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To live, live one's passions; to survive, abandon one's passions (Historical SI- Three Kingdoms Era)

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by Castage, Oct 18, 2020.

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  1. Bellerophon

    Bellerophon Bellerophon

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    Damn I can’t wait for more, I want to see Xi respond to all this, maybe solidly his province, he is a modern man so surely he can turn it into a powerhouse with a few changes. Revenge is a dish best served cold so bide his time and then kill his traitorous brother and the officials in the capital.
     
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  2. Laxard

    Laxard Know what you're doing yet?

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    Eh, while I understand that it's emulates historical dramas, the drama part is a bit to heavy. Time after another we see that everything Yuan Xi worked on destroyed time and time again, without serving it's purpose.
     
    Castage likes this.
  3. Threadmarks: Butcher of Luoyang 2
    Castage

    Castage Getting sticky.

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    A snowflake slowly fell, swinging in the wind, before landing on my open hand. I observed it, as it slowly melted down, changing into a water droplet. The air was stale and everything was covered with white snow.

    It was cold... yet, I could not feel it. No... that was wrong. I felt cold... I just did not care for it.

    I looked up at the sound of the hoves coming closer. The scout stopped in front of us and jumped from his horse. He quickly walked up to us and saluted. As he started giving his report I looked behind him – at the massive mountains and the wall blocking the way between them.

    The Hu-Lao gate.

    “Are you sure you identified the banners correctly?” I asked as I looked at the walls.

    The walls that defended the capital was thick, well manned and surprisingly well maintained considering the state of Empire.

    In future I actively worked to avoid, this place would be a famous site. Threesworn brothers’ would face against the pinnacle of mankind. And to think that one of those three would be in a future worshipped as a deity of war when he could not even defeat this true ‘god of war’ without help. In all goes down to PR, I guess.

    But right now, that was not on my mind. Right now I wondered how I would pass that obstacle, that stood between me the capital.

    “Yes, my lord.” The scout answered. “The banners belong to the Fourth camp of Western Garden Army.”

    That… was surprising. What was one of the armies, that was tasked with protecting the Emperor doing here? Have they noticed my march on the capital and send an army to stop me? But why send a camp of Western Garden Army? I have trained those troops, I know what they can do and there was always a chance that I could turn them over. Were there different rebellions that required other forces to put them down?

    Why… just, why were they here?

    I paused as I realised that I started thinking about myself as a rebel. I guess that I was rebelling against the current power holders, against the eunuchs.

    It did not matter. The only thing that did, was getting to capital and-

    “We will not be able to take the pass, master.” Han Hao interrupted my thoughts as he looked at the walls. “Whoever is in command knows what he is doing. The troops look orderly...” He continued murmuring something.

    “We trained them well.” I acknowledged. To think that I would be facing one of the armies I helped create. There was irony at that and someone was now loudly laughing at my expense somewhere.

    “We don’t even have siege equipment. We can try our chances of moving around. We could try our chances in with one of the south passes.” Yang Hong said as he looked at the walls. “Or we could try to find boats and cross through the Yellow River.” He did not sound too enthusiastic, rather resigned.

    I could understand his distress. If we took to much time, the central would organize the troops and we would lose any chance of success.

    No.

    Time was of the essence. The only way we can succeed is if we pass through the pass. But attacking those walls without siege equipment was madness. Even with siege equipment, it would be madness.

    So, what should I do?

    Turn around? Return to Yang province and declare independence? The Han empire was already on its knees. The people who controlled it-

    I paused.

    I felt my blood boil, at the thought of those worms feasting and dancing on the body of He Shi. I would rather die than allow those maggots to live a day longer.

    I closed my eyes and breathed out deeply. There was no sense of getting agitated. Anger at this moment would bring me nothing.

    No. Letting those maggots live was not acceptable. I was not willing to let it go. I would not be satisfied until I tasted blood. I calmed down as we travelled, but I could not think of anything else, then the vengeance I would bring to the capital. But, as I looked at the walls, I knew that in any battle, I simply could not win…

    I closed my eyes.

    There was one chance.

    I knew who the commander of the Hulao gate was. I suspected... that I could recruit him to my cause. But if I was wrong, it would mean death.

    I sighted.

    I would put my fate in his hands.

    “Prepare to march forward.”

    Han Hao and Yang Hong looked at me. Han Hao looked at me, as if judging me, then slowly nodded his head. Yang Hong sighted resigned.

    “I will order the preparations to attack-”

    “No. Marching formation.” I ordered. “We are going to pass through the pass – not fight.”

    “But!” “Governor!”

    I raised my hand, silencing them. Hesitating, they saluted and went to give orders. It was a gamble… and either I would move forward to bloody my sword or I would sleep with He Shi tonight. Either one was fine by me.

    As Han Hao started giving orders, the soldiers formed a marching column. I continued looking at the gate for a few moments, then moved my horse to the front of the column.

    “We are ready, governor.” Yang Hong said grimly. He and Han Hao moved their horses behind me.

    I looked at the walls. Thought of turning back didn't even cross my mind, as I made my mount move forward, my soldiers marching behind me.

    As we moved forward, only the sound of feet and clatter of hooves could be heard. As we slowly approached the wall, it seemed that no one would notice us. But then there it was – a single scream could be heard on the wall. Then more. But no the attack came.

    The calls on the wall became distinguishable as we approached. The soldiers on the wall were aiming their crossbows at us – waiting for their orders.

    We stopped only when we were twenty meters away from the closed gates of the pass.

    “Who goes there?!” One of the officers called. As I looked at him, I realized, that he was certainly not one of the core members of the camp. Too fat. His armour was too rich… to glittery.

    “Governor of Yang province, Yuan Xi!” I called back. “I answer the call of the Emperor!” I raised Liu Bian’s decree.

