With Yuan Shao's forces surrounding Bei Ping, what can Zhao Yun possibly do to reverse the outcome of the siege? The dawn of Zhao Yun's destiny has just begin. (ZYxZJ)
Chapter 4: A kingdom under fire
The evening sky lightens up with the fires of Bei Ping as the spotlight of the battle. Zhao Yun could not believe it. There are hundreds of people living their share of critical times with the armed forces, the hard work producing food, armory, clothes, lumber, and many other materials. The last thing he expects to see is his own kingdom in ruins.
"Hahaha, do you see that? A magnificent work of art! These crossbows will surely be reproduced towards the upcoming future battles. Cao Cao shall soon fear the most powerful army today!" Yuan Shao said. He turns directly away from the destructed city and calls off his entire forces for a retreat.
About half the troops Yuan Shao had were either lost or killed in action during the reinforcements arrival. His generals are still engaged in duel with Liu Bei's officers.
"Hold it, I forfeit." Zhang He confirmed.
"Huh?" Guan Ping thought questionable. Zhang He pointed directly to Bei Ping in flames and Guan Ping looks at the turmoil with eyes wide in shock.
"Don't get me wrong, that was horrifying. Now, it's your duty to help the people. Go! It's the requiem of a soldier's heart," Zhang He sighed. He did not like the sound of what Yuan Shao had planned, nor it isn't his plan. Sooner or later, Zhang He might end up doing something like that.
Yan Liang is exhausted from his duel with Guan Yu and so does Wen Chou. They both retreated leaving the two sworn brothers watch the flames feeding off more buildings as it spreads.
"Brother, are you thinking what I'm thinking?" Zhang Fei asked.
Guan Yu nodded and they both head inside to help the evacuation. All the other soldiers from Liu Bei's to Gongsun Zan did the same thing. Zhao Yun is still the only one not moving. He continues to watch his home boil in ashes. The smoke got bigger when farmers from miles away can see the sign of destruction.
In the midst of the destruction...
Zhen Ji is helping as much as she can. The sounds of panic are bearable to her pain with a sad tone thought up in her mind. An abandon kid is standing there looking for his parents; Ji went towards and help him search for them. They appear to be outside from the city as the kid runs up to them, Zhen Ji hardly remembers her parents because she had been rise to become a concubine.
Liu Bei doing a decent job like it's a piece of cake. His advisors each share their opinions about the future of emergency on his soon to be kingdom. A woman show up and gave him a cup of water, but Liu Bei resist.
"Don't worry about me, just give enough water to the victims of this turmoil," Liu Bei said. It bothers him a little, because he's been known as the Imperial Uncle for his loyalty and family heirloom for the restoration of the troubled Han Empire, all he wants is to be treated as a common general no less than a monarch.
Zhang Fei found a salon, not totally covered by the fires still have some barrels of wine stocked in the storage room.
"Well well, the heavens do have their sense of taste," Zhang Fei praised. He sees two foot soldiers about to head for the direction of the evacuation. "Hey, you two!"
"Eh? You mean us?" the soldier questioned.
"Yeah, I'd like for you both to carry as many barrels as you can out of this place and take them outside of the town," Zhang Fei said. "Don't tell Guan Yu that I put the two of you into this."
The two subordinates stare at each other and just raise their shoulders up, then proceed. Boy, those are heavy liquidation. Not something as important as ...people.
"Hahahaha, good work! Now what else does this place has?" He continues to search.
Guan Yu and Guan Ping are dousing some of the flames from getting too near of another house. But, the wind is stronger than any strength of men can overcome. Those Guans don't have the ability to give up.
"Just alittle more!" Guan Yu struggled. The soldiers aid them to put out the fire from the corner of the city.
"Father, there's no end to the flames. I can't calculate how fast the winds are going. Shall we just help getting the people out of this place?" Guan Ping asked. Guan Yu turns at his son's attention, then looks at the exhausting soldiers who done as much as they can to not disappoint his might.
"Alright, go find Zhang Fei and get him here to help me out with something then you can start working with Brother Bei on the evacuation. The rest of you can break up and help as many as you can." Guan Yu ordered.
Meanwhile in the cliffs...
