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.

Well, it took us a long time to get this one together.  No, we're not dead.  We were busy playing DW3:XL and DW4…and doing other things, of course.  At any rate, we finally give you the next chapter in the campaign to control ancient China.

The Battle at Fan Castle

"A dike?  Oh no!"

---Sima Yi

Inside a corridor in Fan Castle, four years after the battle at He Fei…

            Cao Cao approached his strategist, Sima Yi, who was in the process of "punishing" a disobedient Wei soldier by beating him the head with his black feather duster.

            "Sima Yi," Cao Cao said.  "I need to speak with you for a moment."

            Sima Yi stopped beating the soldier on the head and walked off with Cao Cao.  The soldier's echoing laughter at Sima Yi could be heard from some distance away as Cao Cao began to speak.

            "You remember the Wei victory over Wu at He Fei, don't you?" he inquired.

            "Of course, Lord Cao Cao.  It was Wu's most humiliating defeat ever.  Wu was defeated by Zhang Liao capturing Sun Quan's sister."

            "…And his hat thingy," Cao Cao added.

            "Yes, and his hat thingy."

            "Well, I confiscated something else very valuable to the Wu army that day."

            "What is it?" Sima Yi asked curiously.

            "Sun Quan's sword," Cao Cao dramatized.

            "I thought you only captured his sister…" Sima Yi said, puzzled.

            "And hat thingy!" Cao Cao pointed out irritably.

            "And hat thingy," Sima Yi echoed.

            "And sword," Cao Cao went on.

            "Don't you think he'd miss his sword after four years?" Sima Yi asked meditatively.

            "Do you honestly think that someone who would allow himself to be tied to a tree in the middle of a fierce battle would miss his sword?" Cao Cao asked demandingly in response.

            Sima Yi thought about this.

            "No…not really…no," he decided finally.

            Cao Cao held up a large, highly decorated long sword.  Sima Yi viewed it in reverent awe.

            "Do you know what this sword can do, Sima Yi?" Cao Cao questioned.

            "No, what can it do?" Sima Yi responded loyally.

            "It has the power to control the archers!" Cao Cao shouted with a taint of megalomania in his voice, raising the sword above his head in a power trip.

            A sound of thunder boomed one single time outside.

            "You have the power of the immortals!" Sima Yi exclaimed in a loud whisper, awed and amazed.  Then he said a bit louder, "You have the power to control the archersYou have power over archers!"

            "Actually, no, no, I can't."

            "Well…why not?  I don't understand…" Sima Yi sounded highly disappointed.

            "Because it's not my sword.  I can't use it.  My sword has the power to make people drop dead in a purple flash of light just by me waving it near them a few times.   Trust me, that's sufficient in most situations."

            "Oh…well…what are we going to do with it, if we can't use it?"

            "I'm entrusting the sword to you…I'm leaving on a journey to Han Zhong.  You may return the sword to him, but only if he offers us something really good in return," Cao Cao warned.

            "…Like his hat thingy?" Sima Yi asked anxiously.

            "Wha…?  But…NO!  Trading his sword for his hat thingy is not an option!" Cao Cao yelled, enraged.

            "I think it's a good trade…" Sima Yi muttered.

            "NO!  Something helpful!  Something like an entangling military alliance between us," Cao Cao said, smirking mischievously.

            "Awww…okay…" Sima Yi said, scuffing his feet on the floor, defeated.

At the secret training ground of Wu's Archer Force Omega…

            Sun Quan stood at the edge of the courtyard, deep in his secret headquarters. He sighed and shook his head in disappointment.

            "Four years training…and Archer Force Omega still hasn't gotten any better!" Sun Quan complained to no one in particular. He looked up at the several thousand archers, all standing in very long rows and columns. He waved his hand and a door opened from the stables at the far end of the courtyard. Timidly, someone dressed up as Cao Cao wearing a winged helmet stepped out. Sun Quan watched with mild interest. The archers quickly raised their bows and a burst of arrows flew towards the Cao Cao training dummy. He closed his eyes tightly and his entire body tensed up, awaiting the severe pain of being pierced by several thousand arrows at the same time. The arrows sailed past him and into the stables where immense amounts of screaming could be heard.

            "Why don't you just give up?" Sun Shang Xiang asked mockingly as she walked up behind her brother who spun around to face her. Sun Quan stared at her for a few seconds, studying her carefully, a look of deep thought and confusion on his face. At last he spoke.

            "Wait…Who're you again?" SSX's eyes snapped wide open when she heard this and she glared at him for a moment, wondering how on earth he was her leader.

            "I'm your sister! Sun Shang Xiang!?" She shouted in complete rage at his incompetence.

            "Oh…So you are. Wait…you can't be my sister! She was captured by Wei during the battle at Hei Fei!" Sun Quan gasped loudly and stepped back a few feet. "You must be an assassin!"

            "No!" She yelled at him. She continued, a low growling sound in her voice as she spoke. "you agreed to retreat from Hei Fei in exchange for myself and your little…hat…thingy, remember?"

            "Oh yeah…" Sun Quan replied, his words long and drawn out as if he had just been enlightened of a great secret. "It's a good thing they were so willing to give my hat thingy back!" He said happily as he removed his hat thingy from his head and hugged it. SSX sighed and turned to the ranks of archers.

            "What's wrong with them? They used to be very effective killing machines."

            "I don't know… They've done rather poorly lately. I think it might be that they're developing a secret deep love for Cao Cao." He paused and thought on this for a second. "Maybe…Just maybe if we dressed the target up like Liu Bei then they might…" He brought his sword up and tapped the flat of it on his shoulder as he contemplated his new idea. Sun Shang Xiang stood and watched the archers with him for a moment before something very interesting caught her eye.

            "That's not your sword!" She exclaimed. Sun Quan turned and faced her, the sword now resting on his shoulder.

            "What are you talking about? Any sword I want in this entire military base is mine!" He informed her. As if arriving on cue, a soldier ran by the two of them. As he was passing by, Sun Quan dropped the sword he was holding and tackled the soldier. As Sun Quan wrestled the sword away from the soldier, SSX picked up the sword her brother just dropped and examined it. Sun Quan stood up, pulling the soldier up with him. He firmly grasped the poor man by the arm and began to spin him around while the confused soldier screamed about how he was sorry for intruding on Archer Force Omega's practice, not knowing what Sun Quan was really after. The Wu commander tossed the soldier, who landed several feet away from a group of twenty archers who promptly fired arrows into the ground all around him. Sun Quan picked up the sword he had wrestled away from the hapless soldier and held it above his head triumphantly while the terrified little man fled back into the base. "See? Mine," he said to SSX as he pointed to his newly acquired weapon.

            "I know why Archer Force Omega is doing so badly." She said, ignoring him. "This is not the Master Wolf!"

            "Of course it is!" Sun Quan assured her. "See? It's written right here on the blade."

            "I hate to break it to you, but this is just a long sword with 'Master Wolf' written on it." SSX replied bluntly.

"No no no…" Sun Quan countered, shaking his head. "I thought so too, but Lu Xun himself assured me that this is definitely, beyond a shadow of a doubt the Master Wolf."

            "He did, did he? Well, lets just go have a little talk with him. Come on." SSX said hurriedly as she turned and stared walking off. As Sun Quan followed her he made one last motion with his hand and Archer Force Omega continued their futile attempts to shoot the target practice Cao Cao.