    “That decree was-!” The man clearly hesitated. It was an imperial decree in my hands after all. But it lasted but a moment before he recovered his wits. “Have you not received Emperor’s Xian’s decree?! Emperor Shao is dead!”

    “We know.” I answered shortly, and it was enough to take the man aback.

    “Then why you are going to Luoyang?” The officer asked baffled, still not realising where I was going with this.

    “The decree of Emperor Shao is still in effect! Orders to purge the imperial court of traitors, are still to be carried out! And while his murders go unpunished, we shall not rest. We will go to capital and slaughter every eunuch and every corrupt official, that had hand in the death of Emperor.” I paused. “As it was decreed.”

    The officer looked at me agape, before recovering.

    “That is treason! Emperor Xian-”

    “I am not talking to you!” I roared and looked over the walls. “Soldiers of the Army of Western Garden Army! You swore to protect the Emperor!” I paused. “You have failed!” I roared. I could see the shocked faces of those soldiers I could see. “Now, you serve the very people that worms that killed your master and leech on the Han Dynasty!”

    “This is treason!” The officer roared, anger and fear visible on his face. “Kill them!”

    The soldiers of the fourth camp raised their crossbows but did not fire. They hesitated. As my own soldiers readied their weapons, I raised my hand – Han Hao started calling for them to put down their weapons.

    “So be it!” I exclaimed. “If we are to die here today, while we attempt to restore the Han, we shall face our ancestors with our heads raised high!” I swiped the wall with my eyes. “Do, your duty!” I said as I raised Emperor Shao's decree high.

    “Fire!” The officer continued screaming, now frantically. But no one did – who would fire at the Emperor's decree? “Fire! Kill the-gh!”

    The officers gurgled as he was stabbed and pushed from the wall. With a loud thud, he fell on the ground, a few metres in front of me. There were now screams coming from different places on the wall as more and more people where killed and pushed from the wall.

    It didn't last long. Maybe a few moments. There were no exclamations, no calls of joy or victory, as the gates were opened. There was only grim determination. Or was it resignation to one's fate?

    As I passed the gate with my officers, I looked at the stairs.

    A familiar officer was descending the stairs with a couple of bodyguards following him. He stopped and saluted.

    “Governor Yuan Xi. The fourth camp is ready to execute the Emperor’s decree.”

    I dismounted, and put my hand in salute, as I addressed him.

    “Your assistance is greatly appreciated, Colonel Cao Cao.”


    * * *​

    What makes a man a villain?
    Villains are those who are ready to sacrifice many, for those few they cherish.


    What makes a hero?
    Heroes are those who sacrifice few, even those who they cherish, to save many.


    Scary are times when a hero and a villain stand next to each other, to face a common enemy...

    * * *​

    AN:
    Thanks to
    NathanHale for Betaing the chapter.
     
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2021
  4. LordEdric

    LordEdric I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    Welcome back, let the killing begin
     
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  5. Threadmarks: Interlude: Loyal Han Servant 3
    Castage

    Castage Getting sticky.

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    I wrapped the blanket tighter around myself as the cold pierced my very bones. The death was coming, I could feel it. Smell it. Taste it. Who would be that would make the next strike?

    “Fire.” I rasped, voice tired and rugged. “More fire!” I commanded, and the servants immediately went about executing my order.

    I closed my eyes, feeling the warmth filling the room. And the feeling was gone – just like a cold of the morning banished by the rising sun. It was high time also. After all the work, after all the humiliations, after all of the wrongdoings I and my family had to go through, finally... the sun was shining for us again.

    Empress Dowager Dong.”

    I opened my eyes and looked at the man.

    “Advisor.” I acknowledged the snake's presence. He was a skilled little snake, so easy to crush – but he was a snake nonetheless and it would be foolishness to forget his bites were poisonous.

    The servants put down a heavy chest on the floor and opened it.

    “Reporting.” the advisor said shortly, bowing. He turned to the chest, took out a paper from it and handed it to one of the attendants, who in turn brought it to me.

    The paper was half-written, with few blobs at the end of it. About a third of the document was stained red.

    “With great regret, I must inform you of the death of Emperor Shao. He was poisoned by eunuchs.” The advisor said. At least he had the decency to pretend he was sorry.

    A pity it was. Despite being a spawn of that harlot, he was still my grandson.

    I started reading the document, halfway, I threw the document on the ground. Reformist nonsense. It seemed that the brat was more of He then Liu. Hesitantly, I had to admit, that allowing eunuchs to deal with him, was for the best.

    “His body is still in his chambers.” The advisor said.

    I nodded. It was best he stayed there until that mess was resolved. Once Liu Xie was sitting firmly on the throne and the opposition was... dealt with, then will come time for funerals.

    “His servants?” I asked.

    “Executed for treason.” The advisor asked, bowing deeper. Little snake.

    “The...” I looked at the discarded document my grandson died while working on. “He clan's officials?”

    “Under arrest.” The snake said. At my nod, he reached to the chest yet again and took out a sword and handed it to attended. As the woman brought it to me, I grabbed the handle and looked it over.

    Grand Marshall He Jin's sword, and proof of his station. I remember when my son gifted the man this sword. He's done well... but should have relinquished his station when he had a chance.” I turned the sword taking note of blood on it. “Is that his blood?”

    “Yes, Empress Dowager. As you ordered, we have cut off his limbs and threw him to pigs. His screams have echoed through the palace as the hungry animals devoured him.” The man said, bowing. I did not need to see his face to notice how disgusted he was with this... unclean kill. It mattered not.

    The message had to be sent. After all, after Empress Lü Zhi had removed Concubine Qi's limbs, gouged out her eyes, cut off her nose, cut off her tongue, cut off her ears, made her mute by forcing her to a toxic potion, used toxins to make her dumb, locked her in the pigsty, and called her a "Human Swine", no one dared to oppose her. [1]

    Hard choices had to be made, to deter usurpers.