"Keep it burning! Burn all of what's left of that old idiot's renaissance. My forces, you have just witnessed the fury of Yuan Shao. Enjoy your short victory you weak fools! HA!" Yuan Shao cried. His entire forces retreat to Ye in preparation for the next campaign against Cao Cao.
Near the gates...
Zhao Yun rode his way to the destruction; there are many soldiers and volunteers working together at moving the victims out of Bei Ping. He saw Guan Ping being one of them.
"Hey, it's about time you show up from freezing out there for hours. Hey, are you alright Lord Zhao Yun?" Guan Ping asked. He tries to move his hands left to right in waking up Zhao Yun's pauses.
"Oh, uh where's Lord Gongsun Zan?" Zhao Yun asked.
"He's been barking the whole hour to giving orders on the evacuation. I don't know where he was posted at," Guan Ping replied.
Zhao Yun gets off his horse and runs at the direction where Guan Yu and Zhang Fei are. They both are carrying some heavy things out of the ruined building that was doused.
"Guan Yu, Zhang Fei, do you know where Lord Gongsun Zan is?" Zhao Yun asked.
"The hell if I know. Isn't he with Liu Bei?" Guan Yu said turning directly at Zhang Fei.
"I don't know, I lost track with our brother while helping out," Zhang Fei said. He didn't want to tell Guan Yu that he's been at the saloon earlier.
"You guys are carrying weapons out of that building, why?" Zhao Yun demanded.
"Just to let you know, our Lord hardly has the power to construct new weapons, so I've decided to bring these with us on the way out of this place," Guan Yu said.
Guan Yu and Zhang Fei put the weapons on the small carriage and continue their work. Zhao Yun rather not bother the brothers right now and focus on finding his lord.
Jian Yong and Mi Zhu are at the west gate escorting the people out, Mi Fang and Sun Qian are at the east gate. Zhao Yun wonders if his lord is at the north and runs towards the direction north. He sees his lord's generals and sons are over there.
"Gongsun Xu, did you see your father around?" Zhao Yun asked.
"I don't know. I'm always with my brother and the other officers," Gongsun Xu said.
"Damn..." Zhao Yun cursed.
Everywhere he goes it's all a bunch of panic, sorrow, and misunderstood surrounding the people of the fallen city. Could this be the reason why Gongsun Zan is nowhere to be found? What did his lord wanted him to learn from the turmoil?
"My lord..." Zhen Ji appears and she coughs up from the smoke filled air.
"Lady Zhen Ji, where is the lord?" Zhao Yun asked. Zhen Ji slowly looks up at him. His worrisome face is quite puzzling. She never saw him feel so pale and worried.
"Lord Gongsun Zan is at the court," Zhen Ji answered.
"At the court, could he...no," Zhao Yun suddenly rushes to Gongsun Zan. He has a feeling that something bad is going to happen. Zhen Ji decides to follow him.
At the court...
Gongsun Zan ordered the last two guards to help with the evacuation. Soon he's the only one in the govern hall. It's been many years in servicing the Han Empire and now the 400-year of reign has lost all its power. Most being nabbed by corrupted bastards Yuan Shao, Li Jue, and Cao Cao alike. Is there some other way to prevent the chaos from being manipulated by egotistic politicians? Gongsun Zan looks up at the painting of the late emperor before Xian.
"Lord Gongsun Zan!" The man voice shouted. Gongsun Zan knew who it was, but he decided not to look at him.
"My Lord..." Zhao Yun said. The flames are now getting worst and debris are collapsing all over the hall.
"Zhao Yun, how many years you served me?" Gongsun Zan questioned.
"Nearly five years," Zhao Yun said.
"Five? Heh..." Gongsun Zan slowly walks toward Zhao Yun's side. Zhen Ji, who followed Zhao Yun is right next to him. Suddenly, Gongsun Zan forcefully pushes both of them out of the room and closed door shut. Zhao Yun quickly recovered and knocks the door hard.
"My lord! Open the door?" Zhao Yun shouted. Gongsun Zan didn't listen as he turns back and looks at the late emperor painting. He closes his eyes and awaits his demise, finally he can join with his former lord, and the heavens will gladly take his spirit in good care after death. The flames cover up most of the entire room with him in it.