            Lu Xun heard the unmistakable sound of angry footsteps approaching his room. He left his twin sabers on the floor and he peered out the door to see something that made his blood run cold. SSX, with the fake Master Wolf, was storming towards his room followed closely by a befuddled Sun Quan. He quickly slammed the door and retreated to the corner farthest from the door.

            "LU XUN!" SSX yelled, stopping outside the closed door.

            "Uh…I'm…strategizing. Go away!" Lu Xun replied loudly with the first thing he could think of.

            "He sound busy, perhaps we'd better come back la—" The wooden door to Lu Xun's room shattered and splintered and SSX was inside before the wood chips has a chance to hit the ground.

            "Where's the Master Wolf?" She demanded sharply, her eyes burning with violent anger.

            "Isn't…that it in your hand?" Lu Xun asked hesitantly.

            "See, that's what I said but she doesn't seem to—" Sun Quan started before there was a loud sound of vibrating metal and a very schoolgirl-like scream from Lu Xun. Lu Xun opened his eyes and looked up at the sharp edge of the long sword that had pierced his hat and embedded itself in the wall.

            "Cao Cao has it!" Lu Xun screamed in terror as he tried to scamper towards the door. SSX stomped on his back and stood there.

            "Who has it?" She asked, a very notable tone of anger in her voice.

            "Cao Cao has it!" Lu Xun repeated. "Sun Quan left it on the battlefield at He Fei when he fled like a scared little girl." SSX took her foot off of Lu Xun's back, allowing him to turn over and sit on the floor. "When Sun Quan started looking for it, I was going to tell him. But making a fake one was so much easier!"

            "It's…fake?" Sun Quan looked as if his whole world had just been shattered. SSX rounded on Sun Quan.

            "And you didn't notice, in a whole four years that your sword was missing?"

            "Well, you have to admit. It is a pretty convincing replica." Sun Quan retorted.

            "…No it isn't!" She turned back to Lu Xun. "And you! Why in the Three Kingdoms would you make a fake Master Wolf? The most powerful artifact that the Wu army possesses? The one thing that pretty much assures us victory in this war?"

            "My swords have a death touch on them…" Lu Xun offered meekly.

            "Shut up. The Master Wolf is the single piece of steelmongery in all of China that allows us to control the archers. Can your little 'death touch' do that?" She continued on with her rant, pausing for his response.

            "Well…no, but…"

            "I thought not! Now, I want you to gather up some troops and go offer Cao Cao something tempting in return to get that sword back! Something like… an entangling military alliance. Now go on, go!" Lu Xun left and Sun Quan started to follow him, afraid of what she was going to do to him since this was partly his fault. "Not so fast!" She said, stopping him dead in his tracks. "You're going to write, in great detail, why it is important not to leave your magical sword on the battlefield where your mortal enemy can get to it."

            "But...why do I have to? You're the one who tied me to that tree and laid it there." Sun Quan complained. SSX realized that he was very right, but she wasn't about to let him know that and take the blame for this whole crisis.

            "Not important. Completely beside the point." She said as she ushered him out of the room. "Now, go on, go away. Shoo." SSX waited until he was far enough away and breathed a sigh of relief.

In Sima Yi's office in Fan Castle…

            "Who's there?" Sima Yi asked loudly as he heard a pair of boots come clunking hurriedly through the corridor outside.

            "Lord Sima Yi!" the Wei messenger cried as he stumbled into the room.  "The Shu army is approaching!"

            "What!?" Sima Yi exclaimed.  "How's that possible?"

            "It…well…it's not a large force…but it's something."

            "Who's leading them?" Sima Yi probed.

            "Their leader is Guan Yu, he and his son Ping were seen at the forefront of the advance."

            "What are they doing now?"

            "They're camped outside and don't seem to be doing anything yet.  They may be planning to lay a siege."

            "That's absurd," Sima Yi mused, scratching his chin.  "Why would Guan Yu try to besiege Fan Castle using a force that is obviously inferior to our own?"

            "He was charged by Liu Bei with the protection of this castle," the messenger offered.  "He may be coming to avenge himself."

            "He must have a devious strategy…we cannot let our guard down.  Very well, you may go.  Report to me immediately if you notice any strange activity among the enemy."

            "Yes, of course I will, my lord!" the messenger confirmed as he left, charging out through the corridor in just as much of a hurry as when he came in.

"This is most disturbing," Sima Yi murmured to himself as he began to pace around the room.  Grabbing a sheaf of parchment from one of the shelves near the wall, he sat down at his desk and smirked as a plan formed in his mind.  "We'll win this…whether Guan Yu likes it or not!  Let's see if he can deal with fighting two armies at once!"

As Sima Yi wrote, he didn't notice the rain that was beginning to fall outside.

Outside Fan Castle…

            "Father," Guan Ping addressed Guan Yu, "how will this dike we are building serve to help us take Fan Castle?"

            "The dike will allow us to flood Fan Castle," Guan Yu explained confidently, "drowning most of the Wei forces inside in the process.  Once they're gone, it will be an easy task to take their commander."

            "Yes, of course, Father."

            Guan Ping looked about at the work that was being done on the dike.  It was essentially complete, and from the looks of the storm that was brewing, it wouldn't be long before they could flood Fan Castle.

            "Er, Father?"

            "Yes, young Ping?"

            "Won't this flood attack cause serious structural damage to the castle, not to mention create a mess that will be a pain to clean up?"

            "Look on the bright side, son," Guan Yu rationalized cheerfully, "At least Wei won't be able to use it."

Inside Sima Yi's office in Fan Castle…

            A messenger approached Sima Yi's chair quietly, bowed before him, and said urgently, "My Lord!  The enemy is building a dike to the side of Fan Castle!"

            "A dike?  Oh no!" Sima Yi responded, standing up immediately.  He rushed out of his office, down the corridor, and onto the western wall of the castle, where rain was pouring down.

            Outside, Cao Ren and a small troop of Wei soldiers met him and followed him to the edge of the wall.  Sima Yi looked over the wall's edge and scowled.

            "This must be the work of Zhuge Liang!" he growled.  Turning to Cao Ren and the rest of the crowd, he commanded, "Spread the word to the troops!  Prepare for battle!"

            The crowd dispersed with a wave of Sima Yi's hand, several of them flickering out into the D-Plane as they ran off to inform the others of the Shu army's offensive plans.

            "Wu…you'd better be coming!" the Wei commander muttered.

Near Fan Castle along a road…

            Thunder crackled as rain fell upon the advancing Wu forces.

            "We must fight Guan Yu," Lu Meng said gravely to Lu Xun.

            "It's fine!" Lu Xun responded, turning to face him, "Right now, Guan Yu is distracted by the attack on Fan Castle!"

            "Ha!" Lu Meng bellowed as his kicked his horse into a full gallop, though his cry was hard to distinguish from the sounds of the rainstorm.

            "What's that up ahead?" Lu Xun inquired, looking at something that was rapidly approaching them.

            "It looks like a Wei soldier," Gan Ning observed.

            Sure enough, a Wei messenger was approaching.  He turned his horse and began to ride alongside the Wu officers.

            "The Shu army is attacking!  They intend to flood the castle with a dike!" the messenger shouted.

            Lu Xun looked over at Lu Meng quickly.  "I'll ride on ahead to see what's going on.  You and Gan Ning should stay with the troops to keep them together."

            "We'll do that," Gan Ning responded, "Go have a look around and see how the fight is going so far."