    “Good.” I laughed. “It's an appropriate end for a butcher.” The irony of the butcher being killed by a bunch of swines was just too good, not to appreciate.

    The advisor reached to chest again, and this time took out a cord.

    Concubine He Shi, was strangled with her own cord. Eunuch Zhang Rang took his time strangling her. ” I smiled as I took the rope appreciatively. “Her naked body was dumped outside the walls along with corpses of her attendants...” the advisor finished.

    “Knowing that whore, some hungry peasants will take her body to their village and eat it.” I said with a distaste.

    Men always lusted after that slut's body... maybe it was appropriate? My lips slowly curled in a smile. Yes, it was only fair that the men continued lust for her body after her death and she would yet again quench their carvings with her body. Literally.

    I chuckled.

    Yet another ironic end, wasn't it?

    Advisor handed the attendant a hat. All to familiar hat.

    “Eunuch Zhang Rang died, just as he finished giving his respects to Emperor Ling.” I nodded appreciatively. The old eunuch has aided Han a long time and, despite his short-sightedness on the general situation, he should be allowed some privilege. “As you commanded, the rumours of his escape and suicide were spread around the capital. His body was thrown to the river.”

    “Good. He has served the Han well, but it was high time that the eunuchs take the blame and pacify the masses with their deaths.” I nodded. “With the eunuchs gone, the Emperor Ling's faction can now take over and steer the dynasty into third Golden Era.” I paused. “How is Wang Yun?”

    “He reports the destruction of both, Eunuch and He clan forces in the capital. Luoyang is secured.”

    “Good, good. The rest of the country will soon follow.” I smiled.

    The advisor reached out to the chest and took out a helmet. A moment later the attendant handed it to me. I looked appreciatively at the embellishment, taking note of a few dents.

    Yuan Shao died in an ambush, doing his best to serve the empire, pacifying the bandits.” Advisor reported.

    If you were cleaning the house, you had to make sure to take care of all of the trash. Yuan clan became too powerful to be allowed to be. Fortunately, Yuan Shao's wife was a true Liu clan's daughter. She knew just what she had to do... the little fox. Heh. I will need to keep an eye on her.

    “No...” I said after a moment. “Yuan Shao would not have been killed by mare bandits. He was betrayed. Bandits were in reality soldiers in disguise, sent by-” One of his sons? No, they will divide Yuan Shao's legacy. His uncle? He was too insignificant. That left... “-his jealous half-brother Yuan Shu, who wants to take over Yuan clan.”

    “As you command.” The man bowed.

    I waved my hand, advisor and his retinue left.

    I looked at the trophies at my feet.

    Half-finished document of poisoned Emperor.
    A sword of Butcher Grand Marshal, who was feed alive to pigs.
    A cord of Empress Dowager's robe that was used to strangle her.
    Eunuch's Hat belonging to a loyal servant stabbed in the back.
    Helmet of the head of one of the most powerful clans in Han, who was stuffed with arrows.

    The enemies of Han, lie in ruins.

    I smiled and closed my eyes.

    Finally, the long-awaited prosperity, the third golden age, was upon my lips.

    * * *​

    Empress Dowager Dong died peacefully in her sleep, on 24.02.187.
    Three days later,
    Yuan Xi has reached the capital...

    * * *​

    [1] It's a quote with small changes from the wiki page... so, yes. That happened.
    AN: Thumbs up to
    Nathanhale for checking this chapter.
     
  6. Castage

    Castage Getting sticky.

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    Dramatis Personae gallery updated.
     
  7. simpleguy

    simpleguy Getting sticky.

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    Ah, the legalist thought, of a ruler being to his people like a potter to clay - rough and unrelenting, for to be gentle is to ruin the final product - the state. It pleases my heart for it to be so alive during this troubled times.
    It is, from a modern perspective, completely monstrous - but people remember it. Only the truly loyal survive - even if they have to resort to cannibalism.

    Now, my urges to role play at almost any conditions aside, the story is, while gruesome (as any historical story during a civil war is), very interesting for me. Providing links to the Wiki for every somewhat important character is very helpful - China is very populated, and there are many, many people growing famous overnight - and then dying as fast. The links are like a boat with paddles, helping you to avoid drowning in the sea of names unheard before. Looking forward for more chapters.
     
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  8. Aelyx

    Aelyx It is I, Q, who are you?

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    Honestly, at this point the entire court needs to be emptied, either via exiling loads of people or taking heads.

    Watched.
     
  9. Threadmarks: Butcher of Luoyang 3
    Castage

    Castage Getting sticky.

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    Inspirations:



    Variation of Illiad: Rage of Achilles

    Rage — Goddesses, sing of the rage of Yuan Shao’s son Yuan Xi,
    murderous, doomed, that cost the Han countless lives,
    hurling down to the House of Death so many noble souls,
    loyal officials’ souls, but made their bodies carrion,
    feasts for the dogs and birds,
    and the will of Heavens were moving toward its end.
    Begin, chroniclers, when the two first broke and clashed,
    the noble Han loyalist and villainous Yuan Xi.

    -lost poems


    Butcher of Luoyang 3

    The guards dragged off the prisoner. And all I could do was stare, numbly, at the place he was but a moment ago, giving his confession. There was still some of his blood on the snow. I looked up, at the silhouette of the Capital, barely visible through the falling snow.

    “So, we were too late.” I stated. It was taken away from me – my vengeance. The He clan laid slaughtered. The eunuch faction was eradicated. Even, as I suspected, the puppet master behind the entire chaos, the crone, was dead... off old age... of all things, she died of old age...

    There was nothing here for me... My feelings raged inside me. It was soo... dissatisfying. So disappointing. I felt... empty... no... unfulfilled.

    “The traitors are dead.” Yang Hong said I could hear the disbelief in his voice. He seemed shocked by what has transpired in the capital. It was no surprise. The number of things that happened in such a short amount of time was simply shocking.

