could muster at the pot.

            He missed.

            He waited a moment.

            He swung again.

            He missed.

            "No, no!" Cao Cao said irritably.  "Swing twice quickly."

            Cao Fodder swung.

            He missed.

            He swung again.

            The jar cracked open with a clank, revealing a pair of meat buns that looked rather odd.  They were hovering and spinning laterally in midair, surrounded by glowing pulses and strands of light.

            "Wh—what sorcery is this?" Cao Fodder asked as he eyed the meat buns suspiciously.

            "It's not sorcery, just cooking gone awry.  You see, the meat buns used as rations by all three of the kingdoms are not made from a definite recipe.  An army cook who makes meat bun rations uses various different formulas of ingredients in an attempt to cook one of these.  Though the same recipe never produces one of these special meat buns twice in a row, haphazard cooking can lead to the making of meat buns that have strange properties.  Adding random spices to meat buns can produce some weird stuff, as you can see."

            "Is it safe to eat them?"

            "Very much so, safer than you could hope."

            Cao Fodder gulped down the two meat buns and felt very strange.  At first he couldn't quite place how, but then he noticed that his wounds didn't hurt so much anymore.  Cao Cao removed the bandages, and was pleased to see that the new general only had a few small scrapes that were already scabbed over.

            "There, you see?" Cao Cao asked Cao Fodder.

            "They heal wounds?" Cao Fodder asked in return.

            "Yes, very quickly at that."

            "I still don't fully understand these meat buns…why are they in pots?"

            "They are stored in pots because they are only activated as healing meat buns if they are inside a pot of exactly the size and shape of the one you broke, and only if the pot is forcefully shattered.  Otherwise, they're just normal meat buns.  Of course, if you break it open you can carry it around for a bit before you eat it; that's what some higher-ranking troops do.  Once it's activated, though, a healing meat bun starts to fade out of existence.  It'll eventually disappear if you don't eat it."

            "Where do they go?"

            "The D-Plane, except they lose their healing properties."

            "This military business is much more odd than I had originally thought it would be.  Thank you for the tutelage, Lord Cao Cao."

            "Anytime.  Oh, by the way, you might try breaking open pots in other locations than near gates.  Sometimes villagers and the like keep such pots near their houses.

Somewhere amidst the panicked mob of Xiahou Dun and Cao Ren's forces…

            "HALT, HALT, HALT!" Xiahou Dun commanded as loudly as he could manage.

            Every troop nearby stopped and looked his way.

            "But Lu Bu is here!" shouted one major.

            "I thought he was dead," added a sergeant.

            "He is, you imbeciles!" Cao Ren exclaimed.

            "Yes, that was Lu Meng of the Wu army trying to trick us into retreating!" explained Xiahou Dun.  "We were duped!"

            A raucous murmuring bellowed out from the crowd of soldiers.

            "Listen!" Cao Ren ordered.  "We will return to our headquarters.  We will let Lu Meng think that he has defeated us with his pathetic ruse just long enough for us to get reinforced and crush him!"

            "Forward!" Xiahou Dun ordered as he pointed his scimitar up the trail towards Wei HQ."

Over in Sun Quan's Wu encampment…

            "If Wei has Zhang Liao, Wu has Gan Ning!" Sun Quan shouted dramatically from the depths of his archer-ridden camp.  Sun Quan stood there smugly for a while; waiting for someone from across the battlefield to inform that Gan Ning's ambush party had appeared.  A few minutes passed, but no Gan Ning.  Suddenly, lots of painful screams echoed through the camp.

            "Where is Sun Quan?" Zhang Liao bellowed as he rampaged through the Wu encampment on horseback.

            "It's Zhang Liao, Zhang Liao is here!" some private in the camp shouted before being cut down by Zhang Liao's polearm.

            "Zhang Liao is here!  EVERYBODY RUN!" shouted one of Sun Quan's archer minions.  Sun Shang Xiang ran up to Sun Quan, tired and out of breath.