            Lu Xun rode forward into the rainstorm with the Wei messenger.  "What about Master Wolf?" he asked.

            "Er, what?" the messenger asked in return.

            "Sun Quan's…never mind, I'll see Sima Yi about it personally."

Outside Sima Yi's office on the west wall of Fan Castle…

            After a short period of word spreading and equipment readying, the Wei forces inside of Fan Castle were ready for battle and awaited Sima Yi's first orders.  Pang De, Xu Huang, Cao Ren, and Cao Fodder also stood at ready, waiting to join their respective forces and move out.

            "Guan Yu!  You think this water will stop me?" Sima Yi asked rhetorically over the castle wall before turning to face the Wei forces and officers who had gathered for the coming battle.  "Don't worry about the water.  First, expel the enemy!"

            Confirmatory murmurs ran through the soldiers.

            "Lord Sima Yi," began Pang De earnestly, "let me be the one to stop any initial attacks Guan Yu may attempt!"

            "Consider it done," Sima Yi replied.  "Pang De, advance!"

            Pang De led his force away to head down into the central area of the castle.

            Xu Huang then said, "My troops will wait along the southern wall of the castle until Pang De calls for us to advance to assist him."

            "A wise choice of positioning," Sima Yi complimented.  "When the Wu officers and army arrive at the south gate, I would like for you to have someone direct them to me…unless I'm strategizing!  They can wait until afterwards if I am."

            "Of course, Lord."

            Xu Huang's force began to march away.

            "Cao Ren…Cao Fodder," Sima Yi said, "You two stay here with me for now.  I'll send you forward with detachments of troops once I'm more certain of the situation."

            The two nodded.

            "The rest of you," Sima Yi continued, addressing the soldiers, "need to fan out and be on the lookout for Shu troops along the west wall.  I doubt that they'll get this far, but you never know!"

            The troops immediately scattered out to lookout positions.

            "Good, now the three of us are alone," Sima Yi said in a much more casual tone.

            "What do you require of us?" Cao Ren asked politely.

            "Do you know any way to fix this problem?" Sima Yi asked innocently.  He held up his black, feathery fan, which had gone completely limp from being soaked with rainwater.

            "Your fan?" Cao Fodder asked, looking at the dilapidated thing.

            "You might try drying it off for a start," Cao Ren said intuitively.

            "Er, yes, that might help," Sima Yi replied.  "Well, I'd best be heading into my office now.  I have to strategize."

            "Yes, of course," Cao Fodder said with a deep bow.

On the south wall of Fan Castle…

            "So, the Shu army has taken up an offensive position already," Lu Xun commented absently as he finished listening to the messenger's report.

            "Yes, Guan Yu seems to be leading a strike force into the lower levels of the castle at the moment," the messenger added.  "Lord Pang De is moving to intercept him with a unit of archers."

            "I see…Will Pang De be able to hold him for the time being?"

            "Pang De has archers," the messenger said matter-of-factly.

            "I see," Lu Xun replied knowingly.  He rubbed his chin momentarily and then added, "What does he intend to do with these archers?"

            "You're from Wu.  What do you think he intends to do with the archers?"

            "Good point."  Lu Xun paused momentarily.  "Where is Lord Sima Yi?  I need to see him as soon as possible."

            "He's strategizing now, and he wouldn't like being disturbed," the messenger replied in an almost scolding tone.

            "I'm a strategist from Wu.  What do you think I came here to do!?" Lu Xun was irritated by the remark.

            "You came here to assist us in this battle, but you aren't doing it willingly."

            "Whatever gave you that idea?" Lu Xun asked as innocently as he could manage.

            "There's a very expensive looking sword hanging in the back of the war room.  There's a little sign on the wall next to it that reads, 'Notice:  This is to be returned to Wu only if they give us something really good in return.'  You came here for that."

            "Okay, so we came here for that, but come now, we've got a fight on our hands!" Lu Xun grumbled.

            "Well, either way, Sima Yi doesn't want any interruptions at the moment."  The messenger's stance on the situation was firm.

            "So what am I supposed to do until then?" Lu Xun questioned.

            "Well, you could stand right here and do nothing until someone can show you where the war room is, or you could lead a one-man charge into enemy lines."

            "Why in the world would I want to do something suicidal like that!?"

            "It seems pretty popular these days."

            "Just because everyone else jumps off a cliff doesn't mean I have to.  I still don't see why I should even think about doing that."
            "Sima Yi would be impressed by it."

            "Right, where are the enemy soldiers again?"

Outside Sima Yi's office in the corridor…

            Sima Yi slammed the door quite forcefully behind him as he exited the office.  "What do you want?" he asked Cao Fodder bitterly.  He fanned himself a bit with his black feather duster, which had straightened back out somewhat but was still quite wet.

            Cao Fodder answered timidly, "Lord Sima Yi?  There is a unit of five Shu soldiers here who want to see you."

            "Oh, how nice!" he replied warmly.  "Wait a minute!" he exclaimed suddenly in an angered tone.  "Shu soldiers?"

            "Yes…they seem to be lost.  They got stuck in the D-Plane for a while."

            "I don't care if they're lost!" Sima Yi ranted.  "They ought to be dead by now if they were sighted in our base camp!"

            "Well, yes, sir, you see…" Cao Fodder began uncertainly.

            "Enough!  I will deal with them myself!  Bodyguards!  Come!  We must fight!"

            Sima Yi stormed out onto the western wall of the castle.  Cao Fodder followed him uneasily at a short distance.

Near the center of the lower area of the castle among some buildings…

            Guan Yu's attacking force stopped in its tracks when they saw Pang De and a squad of archers appear from the misty cloud of rain.

            "You can advance in the rain," Pang De declared boldly.  "How about when it's raining arrows?"

            The archers drew aimed at the Shu troops and let loose a volley that left several Shu soldiers very dead.  As if to illustrate the idea of raining arrows, they staggered their reloads and fired continuously.

            At this point, Guan Yu's entire advance force did a full about-face and ran like maniacs toward the eastern wall stairs.  A red-clad figure came charging out of Pang De's archer ambush with a pair of twin sabers drawn and ready.

            "Hyaaaa!" Lu Xun shouted loudly as he charged after the fleeing Shu troops.  He rampaged through the crowd, cutting down any unfortunate privates he could catch.  Eventually, the Shu army got back up onto the castle wall, and Lu Xun decided not to pursue farther.

            Upon returning to Pang De's position, Lu Xun commented, "Yes!  I have made them retreat!" before running back toward the southern wall of the castle.

            Pang De sighed loudly.

Outside Sima Yi's office on the western wall of Fan Castle…

            "What is all of this!?" Sima Yi exclaimed.

            About twenty Wei soldiers were circle-strafing aimlessly around the five Shu soldiers, who were likewise circle-strafing aimlessly around some Wei soldiers.

            Suddenly, the sergeant in charge of the four Shu privates became very angry.  He looked at Sima Yi and exclaimed, "Since you saw us, now you must die!"

            "What are you talking about?" Sima Yi demanded.

            "He's a victory condition!  A VICTORY CONDITION!" the sergeant exclaimed in a psychotic tone while pointing frantically at Sima Yi.  "Kill him NOW!"

            "Bodyguards!" Sima Yi called.  "Take care of them!"

            There was no response to Sima Yi's request.  Sima Yi suddenly found himself parrying five different swords with his fan.

            "Bodyguards!" he called again.

            A pair of Wei privates ran up to him, and both looked out of breath.  They were each wielding a poorly crafted iron sword.