    “Death of two Emperors, barely months apart. Destruction of consort clan and death of the Grand Marshal. Two coups, first by Eunuchs then a counter-coup by Empress Dowager...” Cao Cao counted as if reading in my thoughts.

    I sighed as I hid my face inside my palms.

    It was not supposed to be that way. After Emperor's Ling death, the situation was supposed to stabilize. We made plans, we made preparations, we prepared countermeasure… Where have we made mistake?

    The first thing that came to mind-

    Army of Western Garden Army... How the Eunuchs managed to... use them?” I wondered. I looked up, at Cao Cao. He lowered his head, I could easily make out shame in his features.

    “There were news about a large host of remnants of Yellow Turban remnants gathering not far from the capital. We received a decree with Emperor Shao's seal. We were ordered to secure the Hu Lao Gate until the local governors dealt with rebels.” He explained. He looked up, rage visible on his face. “Only when we received news of Emperor Shao's death, I realized we were... deceived.” He hissed.

    That would explain, why Cao Cao joined me. He thought we were going to fight Eunuchs, but now… He was deceived, his reputation… no, the reputation of Army of western Garden, was twice tarnished. One for being deceived, two for aiding the Eunuchs…

    What will you do now, Cao Cao?

    “It would seem, that the other camps also received contradicting orders. It was only when Empress's Dowager Dongs orders came, the army turned on Eunuchs.” Han Hao stated, his voice dry. “It's likely not the entire situation.”

    I nodded. How many plots, schemes and plans were there hidden from our sight. How many things were happening in the background, we were not aware of?

    “Now with Wang Yun in power, it seems that the court was cleansed from the corruption and new age of stability has finally begun.” Yang Hong said quietly. “It looks like the Empire was saved without us.” He mussed, as we looked at the capital in silence.

    My chest throbbed.

    It was not about saving Empire. Right now, for me, it could burn for all I cared.

    It was about He Shi’s killers. I wanted to get them... not to kill them, but to make them scream from pain, to make them bleed, to make them suffer... to make their screams and pleadings fill the hole in my chest.

    What was the point of going to the capital now?

    I lowered my head, my eyes moved to the spot our prisoner was but a few minutes ago. The crimson blood was clearly visible on the snow. The red was… mesmerizing.

    At that moment, I realized, that I could no go back. There was nothing left for me in my heart, but the desire for vengeance. It was not even about making things right. It was not about justice, stability or saving lives. It was about spilling blood. No, it was about quenching the flames of rage that burned my very soul.

    I wanted to make them... someone to suffer... as I suffer.

    I chuckled.

    I walked a few steps forward and looked at the city. I was not done. People who aided Eunuchs. People who supported Empress Dowager. Wang Yun. Their families. Their loved ones.

    'I would die here.' The realization washed over me. Even if I managed to slaughter the entire city, the rest of the empire would turn on me for that, as they did with Dong Zhuo originally… and I was fine with that. I was fine with dying here. In this accursed city. As long as I could spill blood, painting this place red, quenching my thirst, I was fine, with dying.

    “Before coming here, I killed the imperial messenger.” There was also that. I killed a man who came to me with the imperial decree. I was dead already. So, if I was about to die, why not go the way I wanted to go? “I intend to go to the city and...” Butcher it. No. That was not right. Not everyone there deserved my blade. Only half of them. “Cleanse it.” I finished.

    I turned and looked into the eyes of each of the officers standing there. Suddenly, a wave of tiredness washed over me. I was tired. I was tired from battling Ou Xing, from the march to the capital, from griefing after He Shi... I was soo tired.

    I turned to Han Hao and Yang Hong.

    “I do not expect you to follow me in this...” Treason? Rebellion? Suicide? “Endeavor. You are free to go.” I said then turned to Cao Cao. “Master Cao Cao. You can still return to your post.” I said... then paused, thinking. Maybe…

    “You and my father were friends.” I started slowly. “If you were to bring my - traitor's head, to the Emperor you would be forgiven and rewarded.” I stated as a matter of fact. And he also would be a worse punishment to the imperial court and Han dynasty. A man who in the original timeline would bring forth the destruction of the old older, incompetence of Han, eradication of its practices… someone, who would create something... better. A man whose Clan all but destroyed the Han and took their place. “I wouldn't mind.” I said with a dry voice - and it was true. I wouldn't mind it... I did not care at all.

    He stood there silently, just looking at me. I could not even understand what was going through his head.

    “If you need a sword-” I grabbed the handle of my sword to unsheathe it- only for Cao Cao to grab my hand.

    “You are serious…” Cao Cao said, his voice hard. “Has your father’s death crushed you soo much, that you seek death? Or do you believe me soo low, that I would turn my back now?” He pushed my sword back to its sheathe. “Wang Yun is a man of the old order – you are right, Yuan Xi. The Han administration needs to be cleansed, to be saved.” He paused as he stepped next to me, laying his hand on my shoulder. “Besides, I have the honour of Army of Western Garden to restore.” There seemed as if he wanted to say more, but decided against it.

    I closed my eyes and nodded.

    “I, for once, always wanted to taste imperial palace’s cuisine.” Han Hao said in a voice that was filled with humour. “If I am going to die, why not die for the best of foods?”

    Despite myself, I chuckled.

    “You’ve done few insane things in a short time I served with you, governor. I would never be able to face myself if you performed another great deed – and I was not there.” Yang Hong said – it was the first time, since he came to my service, that I saw him smirk. “What better way, to become immortalized than to storm the capital?”

    I nodded to him. I felt as if I finally gained his loyalty… which was strange, considering we were about to do something… so treasonous and suicidal.

    I turned to look back at the Capital.

    * * *​

    “The remnants of He clan loyalists were killed a few days ago. Some of the Emperor's Shao servants and officials survived, but they were imprisoned. Last of the Eunuch loyalists were caught and executed yesterday.” Yang Hong stated as we looked at the map of Luoyang.