            "There you are, you little…" she growled, then regained her composure.  "I mean, Lord Sun Quan, stay here!  I shall defeat Zhang Liao and save you, but first…"

            She grabbed Sun Quan, drug him off of his horse, and led him southwestward, deeper into the base.  Just to the north of the Wu encampment's southwestern gateway, she stopped.  A mischievous grin appeared on SSX's face.  Sun Quan gave her a puzzled look.  At blinding ninja speed, she tied her brother firmly to a nearby tree with a rope she kept on her for emergencies.

            "There, now you shouldn't get lost again and start wandering around like last time," she said darkly.

            "But…wha?  Hey!  You can't leave me here!" Sun Quan yelled as he struggled to get free while she took his sword and laid it on the ground several feet in front of him.

            "That'sreallytoobadI'mreallysorrygottagobye," SSX replied as she ran out into the fog of war to fight Zhang Liao.

            "At least I'm in good hands.  I mean Sun Shang Xiang and my bazillion archers could surely take one man and a few petty Wei troops."  Sun Quan continued to take pride in his archers and sister for a few minutes until he heard SSX scream.

            "He's gonna kill meeeeee!" she shrieked as she ran by at Red Hare speed.

            "At least my loyal archers wouldn't flee shamelessly and leave me hopelessly tied to this miserable tree."

            At that exact moment a large mob of archers zoomed by Sun Quan in a panicked retreat, following in the direction Sun Shang Xiang had gone.  A few steps behind them came Zhang Liao.  He didn't notice Sun Quan at the time, but the Wu supreme commander suddenly found himself wishing that he were a little greener and a lot less red.

            "Gan Ning…" Sun Quan said nervously, sweat forming on his forehead, "…where are you…?"

Back at the Wei camp…

            A messenger approached Cao Cao.

            "Lord Cao Cao!" the messenger called out.  "We have received word that Zhang Liao has begun his raid on Wu HQ."

            "Zhang Liao, well done!  Crush Wu for me!" Cao Cao said powerfully.

            "Also, Cao Pi and Zhen Ji are regrouped and ready for the march southward.  Xiahou Dun and the rest of the southwestern unit are also ready for their vengeance on Lu Meng.  Cao Zhang has also pulled most of his troops out of the central village and has rejoined us."

            "Very good."

            Another messenger came running forward.

            "My Lord!  We have received word that Gan Ning's force failed to arrive," the scout reported.  "The Wu forces are in a panic."

            "Hmmm…wonderful!  Everyone!" Cao Cao said triumphantly as he turned to face his personal force in the Wei encampment.  "Now we shall begin our full-scale assault!  We shall make a quick march to the south to obliterate that fool Lu Meng, then we shall wind our way around to the village and cross the bridge to Wu HQ!"  A large cheer went up from the camp and they raised their weapons into air as they marched out to the south.

Meanwhile, in the village…

            Lu Xun, currently in the central village and with no word from Sun Quan's unit, made a brave decision.  "Sun Quan must be charging the Wei base camp with his troops alone!" he assumed boldly.  "Lu Meng, you go back to the southwestern corner of the area and attract the attention of any minor troops that try to escape our great and powerful leader's wake!  The rest of you, head to the northeastern part of the area and follow the trail west from there.  We will enter their base from the east and rout them!"

            Every Wu troop in the village got to work on this plan immediately.

Near the northwest road out of the village…

            Zhou Tai and his troops were already near the northwest road, so he decided that his troops would head to the southern end of the Wei base and divert the enemy's attention from Lu Xun's march from the east.  Gan Ning would have ideally been the one doing this, but since he had not shown up Zhou Tai decided to take his spot.  If Lu Xun's assumptions were correct, Sun Quan would be in the vicinity as well.

            As Zhou Tai approached the ditch where Gan Ning's ambush party should have been, he heard a loud snoring sound.  He looked down in the ditch, and was infinitely annoyed with what he saw.  Lo and behold, Gan Ning and his elite raiding party were in the ditch all right, every one of them sleeping soundly.  Zhou Tai slipped down into the ditch and kicked Gan Ning in the shoulder to wake him.

            "What do you think you're doing!?" Zhou Tai demanded.

            "Waiting for the time to ambush the Wei army," Gan Ning replied sleepily.

            "That…" Zhou Tai said quietly and calmly before becoming loud and angry, "…was supposed to have happened an HOUR AGO!!"