            "BGs reporting for duty!" one confirmed cheerfully.

            "What!?" Sima Yi exclaimed as he stopped a few more hits.  "You aren't my bodyguards!  My bodyguards were dressed in that bulky looking armor that majors wear, and there were eight!  Who do you think you are?"

            "I'm Lu Pu, and this is Cheng Dang.  We'll be your bodyguards from now on."

            "I don't care about your names!" Sima Yi declared adamantly.  "You're all just 'Bodyguard' to me!"

            Sima Yi parried a couple more hits.

            "Oh, no, our names are very important.  It's part of a new system for the way bodyguards conduct themselves.  You see…if one of us is forced to retreat, then…"

            "RETREAT!?" Sima Yi was enraged.  "You're bodyguards for crying out loud!  You're supposed to guard my body with your own, not run away like pansies!"

            "Yes, well, with enough training we will eventually…"

            "I don't care!  Guard my body!  GUARD MY BODY!"

            Sima Yi was finding the constant flurry of blows harder to block.

            "Yes, sir!" the two bodyguards replied suddenly and cheerfully.

            The two of them began strafing mindlessly around the Shu troops.

            "Go on, attack!" Sima Yi commanded.

            One bodyguard took a weak-looking swipe at the sergeant.

            "Hee-hee, that tickled," the sergeant replied before slashing the bodyguard mortally."

            A messenger ran up to Sima Yi, who grabbed the scroll out of his hands, turning to face the messenger.  The words, "Bodyguard has retreated!" were written on it.

            "What do you mean, retreated?  I just saw him die!" Sima Yi was confounded and threw the scroll off the castle wall, shaking his head.

            The messenger scurried off without replying.  The "dead" bodyguard quickly stood up while Sima Yi wasn't looking and ran off inside the castle.

            A pair of privates double-teamed the other bodyguard and slashed him mortally as well.  The messenger appeared again and handed Sima Yi another scroll.

            "Bodyguard has retreated!" Sima Yi read aloud, quite angrily.  "HOW!?"  Sima Yi threw this scroll off the castle wall as well.  The other bodyguard quickly stood and ran back toward the door.

            Sima Yi turned around.  The bodyguard fell to the ground again.

            "See!  DEAD!" Sima Yi declared in a deranged voice.  "He's dead!  Not retreated."

            Sima Yi's rant was cut short by a sword swatting at him.  He turned to parry, and the bodyguard stood up immediately and retreated into the castle.

            Cao Fodder stepped a bit closer to the sergeant and drew the sword Mucao from its sheath.  Suddenly, eight fully-armored bodyguards with well-made bows and shiny little winged helmets appeared behind him and filled each Shu soldier with arrows.

            "Oh, thanks," Cao Fodder commented nonchalantly before turning to Sima Yi.

            Sima Yi's mouth was hanging open and his fan was held limply at his side.

            "How did you end up with the good bodyguards!?" Sima Yi yelled angrily.

            Cao Fodder shrugged unknowingly.  "When I was asked which bodyguard unit I wanted to protect me I chose this one because it looked really effective."

            "What do you mean 'bodyguard unit?'  They're just bodyguards!  There is nothing special about them!  If they die in one battle, they can be easily replaced…and…"

            "No, no," Cao Fodder said coolly to cut off Sima Yi's rant.  "That's how things used to work.  It's all different now."

            "What do you mean?"

            "I read about it in the Bodyguard Manual in your library."

            "What were you doing in my library?"

            "Just looking at some books," Cao Fodder said weakly.

            "Well, stay out!  I have more strategizing to do!"

            Sima Yi returned to the castle interior with a huff.  As he reached the door, he turned to Cao Fodder and asked coldly, "Why don't you go busy yourself by attacking the Shu fortifications on the east wall or something?  Tell Xu Huang to move up and do that, too."

            "A wonderful plan!" Cao Fodder agreed cheerily.  "I'll get right on it.  Come, bodyguards!"

            Sima Yi watched with great distaste as the eight bodyguards followed Cao Fodder along the wall.  He frowned and entered the castle interior.

On the eastern wall of Fan Castle…

            "Excellent!" Guan Yu said cheerfully.  "Our strategic retreat was successful!"

            Guan Ping looked at his father dubiously.

            "Well, it was a bit disorganized, but it worked!" Guan Yu's optimism was unwavering.

            "They attacked us with an ambush party.  It was an archer ambush party at that.  I wouldn't call that a good thing."

            "Lighten up!  We have the advantage!"

            "How so?" Guan Ping inquired.
            "Soon, oh, so soon…" Guan Yu said prophetically as he watched the downpour of rain.

            "The water?"

            "Yes.  You see…it doesn't even matter what happens right now.  We just have to sit and wait.  They'll all get drowned."

            "All of them?" Guan Ping asked doubtfully.

            "Well, most…"

            "…But not all."

            "But…" Guan Yu stammered.

            "Not all!"

            "Either way, it doesn't matter," Guan Yu said firmly.

            "If you say so, father.  We just seem quite outnumbered."

            "Don't worry!  We have archer towers!"

            "Hmm.  That's true.  What do you want me to do now?"

            Guan Yu thought briefly about this.  "Go down to the southern end of the eastern wall and have your troops guard the stairs.  Make sure that the Wei forces don't get up on the wall, or the flood won't be as effective!"

            "It sounds like a good plan, father.  I'll get right on it."

On the eastern wall of Fan Castle…

            "Hmm…an archer tower." Cao Fodder determined.  "All right, bodyguards, take care of it!"

            "Yes, sir!" they all shouted as they ran toward the tower.

            Arrows began to fly out of the tower.  Cao Fodder's bodyguards stood stock-still with their bows lowered.

            "Well, go on!  Kill them!"  Cao Fodder ordered, exasperated.  He was now running about trying to dodge the incoming arrows.

            "Oh, we're sorry, sir, but we can't do that," a bodyguard stated matter-of-factly.

            "What!?  WHY!?" Cao Fodder shrieked, now jumping about in his dodging.

            "Archer's Code of Conduct, article five, section four.  'Archers serving as bodyguards shall not fire arrows upon archers in towers.'"  The bodyguard seemed proud of his recitation.

            "Pull back!"  Cao Fodder yelped, jumping away from the tower and toward the stairs.

            "Yes, sir!" affirmed the bodyguards, following him hurriedly away.

Near the eastern wall of Fan Castle…

            "I wonder how Cao Fodder's advance into the Shu defenses up on the wall is faring," Xu Huang pondered aloud.

            "I do not know," Pang De answered ponderously.  "He should be sending a messenger to us shortly so that we can have a look at the status of the battle."

            The two Wei generals were standing beneath a small overhang, so they were mostly sheltered from the rain.  Their troops and bodyguards stood nearby with their weapons at ready, loyally getting rained on.

            Xu Huang looked toward the eastern wall.  "He's a fair addition to our regular forces…" he continued slowly as he drew to a pause, "…but I wonder how he will fare in such horrid weather.  That isn't to say he isn't a worthy commander, but I do feel sorry for him having to endure—"

            Xu Huang's verbal pondering was brought to an abrupt close when he heard a shout from the eastern wall.  In the din of the rainstorm, he couldn't make out whose voice it was, but he could make out the message.  Even without knowing who had shouted, he knew something was amiss.  Nothing good could follow when someone was heard shouting, "ARCHERS!"