    “The garrison will be lax.” Han Hao noted.

    “Exactly. They will be celebrating… and that will be our chance.” Yang Hong said. “We have three objectives: secure Emperor, capture or kill Wang Yun and his faction and neutralize the Garrison.” He looked at us.

    “First we need to get inside.” I said. “We cannot siege the city with the forces we have. The walls are high and strong. And if we take too long...” Someone would come to their rescue. We needed to finish this fast.

    “Han Hao, with a small number of men can enter the capital, then open the gates at night, from inside.” Yang Hong looked at him.

    “Of course. Would you like me to organise a greeting as well? With petals of flowers being dropped from the walls as you march into the city on the red carpets?” Han Hao said with a straight face.

    Yang Hong smirked.

    “If you were able to deliver wine to the guards, as a gift from some official or officer, it would make the capture of the gate much easier.” He said.

    “Yes… it’s doable.” Han Hao said slowly, nodding.

    “Once the gates are open, we will divide into three groups. The first group will neutralize the garrison.” Yang Hong pointed at the map. The Luoyang's barracks.

    “I will take care of them.” Cao Cao said with a nod. “My soldiers are looking forward to eliminating those traitors and reclaiming our honour.”

    That... was surprising. I thought Cao Cao would be insistent on securing the Emperor himself.

    “The second group will have to deal with the Wang Yun and his officials.” Yang Hong pointed at Wang Yun’s residence.

    “I will do that.” I said as I looked at the map. “I have regards of He clan and Emperor Shao to pass to them… before I send them to the other side, so they could make their apologises personally.”

    The advisor nodded.

    “The last group shall secure the Emperor.” Yang Hong pointed at the palace.

    “That will be me.” Han Hao said then chuckled. “I shall start preparing a feast, for our victory.”

    “Just no human blood.” Yang Hong said, almost pleadingly.

    Huh. Cao Xing and Xun Yu must have told him some stories of meals Han Hao prepared.

    “You have to learn to appreciate refined cuisine, advisor Yang Hong.” Han Hao smirked. “I guarantee, the foods I prepare are something unforgetful!”

    “Where will be you, Yang Hong?” I asked as I looked at the map/

    “I will be securing the area around the city and making sure no one will escape.” He moved his finger along the city borders. “If the traitors try to escape, I shall capture them.”

    “After that, we will need to purge the capital of traitors.” Cao Cao said. “Their clans need to be put to the sword.”

    I nodded.

    I was fine with that.

    * * *​

    “Nervous?” I looked to the side, at the sound of Cao Cao's voice. I accepted a cup of hot wine from him.

    “Calm.” I answered calmly, as I took the cup with hot wine.

    I turned and we looked at Han Hao and his soldiers. They were wearing civilian clothes. The man nodded to me, then turned and started saying something to his men…

    “Your father would be proud of you.” I turned to look at Cao Cao.

    I regarded him for a moment then turned back to look at the Han Hao. He and his soldiers were already moving, to the road to the capital.

    “I doubt it.” I said as I took a sip from the cup. “I highly, doubt it.”


    * * *​

    Getting into the city was easy. Buying carts with wine, not so much. Two coups, plundering soldiers, hunting for various factions… it had an impact on the city population. It was all too familiar…

    “Halt!” the guard called, snapping him from his reverie.

    Han Hao stopped and raised his hand, making his soldiers, now dressed up as a servant, come to halt. Han Hao stepped forward, smiled and bowed, with a submissive smile.

    “Welcome!” He greeted the man, bowing lowly, as a good servant would do.

    “What are you doing here!” The officer demanded.

    “In celebration of recent victories, the Emperor ordered to reward all the soldiers with wine!” Han Hao said as he opened one of the barrels on the cart, filled the cup and gave it to the officer – who accepted it eagerly.

    'Curious.' Han Hao thought as he recognized that the commander was a part of the fifth camp of Western Garden Army. Thankfully, the man had not remembered him.

    * * *​

    “Good hunting.” Yang Hong saluted.

    I nodded to him, opting not to speak. There was nothing to say. I turned and started walking in the direction of the capital.

    As I passed Cao Cao, he joined me, walking right next to me. In the eerie silence, our soldiers started marching behind us.

    On this cold snowy February night, we would be leaving our mark on the Capital of Han. Whatever that mark might be.

    * * *​

    Han Hao laughed as he raised the cup in another toast. The hot wine made it so much bearable on this cold night. The stories that they talked about, weren’t half bad.

    “Here, allow me!” He said jovially as he purred yet more wine to the man’s cup. “It’s because of you, the traitors were killed! It’s only fair that a simple merchant would fill your cups, in thanks for your heroic deeds!” He said as he purred wine to each of the officer’s cups.

    “Hah! Good to be appreciated!” The man smiled.

    “And we should drink for the merchant who was generous enough to bring us our bounty!” one of the soldiers smiled.

    “Merchant? Weren't you servant?” One of the men asked.

    “Once a merchant other a servant. One has to work hard in order to survive!” Han Hao raised his glass in a toast.

    “Indeed! Your toast!” All of the men raised their cups and started drinking.

    Han Hao smiled as he bowed his head modestly. Thankfully, that slip was easily covered.

    “No, no. This is all that I can do-”

    “Commander! Some people are coming!” A guard from the walls called.

    “Well, I guess it’s back to work.” Han Hao said, making the officers look at him.

    With a swift movement, he splashed his hot wine on the face of the commander, incapacitating him. He then grabbed a sword of one of the stunned officers and with a quick swing dispatched another officer, before moving to the next one. A moment later he stood among dead guards. He looked to the wall, just in time to notice one of the guards falling off the wall with a bolt sticking from his neck.

    Ham Hao looked at his cup and sighed.

    “Such a waste of good wine.”