            "WHAT!?" Gan Ning yelled as he leapt to his feet.  "Everyone… EVERYONE… EVERYONE!!  Now is the time to strike!!"

            The soldiers grabbed their weapons and clambered out of the ditch.  Zhou Tai, exasperated, joined the ranks and followed them.  Gan Ning jumped out of the ditch, pointed his sword into the enemy base while looking down at his troops.

            "Attack!" Gan Ning ordered.  His troops ran out of the ditch, eyes closed but weapons drawn, except for Zhou Tai who followed slowly behind.  As he emerged from the ditch, he noticed a definite lack of something in the immediate area.

            "The Wei army…" Zhou Tai began.

            "They aren't here anymore, sir!" finished a major from Zhou Tai's force who had gone on ahead into the camp before Gan Ning ordered the attack."

            Gan Ning's soldiers tossed in their opinions:

            "Yeah, I thought it looked kind of empty."

            "They must have fled in terror!"

            "We scared them to death!"

            "YEAH!"

            "Quick, everybody, back in the ditch!" Gan Ning ordered.  "We shall celebrate by creating a large fire to roast wienies and make s'mores!"

            Everyone in the vicinity, including Zhou Tai's troops but excluding their general, immediately began to prepare for the coming wienie roast.

            Zhou Tai poked Gan Ning in the shoulder.

            "What do you want now?" Gan Ning asked irritably.

            "I really think we should seek out and destroy Cao Cao while we have the chance."

            "We've won." Gan Ning said through gritted teeth as he pulled Zhou Tai toward a large stack of wood that was being prepared for lighting.  "Let us roast wienies and make s'mores."

            Zhou Tai tried a different approach.  "Wieniess'mores?  What are these strange foods you speak of?  We have meat buns for rations, there is no time or funding for extravagances!"

            "They're imported and they're quite good," Gan Ning said, ignoring Zhou Tai's protests.  "I got them from a friend of mine in the village.  His name is Zhou Zhou, and he runs Zhou Zhou's Wienie Shack.  He gave 'em to me for free, to show his support for Wu in the war effort."

            "Hmm…I don't know anyone by that name…I wonder if he is a relative of mine?" Zhou Tai asked thoughtfully.

            "I don't know, but come on down and party with us!" Gan Ning entreated Zhou Tai.  "I'll take you to meet him when we go into the village again sometime."

At this point in the southwest corner…

            Lu Meng and his faithful officers stood at the entrance to the trail leading northward to Wei HQ.  They felt rather sure that they could stop any effort by the Wei army at retaking this area, and were almost glad when they saw a few Wei troops coming down the trail.

            "Get them!" Lu Meng ordered to his troops.

            Lu Meng noticed something quite fat coming down the trail.  He came to the sudden realization that Xu Zhu was here.

            "I eat guys like you for breakfast!" the general of Wei said cheerfully.

            No one spoke or moved for three seconds.

"That's disgusting!" one of Lu Meng's bodyguards replied.

            "Your guy-like-me-eating days are over, Xu Zhu," Lu Meng said triumphantly.  "You're fini…fini…fi…"

Lu Meng's jaw dropped suddenly.  The earthquake-like sound of the entire Wei army that was present at He Fei marching down the trail towards Lu Meng's force caused only one command to come to his mind.

"RETREAT!!" Lu Meng ordered in a panic as Cao Cao's main force poured down the trail to the southwest corner.  The beleaguered Wu general screamed like a little girl and ran out the western gate into the fog of war, followed by his officers and troops.

"Well…that was easy," Cao Cao said as he scratched his beard.  After a brief pause to just stand there in appalled silence at Lu Meng's speedy retreat, the Wei army continued on their full-scale assault.

Back at Sun Quan's tree in Wu HQ…

            "Help me…anybody…please?" Sun Quan begged, hopelessly bound to his tree.  He heard the faint sound of footsteps coming.  Looking in the direction of the sound, he saw his sister running toward him.

            "It's about time!" he said to her.

            SSX continued running along and only stopped for a moment to look at him and say, "Fifty defeated," before charging right on past him.

            "Impressive!  Now untie me right now!"