Inside Wei's war room…

            "So, Zhou Zhou, how does it feel to know that your cooking will help us to annihilate the attacking Shu force?"

            Sima Yi was sitting across from the wienie chef, who was tightly bound and gagged.

            "Mmmff!" the chef struggled.

            "Are you tired of being tied up yet?"

            "MMMF!"

            "Too bad.  I can't let you out until I see the results of your cooking on our troops' morale.  It's a quality assurance matter."

            "MMmmmF!  Mmf, MMMF!"

            "Yes, yes.  That's lovely.  I think I'll send a message to Pang De to head for the super-secret wienie supply depot now.  'Eat at Zhou's,' as they say!  Ha ha!"

Near the eastern wall…

            "There're archer towers up there!" Cao Fodder exclaimed as he ran up to Pang De and Xu Huang.  "And they're functional!"

            "Of course they are," Pang De scolded.  "Why would they set up towers if they didn't intend to use them?"

            "I don't know, but it sure seems to happen pretty often," Cao Fodder pointed out.  "According to Archers and You, over half of all archer towers are empty."

            "Well, maybe they're just on an extended break," Xu Huang offered.

            "Whatever, the point is that they're being a pain and not letting us advance."

            "I'll take care of this," Xu Huang declared.  "Troops, take down those towers!"

            A unit of soldiers wielding sword marched quickly up onto the wall and came back down about twenty seconds later.

            "Archers annihilated, sir!"

            Cao Fodder ran back up the stairs and saw that the archers were indeed gone, though the tower was intact.  "But… HOW?  How'd they do that?"

            "They're just good like that," Xu Huang said with a grin.

            "Excuse me," a messenger said as he came forward.  "I have a message for Lord Pang De."

            "Yes?" the Wei officer asked.

            "Lord Sima Yi wants you to begin the wienie attack now.  The wienies previously prepared by Zhou Zhou should be ready to roast now."

            "Excellent!  We shall roast wienies and raise troop morale!" Pang De declared.

            Pang De and a select few soldiers charged to the southwest.

            "Erm," Cao Fodder started.  "What…what did he say?"

            "I don't know," Xu Huang said simply, blinking slowly as he watched Pang De run off.  "Let's go kill things up on the wall."

            Cao Fodder shrugged.  "Okay."

            Their units pressed onward.

Near the super-secret wienie supply depot…

            "Men!  Listen to me!"  Pang De commanded.  "These additional rations will give our men a solid shot at utterly annihilating Guan Yu, his army, and that idiot son of his!  Now then, we must get these crates of super-secret supplies back to the upper level before the castle floods any more than it already has!  Our wienie attack shall succeed!"

            "How are the supplies 'super-secret' if you just told us that those crates were full of wienies?" a major questioned.

            "Don't be impudent!  Now then, get moving!  Put your backs into it!"

            "But we're already wearing heavy armor…"

            "No 'buts!'"

            "But…"

            "NONE!"

            Grumbling and soaked, Pang De's troops picked up the crates full of the yummy wienies and began to exit the super-secret wienie supply depot, which was labeled by a rather uncreative-looking sign that read, "Zhou's Wienie Shack."

            "Hey, just a thought commander…"

            "NOPE!"

            "How are we…"

            "I won't put up with this!"

            "…supposed to roast…"

            "I CAN'T HEAR YOU!"  Pang De placed his soaking hands over his ears to emphasize this.

            "…wienies in the rain!?"

            Pang De stopped dead in his tracks and thought about this.  This was his glorious moment.  He almost had enough brilliant maneuvers, cunning betrayals, and cheap fighting tactics under his belt to step out of the generic-ness of Lu Bu impersonation and into the glorious light of being a general that could actually be distinguished from another one.  But the rain would change all that, he realized.  He would be unable to conduct the morale-raising wienie roast.  He would fail.  No, he resolved, this would be his day to shine!  No amount of water would stop him or his super-secret wienie attack!

Back at Sima Yi's position on the castle ramparts, less than ten minutes later…

            Pang De's force has been obliterated.

            Half our army just got drowned.

            Just be glad we're not incinerated

            By a Wu fire attack that would burn us down.

            Lord Sima Yi, please forgive

            Pang De for his ignorance.

            He only had one life to live,

            But in death he's doing a fishy dance.

            Though this castle's inundated

            We must not from this battle shrink.

            Though with rainwater we'll be saturated

            We'll still clear up vile Guan Yu's stink.

                        ---Cao Fodder

            "So…I see that Cao Fodder shares Lord Cao Cao's talent for writing poetry," Sima Yi commented happily.

            He sat there and stared at the parchment for about half a minute, thinking he had surely missed something.

            Suddenly, it hit him.

            "PANG DE WHAT!?!?!" he shouted at the top of his lungs.  "OUR ARMY WHOHOW did this happen!?"

            His shouting startled Cao Fodder, who could hear him from a good distance down the rampart in the rain.  He ran back to Sima Yi with great haste.

            "Cao Fodder!  Is this your idea of a joke?"

            Cao Fodder lowered his head mournfully.  "I am afraid not, Lord Sima Yi," he said in his grief.

            "So Pang De actually died?"

            "Ah yes…Lord Pang De…we all knew him well…so brave, so bold, so generic…so waterlogged…"

            Cao Fodder shed a single tear that was utterly indistinguishable from the torrential downpour.

            "Good!  I never liked him anyway!  Besides, we can easily replace him in the next battle…it's not like he's any different from the rest of the world's Lu Bu Impersonators."

            Cao Fodder's mouth hung open; he was aghast that Sima Yi would dishonor a general who had just been drowned by the enemy.

            "Oh come now, Cao Fodder…all generic generals are exactly the same…"

            He paused and looked at Cao Fodder, who was wearing the same exact outfit that Pang De had been wearing.

            "…Erm, except for you, that is…go away now, you're bothering me!"

            "What am I, then?"

            "Well…uh…"

            "Yes…?"

            "Oh, I don't know, now get away from me, you silly ush!"

            "Silly what?"

            "Silly what what?"

            "Silly ush?  What is ush supposed to mean?"

            "I don't know.  You're still bothering me.  Go away before I take the feather duster to you…go on now!"

            Cao Fodder stared blankly at the black feather duster that was all slumped over from the rainwater.  He sighed and walked away to observe the battle, wondering why his cousin's uncle would leave someone like him in charge.

            About three minutes passed.  Sima Yi stood there meditatively.

            "Wait…If Pang De was killed…" Sima Yi pondered.

            Cao Fodder quickly approached Sima Yi again.

            "Sorry to disturb you again, but I have another message."

            He tossed a parchment in Sima Yi's hand and scampered off.

            I'm sorry for getting out of line,

            But their flood attack has now succeeded,

            So I'll send this message in another rhyme

            That our wienie attack has been prevented.

                        ---Cao Fodder

            "That fool Guan Yu," Sima Yi resolved, his hands shivering in rage.  "Even if we lose the castle and all the wienies, we must beat him!"

            He flung the parchment away over the rampart and down into the flooded Fan Castle.

Near the northeastern corner of the castle wall…

            "Success!" Guan Yu cheered.  "My son, look!  The Wei army is being drowned!"

            "As are some of our own troops," Guan Ping added uneasily.  "And Xu Huang and Cao Fodder just broke into our defenses on the eastern wall."

            "Oh, always the pessimist!  Look on the bright side, young Ping, we have a good chance at victory now."

            "How do we get at Sima Yi now?  The way is flooded."