    * * *​

    The gates opened before us.

    Han Hao exited, as his soldiers were moving bodies of the dead guards to the sides.

    “Welcome to the capital.” He said as he saluted.

    “Good work.” I said, putting my hand on his shoulder as I passed him. I looked in the direction of the palace. Part of me was glad, that I would not take a step there. Too many memories... I could not stand being there... without her.

    I turned back to look at my companions,

    “I will see you later.” I nodded to them.

    They nodded back, and each of us moved in the direction of our targets. Han Hao moved with a light jog, in the direction of the palace, his soldiers moving quickly behind him. Cao Cao marched to the barracks. His steps decisive, full of strength and resolve. I turned and started walking to Wang Yun’s residence.

    He was throwing a banquet for all of the officials. A celebratory party.

    I raised my hand stopping my soldiers as I noticed a movement from the alley. A small child, maybe twelve years old walked right in front of us, cutting our path, absolutely not noticing us.

    “What are you doing here?” I asked harshly.

    The girl’s head snapped to look in my direction, then froze terrified as she noticed a score of soldiers into whose path she walked. People were killed for less. Then I noticed something – she held a basket with flowers.

    I walked up to her. Her eyes widened even more as I approached, but she was too terrified to move. I reached to her basked and took one of the flowers. I white flower… of some kind. I looked it over then attached it to my chest armour.

    I grabbed a handful of coins – enough to buy her a year worth of meals – and put them in her basket.

    “That should be enough of the payment. Go back home.” I ordered her. “Now!” I snarled, making her snap from her fear and make a run into one of the alleys. I looked after her until she disappeared.

    Then I looked down at the flower.

    White, was the colour of mourning.

    * * *​

    Han Hao, now donned in armour, walked through the gate of Imperial Palace with decisive steps, with two soldiers at his sides. Passing the imperial guards, unquestioned. He could smell alcohol from them… but could also see the lack of experience.

    'Unbloodied whelps.'

    But part of their lack of reaction was the way he acted. He was certain of himself, like a person who belonged, the officer in power. Still, there was some uncertainty there.

    As the guards concentrated on him, they failed to notice his soldiers moving behind for a stealth kill. His soldiers easily breached the palace unmolested.

    Truly, those soldiers became too relaxed.’ Han Hao thought as he heard another muffled moan when the guard was stabbed in the back.

    Soon, the sound of screams and fight could be heard through the palace. It seemed that their intrusion was finally noticed.

    “Well, it could not last.” He said to himself quietly. He was surprised he made it that far, undetected.

    “Message to his highness!” He called to the guards as he passed them. The man was too stunned to stop him as he walked through the door – and too surprised to notice his soldiers advancing on them with their knives drawn out.

    Inside, the officer got up from the richly set table, where he ate with a few female attendants serving him.

    “What is going on!?” the man snarled as he started getting up. Considering the state of their clothing, Han Hao seemed to have interrupted 'the main event'. No wonder the man was irritated.

    “I have an important message to the Emperor, where is he?” Han Hao asked.

    “In his quarters, sleeping!” The officer answered, pulling up his pants. “Now, what is-Ghu!” He choked as Han Hao’s sword pierced his throat.

    Han Hao removed his sword, allowing the officer to fall dead.

    Han Hao ignored them and walked up the table, ignoring the female attendants who backed to the wall. But turned to them when one of them squeaked.

    “Quiet. Emperor is sleeping.” He said loudly, easily silencing the attendants.

    He turned back to the table and grabbed a plate with fish. He sniffed and carefully took a bite.

    “Hmm!” He gave a hum of appreciation. “Not bad.”

    * * *​

    I slowed as I heard the sound of feet. I waved my soldiers to stay back as I quickened my pace. I walked from behind the corner, straight into a patrol.

    “Yan Mu!” I recognized the officer. “Long time no see!” I spread my arms as I walked up to him, grabbing the startled man in a hug.

    “Colonel… Yuan?” He asked surprised.

    “Give my regards to our brothers.” I said to his ear, then stabbed a knife into his side.

    “Uh!” He exclaimed in pain. I let him go, leaving the knife still stuck in his side, and stepped up to his startled comrade. I grabbed his sword, and with a wide swing, cut the throat of the man standing next to him. I pierced the chest of the soldier standing to the side as he was nu-sheeting his sword. I left the sword sticking from his chest and grabbed the handle of my sword. I stepped back, allowing the sword to pass in front of me, and cut the attacker’s throat.

    I looked to the side and noticed the man running. I raised my sword and threw it.

    “Ai!” The man fell to the ground, my sword sticking from his back.

    My head snapped to the side at the sound. There was only one man left, pointing his sword at me, shaking with fear. I relaxed as I faced him.

    “Come, on.” I said as I allowed my hands to drop, relaxed. “I’m unarmed.” I encouraged him.

    The soldier hesitated for a moment, then-

    “Agh!” He exclaimed as he raised his sword high, and took a step forward. At the same time, I took a step forward and I caught his hands as he was about to swing his sword down. For a moment, he looked at me stunned, then started pushing, trying to overpower me. Still holding his hands, I turned, knelt and pulled/ The man yelp as he flew over my shoulder.

    “!” He groaned as he hit the ground, loosening the grip over his sword – which I now easily snatched. I stood up and put his sword to his throat.

    “Please-ugh!” he choked as I pushed the sword into his flesh. He choked, blood purring from his mouth as his eyes became glassy.

    I looked at him for a moment.

    I turned around and walked to the man, from whose back my sword was still lodged. I grabbed the handle of my weapon and stopped.

    Chunyu Qiong. For a time, I despised your rebuttal to join me. Now… I envy you.’

    I tore the sword out of the dead guard’s back.

    * * *​

    Cao Cao stood on the roof of the building, observing the barracks of the garrison forces. He could hear the laughs of the soldiers. He could see them drinking, he could see them cheering, playing with women, eating...