            Sun Shang Xiang looked over her shoulder.  "Can'tgottarunbye," she said quickly as she sped away.  The mob of archers had apparently been obliterated because next in the parade was Zhang Liao, still dutifully chasing her.

            "Just you wait, I'll get you yet!" Zhang Liao shouted as he ran by, and once again didn't notice Sun Quan tied helplessly to the tree.

            "I hate my life…" Sun Quan muttered to himself.

At Cao Cao's assault force's current position…

            "Lord Cao Cao!  Reinforcements have arrived!" someone shouted from the back lines.

            "Excellent, we shall hold here until they join us, then we shall crush Wu!" Cao Cao informed his troops.

At the same time at the empty Wei encampment…

            "Cao Cao did give us orders to come in at the main encampment, didn't he?" one of the reinforcement majors asked.

            "I smell smoke…" another commented.

            They made their way south out of the encampment, following the smoky yet appealing smell.

            "Look!  Fire in the ditch!" a private called out.  The reinforcements all ran over to the ditch, only to see a large group of Wu soldiers merrily roasting wienies and making s'mores.

            "Oooooooooh…wienies!" the reinforcements cheered in unison.  They all discarded their weapons and the easily removable parts of their armor before nonchalantly slipping down into the ditch and joining the Wu soldiers in their wienie roast; the Wu troops didn't seem to mind.

On the northern trail west of the northeast corner…

            "Forward, men!" Lu Xun shouted triumphantly from the back of his charger, raising his right-hand sword into the air.  "We will take Wei HQ in one charge!"

            The bulk of the Wu army that was present at He Fei was now on the march westward toward the Wei encampment.  They came expecting a dreadful battle, expecting a horrible fight, and expecting to have their combat prowess put to the test.  The one thing that they did not expect was what they found when they got in sight of the Wei encampment: a deserted Wei HQ.

            "Something is amiss here…" Lu Xun pondered aloud.  "Cao Cao and his forces were camped here only this morning…and it's unlikely that they retreated after the battle was going so well for them."

            Lu Xun paused and turned to his troops.  "This could be a trap; it might be a trick to throw us off.  We must remain cautious.  Advance into the Wei encampment and occupy it carefully while I try to get word from Lord Sun Quan on what to do now."

Half an hour after the reinforcements' arrival at Cao Cao's position…

            "Where are my reinforcements?" Cao Cao demanded as he slammed his right fist onto his right thigh in irritation.  "You there!" he yelled as he pointed at a group of five people.  "Head north and see where my reinforcements have gone!  Find them and tell them to march toward Wu HQ in the southeast with all possible speed!  I can delay this attack no longer…"

            The unit nodded and then simultaneously tried to force themselves into the exact same spot on the battlefield.  They all experienced a spurt of DTS, and Cao Cao sighed loudly.  A few moments later, they reappeared.

            "Lord Cao Cao!" the major leading the five addressed.

            "Yes…?" Cao Cao returned impatiently.

            "One of the reinforcements met me in the D-Plane and informed me of the situation.  The reinforcements have indeed arrived…but…it appears as though they've joined the Wu army for some sort of…wienie roast."

            Cao Cao stroked his beard in deep thought.  "So…they've joined," he said.

            In one swift motion, Cao Cao pulled out a parchment and jotted something down before reading it quietly to himself.  He read, "Note to self:  get wienies to raise morale."  He then turned to his army.  "We shall continue our march over to the village and cross the bridge into Wu HQ.  Let us go!"

At Gan Ning's wienie roast…

            "Gan Ning!  Gan Ning!  Terrible news!" a Wu major yelled as he ran toward Gan Ning's seat by the main fire (Several smaller ones had been lit in the ditch by now as well to accommodate for the increasing number of wienie-roasters.).

            "What is it?" Gan Ning asked in a muffled voice, still munching on a slightly blackened wienie and a s'more at the same time.

            "We're—you'd better sit down for this, sir—"

            "I am sitting down.  Tell me!"

            "We're…well…we're out of wienies!!"

            Gan Ning's jaw dropped and he let the wienie and s'more fall to the ground, his eyes wide with shock.