            "Very simple, my son, very simple.  We will use the large, conveniently placed pieces of debris that are floating on the surface of the water as stepping stones to maneuver our army across the rooftops and to the opposite wall of the castle!  Gather the men and prepare to move out.  Wei is cornered with no support at all; we shall be triumphant!"

            Guan Yu thrust Blue Dragon into the air as a signal to move out.

On the southern castle wall…

            "For this battle, we will ally with Wei," Lu Meng declared to Lu Xun, Gan Ning, and the Wu reinforcement troops.  "Together, we will destroy Guan Yu!"

            "Wonderful speech, Lu Meng, wonderful," Lu Xun complimented.

            "Yes, it was quite fitting," Gan Ning added.

            "You sure took your precious time getting here," Lu Xun added.

            "It couldn't be helped," Lu Meng responded solemnly.

            They stood there for a few moments without saying anything further, letting themselves and their troops get thoroughly soaked in the process.

            "Right," Lu Xun said pertly to break the silence.  "I'll go see Sima Yi right now about getting Master Wolf back."

            "I can go see if Wei is willing to give up Zhou Zhou yet…or at least some wienies," Gan Ning offered.

            "Well…ah…" Lu Meng started, "…I'll take the troops north along the rooftops and scare the Shu forces with my frizzy hair…or something."

            "Brilliant, Lu Meng," Lu Xun said cheerfully.  He gave Lu Meng a pat on the shoulder before running off to find Sima Yi.

            "Troops…Move out!" Lu Meng ordered.

            Gan Ning stood there pondering how to locate Zhou Zhou amidst the confusion of battle and this torrential downpour.  Instead of trying to hunt the wienie chef down individually, he decided to ask Cao Ren or one of the other officers about his whereabouts.  He ran onward toward Wei HQ, following after Lu Xun.

Inside Sima Yi's office…

            "Oh my…I see what Lord Sima Yi meant when he said that this chair was fun," Cao Ren said as he bobbed up and down in the plushy, cushioned seat.

            "Cao Ren!" Sima Yi's voice barked from the corridor outside.  "Cao Ren, are you in my office?"

            Cao Ren heard Sima Yi approaching the office, and he certainly didn't want to be caught sitting in his commander's chair.  He quickly dashed to the corner of the room and knelt down behind some shelves containing stacks of scrolls and blank parchments.  Taking only a moment of movement to ensure he was not visible from the door or the chair, he became very still and awaited Sima Yi's entry.

            The door swung open and clanked softly against the brick wall.  Sima Yi looked around as he entered but saw nothing out of the ordinary.

            "That's odd," Sima Yi said with a hint of befuddlement in his voice.

            Shrugging slightly, he walked over to the shelves and began to rummage through the scrolls of parchment.  After half a minute of searching, he found the one he sought and brought it to his chair.  He sat down, unfurled the scroll, and began to read it silently.

When Generic Generals Attack:

Chapter 11—The Lu Bu Impersonators Surround the Bandit Stronghold

            Ling Yi and Ma Du approached the front gate of the stronghold of the Rank Only Bandit Society.  Pang Xiu, Han Yu, and Ding Zhang led their small group of troops around to the western entrance.  The skirmish went on for ten minutes as the troops of both sides strafed mindlessly around each other, a private or general swinging occasionally.  Finally, troops began to fall, and the gates of the stronghold were opened with a pair of loud creaks…

            Cao Ren didn't quite know what his superior was doing.  He figured that Sima Yi was reading a missive from Cao Cao, or that he was planning a winning strategy to pull the Wei army out of the jaws of defeat and into the arms of victory.  He certainly didn't expect, as he sat as quietly as possible behind the shelves, for Sima Yi to be reading a novel at a time like this.  He couldn't help but wonder what his commander was doing, and he knew that his curiosity would get the better of him sooner or later.

As Cao Ren had been pondering how to escape the office, Sima Yi had been reading.  This is what he was reading at the moment:

…and the Rank Only Bandits had constructed it as their hideaway and safe haven from the laws of the land.  Now their fun as advocates of anarchy would end, thought Han Yu, and order could be restored to Poor Peasant Village.

            As the Impersonators progressed further into this fortress, one of the Rank Only officers approached them.  He wore a winged helmet and sturdy body armor similar to those of the Wing-Helmed Generals Association.

            "Halt, intruders!" the officer ordered.

            "We are agents of the law sent to destroy you and your Rank Only Bandits," Ding Zhang said.  "You cannot stop us by any means!"

            "In the name of Commander…I, Lieutenant Commander, will stop you in your tracks!"

            A great battle of much parrying, strafing and little action ensued as…

            Cao Ren felt something tingling inside his nose.  He twitched it around to try to clear it up, but it was no good.  He pinched his nose, but still nothing…

            …Impersonators were able to defeat Lieutenant Commander and progress forward.  As Pang Xiu ran to face an opposing bandit, he sneezed loudly from the cold weather.  He did not allow this to hinder him, however, and continued onward to end the life of…

            "ACHOO!!" Cao Ren sneezed.

            "AHHH!!" Sima Yi shouted as his body jerked spasmodically to a standing position.  He dropped the scroll to the floor.

            Cao Ren stood up quickly to see what Sima Yi was shouting about.  The moment Sima Yi saw the two curved hair braids, however, his nerves snapped.

            "I-I-It's…I-I-It's…" Sima Yi stammered.

            "Cao Ren!" Cao Ren exclaimed.

            "GET OUT OF HERE NOW!!" Sima Yi shrieked.

            "I'm sorry, Lord, I was only in here to…"

            "I don't care why you were hiding in here…I thought you were trying to kill me for a moment there!  Now get out before I get even angrier…or worse…figure out what I'm talking about!"

            Sima Yi held his black feather duster threateningly in his hand.

            "Yes, yes Lord Sima Yi," Cao Ren replied apologetically.

            Cao Ren humbly turned around and walked toward the door, leaving Sima Yi shivering from his unjustified fright.

Along the debris near the eastern wall of Fan Castle…

            "Father!" Guan Ping addressed Guan Yu.  "Father!  The Wei army is counterattacking!  They have been reinforced by Wu!"

            "What!?" Guan Yu asked angrily.  "Wu has come to aid them?"

            "It is indeed true, father.  Our advance is being pushed back.  A number of Wei and Wu soldiers are bearing down on our position."

            "Hmm.  Let me see what tricks I have up my sleeve," Guan Yu said thoughtfully, taking a bit of parchment out of the right sleeve of his robe.  Shielding it from the rain, he looked at it.

            "Flood attack…" Guan Ping read aloud, looking over Guan Yu's shoulder.  "That has already been done.  What is that second plan at the bottom?"

            "It's our list of reinforcements.  Zhou Cang is bringing some troops to reinforce us from the south."

            "Oh.  What good will that do?" Guan Ping asked.

            "Zhou Cang can advance northward along the debris while we push west into the advancing enemies.  We will be able to attack them on both sides and destroy them!"

            "Is Zhou Cang even here yet?  Will we be able to get word to him of this command when he arrives?" Guan Ping was almost hysterical.

            "Patience, young Ping.  We will win this battle if we can hold out until reinforcements arrive."

            "The reinforcements are a fairy tale," Guan Ping muttered.

            "Well, they're all we have left, young Ping, so let's make the most of them when they arrive."

            "I suppose you want me to work on stopping the enemy advance?"

            "Yes, an excellent idea.  I will fall back slightly and help advance the rearguard."