    Months ago they were brothers, all of them were on the same side. And now…

    He closed his eyes.

    He Jin... Yuan Shao…

    He opened up his eyes and looked up to heavens. He could see no stars.

    All they wanted, was to restore peace and order. To bring back the prosperity and end the tyranny of eunuchs. They planned, they prepared. It looked as if their target was within their grasp. The Emperor started the reforms, he restored the officials imprisoned during Disasters of the Partisan Prohibitions, he prepared…

    That’s why, when he was sent to help to quell the Yellow Turbans, he had gone without hesitation, without doubts.

    He was deceived.

    His friend was assassinated. His leader, butchered. His Emperor, poisoned. And his comrades, soldiers who ought to protect the Emperor, have helped destroy all he and his friends worked so hard to create...

    Would Cao Cao be next?

    Maybe…

    But he would be dammed if he allowed snakes that crawled in the capital to continue. They might have presented themselves differently than the corrupt officials and eunuchs... but he knew better. He knew Wang Yun and his clique... They were Emperor Ling's animals. Besides...

    He looked back at the barracks.

    The traitors who helped kill Emperor Shao had to be dealt with.

    He turned as he heard someone coming.

    “Colonel!” One of his soldiers run up to him and saluted. “We have surrounded the barracks and blocked the exit gate.”

    Cao Cao nodded and turned back to the barracks, looking at the soldiers he helped to train, who swore their allegiance to Emperor Shao... and...

    “Light them up.” He ordered. “Let them burn.”

    * * *​

    I did not stop, as I saw the gate of Wang Yun’s residence. I continued marching. I could feel the eyes of two guards on me. I could see them both tensing as I approached, but I ignored them.

    Sh! Sh!

    I could feel a blow of wind as two bolts swished right next to me. Two guards barely made a noise, as they were hit. One had slowly slipped to the ground, the other stayed pinned to the wall.

    I stopped in front of the doors and waited, for my soldiers to move to the gate, leaving me some space. When they finally were in positions, I knocked.

    I waited patiently. But after a few moments, I knocked again. Finally, I heard someone behind. Soon, the door was opened, and I saw a man, an annoyed looking servant.

    “What is it?” He snarled.

    “I have an urgent message to Grand Chancellor.” I said calmly.

    “The Grand Chancellor is having guests! It can wait until tomorrow!” the said annoyed and started closing the door.

    “There is attack.” I said seriously, I grabbed the door, stopping them.

    “What? Where?” He asked, surprised.

    “Here.” I said as I slipped a knife between his ribs. His eyes widened in shock, as I pushed him inside, my soldiers following me.

    I allowed the servant to slide on the ground, dead. I loosened my grip on the knife and looked at the main building. My soldiers were spreading, quietly sneaking into the mansion.

    I tightened my grip on the knife’s handle and entered the house. The light was sparse inside, drowning most of the corridors in shadows.

    “Who’s there?” I stopped and turned, to look at the confused woman.

    “My, my.” I started, as I started slowly walking to the young woman. “You grew up Diaochan… and got even more beautiful.” She was truly a sight to see... and desire.

    No wonder, she was described in history as a femme fatal for whom various men fought. Dong Zhuo, Lu Bu, Cao Cao, Liu Bei, Zhang Fei, Guan Yu... so many important characters wanted her. Her beauty was her greatest blessing... and her greatest curse. For others... and for herself... Considering how most of those stories ended, with her dead.

    “I’m sorry sir, have we meet?” The young woman wrinkled her nose.

    “I’m governor Yuan Xi. I was guest in your adopted father’s house, with officer Han Hao.” I explained as I stopped in front of her, “At the time, I was but a simple colonel.”

    “Oh, I remember!” She smiled, brightly, innocently. “What brings you here, governor?”

    “The Grand Chancellor is having a banquet...” I started, but the young woman quickly caught up with what I was hinting.

    “Ah! I did not know you were invited. I’m sorry your place was not prepared.” She bowed, troubled. “I shall prepare a place for you right away.” She said, as she turned, to leave.

    “Before that, can you tell me, where I can find your father?” I asked

    “Ah! Of course. Please, forgive me.” She bowed again as she pointed at the corridor. “Go this way, until you get to the main chamber.”

    I nodded.

    “Thank you Diaochan.” She smiled and bowed again.

    She turned around, to leave, then gasped and arched as the knife hit her back, piercing her lung. I grabbed her forehead and pulled her head back. I put the knife to her throat and started slowly, deliberately, dragging it. She gasped silently, as the warm blood spilt over my hand.

    * * *​

    There was a clearly visible glow above Luoyang. Part of the city was on fire.

    It was surprising what paths the Heavens sets for the mortals.

    But a few months ago, Yangs were tied with inspector Chen Wen. Then Yuan Xi came, and in a matter of weeks, has turned the situation at its head. He had all but broken the established powers and established himself at the top. For a moment, it seemed as if the Yang clan would join the other officials in destruction and death. But the man spared them. Yuan Xi held Yang Hong's sister and her children hostages, used her and forced to kill her own husband… And made Yang clan loyal to him… because he was the only one who could protect them, from the wrath of masses.

    Ironic really. He destroyed their power base and influence, yet they were loyal to him because he protected them.

    Yang Hong shook his head.

    They have underestimated him so much... because he was young. They thought that he would use Yuan influence and silver to gain power... he did so with his own wits.

    Then he went to defeating much larger forces of the rebels…

    And now…. They were marching on the capital.

    It was insane. If they lost, they would be declared traitors…. But if they managed to win… the glory, the reputation. It would do great lengths to reestablish the Yang clan...

    “Commander!” Yang Hong turned to look at the soldier. “Someone is coming!”

    Yang Hong looked in the direction the soldier was pointing and noted a group of people approaching. It was time to get back to work.