            "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!" he screamed in agony, creating a rather disturbing echo.

A few minutes later, back with Wei…

            Cao Cao Looked around with a puzzled expression on his face.  "Did…you just hear something strange?" he asked Cao Ren.

            "No, Lord…" Cao Ren replied, though listening attentively for any odd sounds.

            A few seconds later, a group of several blinding rings of light pulsated out from the center of the town, as if something had just been forcefully shoved into the space-time continuum.  Cao Cao and his army raised their arms to shield their eyes from the light.  When the light faded, Cao Cao lowered his arms and looked toward the village.

            "What was that?" he asked.

            "It appears to be a supply team," Xiahou Dun reported.  "A supply unit has appeared by the wienie store in the center of the village, and it is heading northwest at a remarkable pace.  They must be carrying vital supplies for the Wu wienie roast!"

            "The wienie store…" Cao Cao restated.  "Yes, yes…that supply team must be bringing supplies for Gan Ning.  Quickly!  Someone send a message to Xu Huang in the northwestern path.  Tell him to stop the supply captain and confiscate his wienies for our own use.  That should demoralize Gan Ning and give our defective reinforcements a good cause to attack him!"

            "Such a good plan…" Cao Zhang commented, "…Yet something has to go wrong.  It always does.

            The person delivering the note to Xu Huang ran back up the trail toward Wei HQ, DTSing after only three steps.

            Cao Zhang and Cao Cao both sighed.

            "Lord Cao Cao!" Xu Zhu hailed.

            "What do you want?" Cao Cao asked, not in the mood for Xu Zhu's idiocy.

            "I will go and burn down the wienie shack for you!  That way, the Wu army will not be able to order up any more wienies!"

            "Hmmm.  I had planned to confiscate the wienies for our use, but perhaps this way is best.  See to it that the wienie shack is destroyed."

            "I'll get right on it, Lord Cao Cao!"

At Xu Huang's position on the upper northwest path…

            Xu Huang stood still; leaning on his axe, his horse beside him, reflecting on the awful experiences he'd been subjected to in this battle.  All of his troops, bodyguards included, were dead.  He had been ordered to hold this position by Lord Cao Cao himself, but his troops hadn't been able to handle it.  With no troops to support him, he was apparently no longer seen as a threat by the Wu forces and had been ignored as such.

            First, a unit of five Wu soldiers had run past him.

            "Come, won't you cross swords with me?" he had asked, but the four sergeants and major had simply marched on by, bound for Cao Cao's position in the Wei HQ.

            Then, that miserable Han Dang had come by.

            "Come, won't you cross swords with me?" he had asked once again, but Han Dang had also completely ignored him and trotted on past him.

            Last, and even more insulting, Sun Shang Xiang had come running along.

            "Come, won't you cross swords with me?" he had asked yet again.

            She had paused for a moment, looked back over her shoulder, and then continued running past with Zhang Liao in hot pursuit.  As she ran off she had answered hurriedly, "There'sreallynotimegottagobye."

            As he thought about these things, he decided that no one else would get by him.  He heard footsteps behind him, but he did not turn around.  As soon as the footsteps got close, he swung his axe behind him, one-handing it with his right hand.

            While executing this thrusting axe swing, he pivoted to face his target and began to ask, "Come, won't you cross swords with—"

            He stopped abruptly when he noticed that he had just killed a Wei private carrying a sheaf of parchment.  The parchment was soaked in blood, and he could only make out two words on it.

            "Stop…wienies?" Xu Huang read unknowingly.  He stood there, puzzled, for several seconds.  As he pondered the meaning of the message, he got a whiff of the smoke from Gan Ning's wienie roast.

            "Wu soldiers! Aha!" he said knowingly and gleefully.  "I've got you now!"

            He mounted up and charged off down the path alone.  He would find the source of the smoke and eliminate the Wu mini-camp single-handedly or die trying.  As he reached the central village, however, something more interesting caught his eye.

            "A supply team!  They must be carrying some absurdly powerful weapon or a special item!  I will head them off and confiscate it."

            Charging at full gallop to the west, he dismounted and stood stock-still on the bridge connecting the central village and the northwest road.  The supply team would not escape him.