            "What rearguard?" Guan Ping asked.

            "The infinitely huge number of soldiers who are on their way from our gate.  Now, go on ahead and stop the enemy from advancing."

            "Yes, father," Guan Ping said grimly.

Outside Sima Yi's office…

            Lu Xun and Gan Ning had been directed to the same place by the Wei soldiers, and now both of them stood outside the Wei commander's office in the corridor.

            "It's strange that both Sima Yi and Cao Ren are supposed to be in there," Lu Xun noted.  "I wonder if they're having some sort of strategic meeting in there."

            The door swung open and Cao Ren backed up out of it, meekly waving goodbye to Sima Yi before shutting the door carefully.  He hadn't seen the two Wu generals yet.

            "Ah, hello there!" Gan Ning hailed cordially.

            Cao Ren spun around to face them and stifled his own scream before he could get it out.  He was about to scream because he had just turned around to face two Wu officers, his sworn enemies.  He stifled it because he remembered that Sun Quan was sending envoys to discuss an alliance.  The result of this sudden conflict of thoughts was complete confusion.

            "Er, yes…hello there, I'm Cao Ren," stammered the general.  "Ah, Lord Sima Yi is in his chamber reading…er, strategizing… and you are here from Shu… er, Wu?"

            "Yes," Lu Xun replied as patiently as possible.  The man he saw before him was behaving like a victim of one of those "Cure for All Ailments" potions that could often be found in various marketplaces.

            "Ah, yes, yes indeed.  I suppose you are looking for him, yes."  Cao Ren began to walk absentmindedly down the corridor.

            "Hey, is he through that door?" Gan Ning asked, pointing toward the wooden door in front of him.  Gan Ning didn't want to listen to the muddled Cao Ren any longer than he had to.

            "Yes, yes, he is…but don't be too intrusive!  He's strategizing!"

            "Right, of course," Lu Xun assured, albeit apprehensively.

            Cao Ren walked on down the corridor toward the exit to the ramparts.

            "Well, let's go see what's going on in there," Gan Ning decided.

            Lu Xun reached toward the door, but he stopped.  He looked over his shoulder and questioned slowly, "I thought you were going to ask Cao Ren about Zhou Zhou?"

            "I changed my mind.  I'd rather talk to the man who's in charge."  Gan Ning couldn't help but chuckle slightly.

            The two opened the door carefully and slipped silently into the room.  Sima Yi was sitting quietly on his chair, reading a scroll.

            "Lord Sima Yi?" Lu Xun asked quietly.

            Sima Yi looked up slowly.  "You're finally here.  I have the sword you're after."

            "I'm aware of that," Lu Xun stated.  "Our forces have already arrived to help combat Guan Yu.  We've fulfilled our end of the bargain."

            "Of course.  No one ever said that I had to fulfill mine."

            Gan Ning glared at Sima Yi.  Lu Xun followed suit.

            "Don't look at me like that.  You came to the aid of a sworn enemy and expected me to help you in return?"

            "We came here to get the sword back, and saving your army by reinforcing you was what we agreed to do in return."  Lu Xun's argument remained the same.

            "You've come to demand thanks?  Ha!  You fool!" Sima Yi said coldly as he stood up.  "We could've defeated Guan Yu easily without your help!"

            "Don't even try to tell me that.  You were doomed."  Lu Xun was speaking in a very calm tone for someone who had so many reasons to be angry.  Gan Ning wasn't so nice.

            "All right, pal, look," Gan Ning began, grabbing Sima Yi by the collar of his robe.  "Give us Master Wolf and everyone will go home happy."

            "Except Guan Yu," Sima Yi added bluntly.

            "Yes," Lu Xun said drolly.  Tired of the word game, he grabbed Sima Yi's fan from a nearby desk.

            "HEY!  Give that back!" Sima Yi demanded.

            "First things first," Lu Xun said simply.  "Bring us the sword."  He grasped one of the feathers in the fan tightly and began to pull weakly at it.

            "Okay!  I'll give you the stupid sword!  Just put the fan down!"

            "I knew you'd comply," Lu Xun said suavely.

            Sima Yi walked down the hallway with them to the war room and retrieved the sword from its holder.  "Here you go.  Take the blasted thing and give me my fan!"  Sima Yi practically shoved Master Wolf into Lu Xun's hands.

            Lu Xun returned Sima Yi's fan.  Sima Yi glared at them.

            "All right, that takes care of that much of our little trade," Gan Ning said darkly.  "How about we discuss Zhou Zhou now?"

            "I don't know what you're talking about."  Sima Yi said.

            "Of course you do.  He's the man who was here preparing wienies and things for your army.  I believe you captured him at He Fei."

            "Oh…that Zhou Zhou."

            "Yes, that Zhou Zhou."

            "Well, I don't know where he is.  You'll just have to find him yourself."

            At this point, a door to the side of room swung open.  Zhou Zhou fell out, completely bound with ropes and a gag.

            "Erm," Sima Yi started.

            "Zhou Zhou!  Gan Ning shouted, untying him quickly.

            "Looks like you did know all about him." Lu Xun said plainly.

            "No, no, you see, it was Pang De who was preparing for a wienie—" Sima Yi began before being interrupted.

            "No way!  No more excuses.  I'm taking Zhou Zhou with me when I leave here," Gan Ning said finally.

            "I'm glad you rescued me when you did," Zhou Zhou said gratefully to Gan Ning.  "Those Wei soldiers were making me slave over a stove making wienies all day long just so they could prepare for their wienie attack.  Now it's ruined… all of it."

            "The wienies…ruined!?" Gan Ning cried out.

            "Well, I'd suspect they wouldn't be too tasty what with all the water—" Zhou Zhou didn't even have time to finish his sentence before Gan Ning ran out the door in search of the lost wienies.

            "Go follow him, Zhou Zhou," Lu Xun ordered.  "I'll finish things here."

            Zhou Zhou nodded and ran off after Gan Ning.

            Sima Yi, seeing that he had Lu Xun alone, suddenly began trying to beat him about the head with his fan.  Lu Xun didn't even flinch.

            "Why can't I hurt you?" Sima Yi asked, dumbfounded.

            "We're allies," Lu Xun said weakly.  "We can't hurt each other."

            Lu Xun held Master Wolf in both hands and calmly walked outside, leaving Sima Yi alone.

On the floating debris a few minutes later…

            "Wienies…" Gan Ning lamented.  "I will avenge your wetness!"

            "Come on," Lu Meng entreated, "We must advance!  Xu Huang and Cao Fodder are awaiting our support!"

            "All right," Gan Ning sighed.  "Sorry for getting so emotional.  I just hate to see good wienies go to waste."

            "Yes, that's nice, now let's move!" Lu Xun commanded as he dragged Gan Ning away from the water's edge.

            "Right, Guan Yu will pay!" Gan Ning declared.  He raised his sword, prepared to charge forward along the debris toward Guan Yu's position, and then flickered out of existence in a spurt of DGS.  Lu Xun and Lu Meng sighed in unison and sat down impatiently.

At Wei HQ…

            "Cao Fodder, advance!"  Sima Yi ordered.

            "I'm not Cao Fodder," the angry general replied.  "I'm Cao Ren!"

            "Whoever.  You're all the same to me, you Impersonators."

            Cao Ren shook his head slightly and prepared to navigate the debris.