    * * *​

    The entrance to the main chamber was hidden behind paper walls, allowing me and my soldiers to easily slip inside. I paused and looked down. There were blood drops on my white flower. I reached down and dragged my finger over the petal, but managed only to smear the blood over it.

    “-your toast, Grand Chancellor!” I looked up, as one of the officials raised his cup.

    I stepped forward, only to stop, as a surprised female attendant stopped in front of me. She froze, looking at me with wide eyes. I smiled lightly and raised an index finger to my lips.

    “Hush.”

    She slowly nodded. Her eyes widened as a hand of one of my man covered her mouth. She struggled, to no avail as a sword pierced her back.

    I turned back to look at the officials.

    “Let the light of Han, reignite under your guidance!” one of the men finished the toast.

    I slowly started making my way along the wall, out of sight, to Wang Yun.

    “Thank you, my friends!” The Grand Chancellor got up and raised a cup. “My friends! The traitors and worms who feed on the bounty of Han are dead! Today, we start a new chapter in history! We restore the noble Liu clan and lead it to glory!” He raised his cup. “The loyal subjects, start the work to rebuild the Han!”

    I chuckled as everyone drank the toast. I started clapping.

    Wang Yun looked around, frowning.

    “Good joke.” I said as I continued walking along the wall.

    “And what joke is that?” Wang Yun asked as his head snapped in the direction of my voice.

    “The loyal servants of the Han part.” I answered. “It omits the part where you did nothing to aid the Han and He clan when they were betrayed and attacked.”

    I said as I finally moved to the light, slowly walking to Wang Yun.

    “Yuan Xi.” Wang Yun said surprised.

    “Aren’t you disrespectful to your elders, Yuan Xi?! You are standing in front of Grand Chancellor!” One of the guests exclaimed.

    “Easy there, he probably lost his mind to grief, because of the death of his father.” Another said.

    “All I see.” I started, smiling, as I stopped in front of Wang Yun. “Are a bunch of traitors.”

    “You dare!” several of the men stood up.

    “Governor, the grief must have taken your mind.” Wang Yun said, raising his hand placatingly. “What you say might be treated as treason.” He paused. “There are no traitors here.” He said as he waved around. “Only loyal Han servants.” He said as if he was explaining something to a child.

    I slowly nodded my head, looking at the ground. I felt his hand on my shoulder.

    “You are tired, governor. You need to rest.”

    “...Yes…” I slowly nodded my head. “Yes, you are right.” I put my hand on his shoulder. “You are absolutely right. “But… Chancellor, tell me...” I squeezed his shoulder. “Why have you not buried Emperor Shao?”

    “Ygh!” Wang Yun gasped as I stabbed him in the stomach.

    “Why have you revoked all of his reforms?” My voice wavered. I let go of the knife and grabbed Wang Yun’s head. “Why have you kept all of his advisers, especially those from Disasters of the Partisan Prohibitions, imprisoned? Why have you not given a proper burial to the He clan? Hmm?” I started squeezing his head. My voice started becoming more frantic. “I will tell you why. Because you give not a single damn for the people who tried to reform this breaking dynasty. Because the change of status quo is something unacceptable for you!” I started speaking louder. I put my thumbs on the man’s eyes. “That’s why you did not a proper burial to the Grand Marshal He Jin who all but saved your sorry asses from Yellow Turbans!” I started pushing. “That’s why you allowed Empress body to root in front of the walls!”

    “Aghhaaiiiii!!!”

    “That’s why you spat on everything Emperor Shao has done and did not even give him a proper burial!!!” I was screaming now.

    Something gave up, and something wet splashed over my cheek. Wang Yun stopped struggling. I held him, as his body slowly fell to the ground. I held his head, squeezing it, trying to get a reaction – but there was none. I finally let him go, allowing his corps to fall on the floor.

    I looked up, at the pale faces of the gathered.

    Suddenly, I was tired. So tired.

    “Kill them.” I gave an order. My soldiers moved from their hiding spots and started advancing on now terrified officials. “Kill them all.”

    * * *​

    On the night from 27 to 28 February, Yuan Xi has slaughtered countless loyal officials and butchered Grand Chancellor Wang Yun himself. He ordered the deaths of their families, extermination of entire clans and had the loyal soldiers of Han burned alive. And just like that, generations of loyal Han servants were snuffed out.

    * * *​

    AN: As always, thanks to Nathanhale for the support.
    I was quite in a bind about how to proceed with Diaochan, at one moment, I even planned for her to escape and have an entire arc of Vengance against Yuan Xi. Then have her and Lang Du clash... But in the end, this outcome is what I believe the most fitting. As saddening, it is...
     
    Last edited: May 4, 2021
    Flygar, Hypervane, Danga and 15 others like this.
  10. Pixelite McGee

    Pixelite McGee Doctor Daddy

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    I love it.
    The Yellow Wedding...
     
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  11. Z3r0Sama

    Z3r0Sama Getting sticky.

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    Gotta pull those weeds out by the roots or they just sprout a new.
     
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  12. LordEdric

    LordEdric I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    Well, the capital is a bit more empty now
     
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  13. al103

    al103 Getting sticky.

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    Well, let's complete the streak...

    "Betray world before world betray you". Cao Cao is done with capital bureaucracy.
     
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  14. Castage

    Castage Getting sticky.

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    Thank you!
    ...
    Yellow wedding?

    Well, they are part of the ecosystem. That's the problem.

    Yes... a bit :)
    But hey, look at those new soldiers marching in! And so many new jobs are open!

    You missed one :)
     
  15. al103

    al103 Getting sticky.

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    Out of place I visit - I don't think I did. Unless you mean FF.NET but it's not sort of comment worth posting on FF.NET.
     
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  16. Castage

    Castage Getting sticky.

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    Got it right on both accounts :)
    Yes, I did mean FF.
    Yes, that comment is not really worth posting there.
     
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