            As the supply captain got closer, Xu Huang noticed that the box he was carrying bore the logo of Zhou Zhou's Wienie Shack, a restaurant in the village.  He smiled with glee as he ran off down the hill to meet the supply captain and pilfer the wienies.

            "I've got you now, wienie bringer!" he shouted at the supply captain who, upon seeing Xu Huang, began to run considerably faster.

            "Hahahahahaha!" Xu Huang laughed triumphantly.

            Smoke rising from the center of the village suddenly stole his attention from the supply captain.  Zhou Zhou's was on fire!

At Zhou Zhou's Wienie Shack…

            Xu Zhu sat happily roasting the weenies he had taken from the shack before he set it ablaze.

            "It sure was good that I could convince Cao Cao to let me destroy the wienie shack, cause now I got lotsa free wienies, right Zhou Zhou?" he asked Zhou Zhou, who was tied up and gagged in the street.

            "Mrphmrhpr!" Zhou Zhou cried out in an attempt to scream for help.

Just past the bridge leading to Wu HQ…

            "Hmmm… this is quite strange," Cao Cao said meditatively.

            "We have met no resistance whatsoever," Cao Zhang said, stating the obvious as generals so often did.

            "I keep thinking that this is a trap…and yet…it almost seems like the Wu army retreated.  We need to investigate further.  Onward, men!"

At Gan Ning's Camp…

            A Wu sergeant taking a leisurely walk back from making the order for more wienies had been rather surprised by the sudden burst into flames of Zhou Zhou's Wienie Shack, but he knew that a flaming wienie shack could only mean…

            "FREE WIENIES AT ZHOU ZHOU'S!" he shouted at the top of his lungs as he arrived at the ditch party.

            Gan Ning's entire camp burst into frenzied yelling and they all charged down the path and across the bridge to where the hapless Xu Huang was now chasing the supply captain.  The supply captain spotted the rapidly approaching wienie-crazed mass of troops.  A look of total relief came over the captain's face as he saw this window of wienie opportunity.  Running toward Gan Ning's force of partygoers, he thrust the case of wienies into Gan Ning's hands and turned to run in stride with the troops.  The result was Xu Huang getting knocked around by a large number of charging Wu soldiers.

            As the Wu forces and Wei deserters charged off toward the burning shack, Xu Huang remained on the hill watching lots of pretty stars dance around his head as he challenged dazedly, "Come, won't you cross swords with me?"

            Upon righting his balance, Xu Huang realized that the wienie eaters had already escaped.  At this realization, he began to shiver furiously and swing his axe repeatedly into the ground.

At Sun Quan's tree…

            "You have no idea how long I've been waiting to say this, Sun Archers—err, Sun Quan!" Cao Cao said, relishing his victory as his picked up Sun Quan's own sword and pointed it at him.

            There was a moment of silence.

            "Well, get on with it…" Sun Quan stated fearlessly, though inwardly hoping that something good would happen to him for a change.

            Cao Cao glared at Sun Quan and said in a monotone, "All your base are belong to us.  You are on the way to destruction."

            Cao Cao flicked the point of the sword up a bit and drew it a bit closer to the helplessly bound Sun Quan.

            "What you say?" Sun Quan asked, confused.

            "You have no chance to survive, make your time."

            At this point all of the nearby Wei forces laughed in unison, "Ha ha ha!"

            The Wei forces in the area began loudly singing the lyrics to "Invasion of the Gabber Robots" while Cao Cao and his bodyguards clanked their weapons together in time with the rhythm.

            "What mockery is this!?" Sun Quan demanded, but he got no response other than the Wei army's continuous singing.

At the burning mass that was once Zhou Zhou's Wienie Shack…

            "Gan Ning!  Gan Ning!" a messenger shouted frantically, a half-eaten wienie-on-a-stick in hand.  "Lord Sun Quan is in danger!"

            Gan Ning stood up immediately, spitting out a half-eaten s'more.

            "What!?" Gan Ning returned in disbelief.

            "Sun Quan…he has been captured by the Wei army…"

            "HOW!?  They retreated!"

            "They…they…they got to our HQ somehow, sir."