On the eastern wall…

            "Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!" Xu Huang shouted as he charged through the Shu troops, who were splitting like malnourished strands of hair before the might of his battle-axe.

            "Victory will surely be ours!" Cao Fodder rejoiced as his bodyguards sniped anything that looked green.

            "Who's there?" Xu Huang called loudly as he noticed a Shu officer approaching through the mist.

            "It is I…Guan Ping!" the officer yelled  "Prepare to die! YAAAAAAAAAH!!"

            Guan Ping rushed forward madly.  Xu Huang swung at him and got into a deadlock.  Cao Fodder and his bodyguards stood patiently by as a green light glowed between the weapons.  After a short time, Guan Ping recoiled.

            "Unf!" Ping gasped.

            "Ha!" Xu Huang bellowed as he drew back his battle-axe.

            "Ung-ulgh-ug-ulgh-ulgh-ug-ung-OAAAG!!" Guan Ping cried spasmodically as a succession of eight arrows pierced him.  He staggered backward and fell down, dead, causing Xu Huang's swing to miss completely.

            Xu Huang glanced nervously at Cao Fodder.

            "What?" the officer asked meekly.

            "Nothing," Xu Huang answered quickly, averting his eyes.  "Nothing at all."

At Guan Yu's position…

            "What!?" Guan Yu cried out as he read the message.  "Guan Ping's force has been obliterated!?"

            The messenger who had delivered the note was shivering in fear.

            "I cannot believe this!" the Shu commander raged.  "Wei and Wu will both pay!"

On the southern wall…

            "Pick up the pace!" Cao Ren ordered.  "Keep the ranks moving!  We will hold ranks until we reach the debris.  We'll fragment into our units once we get there."

            Cao Ren's troops were approaching the area where the largest pieces of debris would allow them to cross to the other side of the castle.  As they marched, Cao Ren caught sight of the castle's buildings under the water.  They seemed mostly intact, surprisingly, and he could see other things intact about the flooded castle.  There was even a horse standing proudly at the bottom, kicking its hooves slightly.

            Cao Ren marched onward for a few moments.

            "A horse!?" Cao Ren suddenly shrieked, running over to the edge of the castle wall and looking down into the water.  Sure enough, there was a brown horse standing inexplicably underneath the water.  Cao Ren again felt very confused.

            "What is the matter, Lord Cao Ren?" one of his majors offered.

            Cao Ren turned to face him and looked quite bewildered.  "Look!  Look down there!"  Cao Ren's left hand pointed shakily in the general direction of the horse he had seen.

            The major stepped over beside Cao Ren and looked into the water.  He squinted a bit, then shook his head.

            "Do you see it?" Cao Ren questioned frantically.  "Do you see the impossibility that I see?"

            The major looked into the water thoughtfully for a moment, and then replied, "Yes…I never knew that there was a Zhou's Wienie Shack in Fan Castle!  Just look at all of those wienies floating around and going to waste!"

            Cao Ren shivered in rage.  "Not the wienies!" he stammered.  "The horse!  THE HORSE!"

            Cao Ren turned and looked into the water, pointing down toward…nothing.  The horse had disappeared.

            "What is it, Lord Cao Ren?" the major asked.

            Cao Ren blinked hard and looked again into the water.  The horse was definitely gone.

            "Nothing, nothing at all," Cao Ren said quickly, chuckling apprehensively.

            The Wei troops stood there in silence, watching Cao Ren.

            "Er, right, then," Cao Ren said, trying to recover his authoritative tone of voice.  "We'll break into our units now.  Everyone, divide up and prepare to cross the debris!"

            As the troops began to fan out, a guard ran up to Cao Ren.  "Lord Cao Ren!" he hailed.  "A group of Shu soldiers is approaching the castle from the south!"

            "Yes…go kill them," Cao Ren ordered weakly.

            The brunt of Sima Yi's force charged along the southern wall of the castle and prepared to attack the approaching Shu soldiers.  A massive spurt of DTS followed.

At the northeast corner of the wall of Fan Castle…

            Xu Huang and Cao Fodder, their troops supported by Wu's reinforcements, had managed to cut a swath through Guan Yu's advance.  Guan Yu himself now stood before the Wei officers.

            "Lord Xu Huang," Guan Yu began, his rage giving way to calmness.  "It's been a while…why do I have to fight you?"

            "My duty compels me to fight you…even if we are old friends," Xu Huang stated coldly.  "It is the way of the warrior!"

            The two raised their weapons, looked to their troops, and prepared to do battle.  Cao Fodder noticed that his bodyguards had already taken aim.

On the southern wall…

            "We're here!" Zhou Cang declared as he arrived with a pittance of Shu reinforcements.

            He and his troops looked around and walked forward a bit.  They saw no one.

            "That's strange," Zhou Cang stated.  "Where's the enemy?"

            They stepped forward a bit more.

            "Hey!  What's that?" Zhou Cang called, pointing off into the rainstorm.  Several shadowed figures had appeared and were approaching through the torrent.

            "It looks like…" a major said slowly before he had an arrow put through him.

            The Shu reinforcement party looked around nervously.  A rather large force of Wu and Wei troops was closing in, complete with archer backup.

            "Er, I don't think this is the right castle," Zhou Cang said innocently.  "In fact, I'm sure this isn't the right castle.  You nice solders just keep on doing whatever it was that you w—"

            "Attack!" a Wei guard captain ordered.

            Zhou Cang's forces made a panicked advance to the rear, running out the same way they came in.

            "That's the last time I take a job as 'reinforcements,'" Zhou Cang muttered as he fled.

On the eastern wall…

            Guan Yu staggered and collapsed, supporting himself with the haft of Blue Dragon.  Around him were the Wu officers, Xu Huang, Cao Fodder, a number of ill-aimed arrows, and a pool of his own blood.

            "In death…my soul shall be my brethren.  Farewell!"  Guan Yu exclaimed before letting his glaive fall with a clank onto the stony wall.

            Everyone stood silent for just a moment thinking of his final words.

            "Did that make any sense to the rest of you?" Xu Huang asked to the crowd.  The question was met with a widespread murmur of negative answers.

            "Well, we're done here," Lu Xun confided to Lu Meng and Gan Ning.  "Let's gather our troops, take Zhou Zhou, get out of here, and return Master Wolf to Sun Quan."

            "Sounds like a plan to me," Gan Ning agreed.

            "Yes, let's get out of here," Lu Meng said.

            "Victory is ours!" Xu Huang roared as the Wu troops moved out swiftly.

In the war room of Fan Castle, a few days later…

            "Yes, very good," Sima Yi told the messenger.  "The water is draining nicely.  I only hope that the castle isn't too rotten after all of that flooding."

            "Oh, yes," the messenger said after remembering his other mission.  "I have a message for Cao Fodder as well."

            The young Wei officer reached over to accept the scroll being offered to him.  "Thank you," he acknowledged before unfurling it.

            There was a momentary silence at the table as Cao Fodder read the scroll silently.

            "Lord Cao Cao has requested my presence at Han Zhong to assist him with the defense.  The Shu army has begun to attack in force, and he wants me to be there.  He says it'll be good experience for me."

            "Well, he's not wrong there," Xu Huang agreed.  "You must go to him."

            "I plan on it," he confirmed.

Cao Fodder's involvement at Han Zhong will be disclosed in the next chapter.

Once again, post reviews at will and wait for more chapters; we hope it was worth your time (and the wait, if you happened to read the He Fei chapter when it was first posted).  We do intend to continue this fic.