            "I'll save him myself.  There's no time to delay.  Tell the others to follow me as quickly as they can; I have to book!"

            Gan Ning grabbed a fresh s'more and twisted a pair of wienies into a semicircle that he then placed on top of it.  He then began to munch on this Imperial Seal of Wienies, holding it in his left hand while he outstretched his sword in the other.  He impaled a few more wienies on the tip of his sword, and then he set off at a rapid run.  His ten seconds of Musou goodness sped him south across the southern bridge leading into the Wu encampment and got him relatively close to the Wei forces before the effects of the Seal ran out.  He quickly bit a wienie off of his sword and continued his mad dash.  As he neared Cao Cao's troop, he heard the Wei army singing.

"No, all our base are not belong to you," Gan Ning said quietly.  He picked up with the song as he sang, "For great justice, take off every zig!"

There were several loud and painful death cries as Gan Ning ripped through the Wei lines with his sword.  He had removed the wienies from the tip, now holding them in his left hand and munching on one occasionally.

"Move zig, move zig, move zig, move zig.  You know what you doing, take off every zig!" he chanted as more Wei soldiers were cleaved apart.  "Move zig, move zig, move zig, move zig.  For great justice, take off every zig."

The massacre continued until finally the song came to an end.

"Moooooove ziiiiiiiiiig…" Gan Ning panted as he ran out of breath and wienies.  Just after the end of the word 'zig,' he slashed the ropes binding Sun Quan and then fell to the ground with a thud.

"I'm FREE!" Sun Quan shouted before running very quickly to the south, deep into the Wu base camp.

"Wha—STOP HIM!!" Cao Cao stammered.

The Wei troops snapped out of their All Your Base trance moments later and suddenly realized that the Wu supreme commander had eluded them.

"STOP HIM!!" shouted a major.

The Wei army thundered southward.

"Hmm…what is this?" Cao Cao asked rhetorically as he stepped toward the tree."

Sun Quan's green piece of headwear was stuck hanging on a tree branch.  It had gotten snagged off of his head during his flight.

"Ah!  It is Sun Quan's hat thingy!  Even if the Wu army eludes me today, I will still have a war trophy to wave at them!"

In the deepest part of the Wu encampment…

            As Sun Quan fled toward Lu Su's force and the protection it offered, a group of troops caught his eye.  A dozen or so of Lu Su's men were strafing in a tight circle around a single Wei private, a private who was occasionally batting his sword at them but not really accomplishing anything.

            This situation called for the kind of heroic nature that only the best of generals could possess.  Sun Quan valiantly charged into the crowd and slew the single Wei private.

            A major in the crowd thanked him by saying, "He was a tough one.  We'll be returning to our posts now."

            "Cao Cao's army is advancing on our position, you must engage him!"

            "But Lu Su said for us to do nothing useful and hold our position throughout the battle until the time came for our full-scale assault!"

            "No 'buts!'  Spread the word that I've given the order for a full-scale attack on the Wei army and get together what forces we still have in our camp.  Hit them with everything we've got!"

            "Yes, my lord!"

In the southwest corner of the battlefield…

            "Okay…you win…I…can't even…walk…another…step…" Zhang Liao panted.

            "Me…either…" Sun Shang Xiang returned.  "Why don't we…call it…a draw?"

            "Okay, that sounds…pretty good…I think…okay, I'm going…to rejoin…Lord Cao Cao…now…okay?"

            "Fine…I'll…keep…you company…on the way back."

            "Okay…let's…get moving…then."

            The two hobbled off at a snail's pace toward Wu HQ, exhausted from their marathon chase.

In the Wu-occupied Wei encampment…

            Lu Xun was thoroughly perplexed by the serious lack of Wei in the camp.  A messenger running up to him was able to shed some light on the situation.

            "Our lord is under attack!  We must go back to our headquarters immediately!"

            "I agree!" Lu Xun shouted in his state of surprise.  "But…how did that happen!?"

            "I do not know, sir."

            "Never mind that…spread the word!  We must go back to our base camp.  If Cao Cao is there, then we will be able to attack him from behind!"

            The troops moved out at double-time, but Lu Xun knew perfectly well that they would have to hurry even more than that if they were to save Sun Quan.

By Sun Quan's former tree…

            Gan Ning woke up to find a large number of Wu soldiers standing around him, many of them still carrying wienies.

            "Gan Ning sir!" reported a major, "We have caught Cao Cao's army in a two-pronged attack, but the battle rages on.  Lu Xun's force is moving back here to support us as well.  We think Cao Cao may surrender!"

            "That's good, but…" Gan Ning started.

            The soldiers helped him to his feet.

            "Where is Sun Quan?"

            "He is in the safety of Lu Su's backup force, Gan Ning, sir."

            "Phew, that's good to hear.  Now, let's crush Wei!"

            Gan Ning and his troops moved forward to battle.

At Sun Quan's position…

            "My lord!" Lu Su hailed, "Cao Cao seeks to make out terms for surrender."

            "Aha!  I knew he'd break down soon enough!" Sun Quan declared in a flourish.

            "Erm, no, my lord.  He means terms for our surrender."

            "What!?"

            "He says that he has two things that you hold most dear, and that if you care for them you'll pull your army back away from He Fei."

            "What could he possibly have?"

            Sun Quan scratched his head and found that something was missing.

            "MY HAT!!  My sister Sun Shang Xiang made that hat…it was the only article of clothing she ever made for anyone!  I'll make Cao Cao pay dearly for this insult!  Where is she, anyway?"

            "Where is who?"

            "My sister."

            "She was being chased by Zhang Liao earlier, I recall."

            "Hmmm, send a messenger to Cao Cao's army and tell him I will meet with him."

            "Yes, my lord."

A short time later, between Sun Quan's troops and Cao Cao's troops…

            "All right, Cao Cao!" Sun Quan said angrily.  "I know you have my hat, but what else do you have?"

            "Why don't you see for yourself?" Zhang Liao taunted as he stepped out from behind Wei lines, dragging Sun Shang Xiang with him.

            "My sister!  How dare you!"

            "I assure you, Sun Quan," Cao Cao said suavely, "that if you pull your army back and let Wei occupy He Fei that I will give your sister…and your hat…back to you."

            "Why should I trust you!?"

            "You have no choice, supreme commander of Wu.  Come now, your sister and your hat for calling this battle a draw and both of us falling back to our initial positions…it's not a bad deal."

            "Very well.  Release my sister and I'll give the orders to prepare to retreat.  Then give me my hat and I'll actually have them do it."

            "Do as he says, Zhang Liao."

            Zhang Liao released Sun Shang Xiang and shoved her towards Sun Quan.

            "That's what you get for believing that Zhang Liao would ever settle for a draw, woman!"

            Sun Quan gave the order to assemble for an organized retreat.

            "Now, my hat."

            Cao Cao tossed it to him.

            "Good.  Everyone, let's move out.  Send a detachment to Lu Xun and Gan Ning's forces to cease their attacks on Wei and retreat back to our territory."

A few hours later…

            "Cao Cao will pay dearly for this insult to the Sun clan of Wu!" Sun Quan exclaimed as he rode away in retreat.  "But it does not matter…not anymore.  Soon my elite fighting force will be ready for action, and Wu will finally triumph over Wei."

            Sun Quan wrote, "Prepare Archer Force Omega for its field test," on a piece of parchment and handed it to a mounted messenger.

            "Ride hard to our secret training ground and tell you-know-who to do as that order decrees," Sun Quan said.

            "Wei took victory today," he continued, "but we will not lose to them again!  Gan Ning, I'm putting you in charge of getting more of those wienie things of yours for our troops!"

            "But the wienie shack—" Gan Ning started.

            "—No 'buts!'  Get to work on finding a supply of wienies or something else that will raise morale like them!"

            "Yes, of course."

            "Yes, yes.  With Archer Force Omega and Gan Ning's wienies, Wei will tremble before the might of the Wu army.  You said my defense was stronger than my offense, brother Sun Ce…but defending does not win a war!  We'll win this war, and then I will be the one to take Cao Cao's hat thingy!"

Archer Force Omega's role in the Wu army will be disclosed in later chapters.

Post reviews at will.  Chapter two is now up, so check it out!