"My Lord!" Zhao Yun cried. Zhen Ji carefully places her hand on his shoulder.
"There's nothing we can do. It's his choice. We have to get out of here..." Zhen Ji said. Zhao Yun doesn't want to, but the place is about to collapse any minute. Zhen Ji hurries out of the hall while Zhao Yun slowly moves backwards looking at the flames of the destruction to his lord's kingdom. He bowed with small tears hidden beneath his eyes. Kind of strange for a person like him to cry when losing someone closes to you. Zhao Yun usually being cold of death, however, Gongsun Zan's death was meant for him to roam freely across the land. He's giving Zhao Yun the moment to start his journey throughout the chaos. His fist clinches and now he only has one thing in mind. Yuan Shao, people like him shouldn't be alive anymore. He will follow this path, to terminate corrupted bastards from endangering the people of the land. It doesn't matter how much power they stole.
Outside the fields...
Refugees look at their former home now in ruins, with nowhere else to go they must wander around to survive. Liu Bei allows the people to feel free to follow him or stay. Some of Gongsun Zan's troops decide to join Liu Bei's ranks while others resign.
Zhen Ji walk around the field filled with many refugees, she wonders why these people are forced into homeless peasants after war? The night is grim and children have trouble sleeping when it's very cold outside. She looks at the ruins of Bei Ping, the flames continue to burn out till what's left of the city. Zhao Yun hadn't return after they left the court. She is thinking about him the whole night. Will she live on his side or leave and take some time alone? Right now, Zhao Yun isn't in the mood to talk with anyone. She takes out a paper and ink then writes a letter to Zhao Yun whenever he comes back.
"Brother, with all these refugees here, where do we lead them to?" Zhang Fei said. He is curious to see what Liu Bei up to.
"We shall travel back to Yue Ling. If the people wanted to join my cause, then that's where we lead them. Our next destination after Yue Ling is travel from sea to Jing. We'll meet Lord Liu Biao over there. Be ready to prepare our leave tomorrow morning," Liu Bei said.
"I wish we can give it another day before everyone here is ready to depart," Guan Yu said.
"I know, but it's fortunate that Yuan Shao will come back here soon to clean up what's left of Bei Ping," Liu Bei said. Not many people want to end up as Yuan Shao's people, so most agree to join Liu Bei.
"I'm going to sleep right now. Do you know where Zhao Yun is?" Guan Ping asked.
"He should be back here by now. It's getting late so give him some time alone," Liu Bei replied.
At the river near by...
Zhao Yun sat near the river looking at the moonlight. His former lord's passing leaves him several things that concern his destiny. In childhood, working step by step in the battlefield and domestic resources gave him the ability to fulfill his dreams. Yuan Shao doesn't give a damn about his dreams, but Gongsun Zan does and like a father to Zhao Yun, he gave him good opportunities; those opportunities now being put to waste by Shao's ambitions.
"...." Zhao Yun is thinking quietly on the solution. There is no need to worry about his Lord's legacy, now that it becomes clear to him. His horse moves close to him and licks his face. Could this be his lord's spirit tapped within the horse presence? It doesn't matter now as Zhao Yun stood up and smiles at his horse given to his former lord. Everything became all clear to him as he rides off the river to the ruined Bei Ping.
Outside the ruins if Bei Ping...
Zhen Ji can hear the sound of the horse mounting slowly across the field. Her letter is almost finish, but it's the middle of the night and everyone is asleep while a few soldiers guard the fields for any possible sign of brigands or other scum approaching. She wants to do this just for one night and make Zhao Yun feel much better over the stress.
Zhao Yun sees the field surround with refugees. Everyone could be asleep and so are Liu Bei and the other officers. It's been hours staying up wandering at the river after the turmoil. Right now, he should be thinking about Zhen Ji. They couldn't make the debt to visit the garden because it was destroyed along the rest of the city.
"Hm..." Zhao Yun sighed.
He gets off his horse and walks around to look for Zhen Ji. However, Zhen Ji already show up walking slowly towards him.
"Where have you been?" Zhen Ji asked.
"At the river, it's not too far from here," Zhao Yun said. Zhen Ji move closer to him and suddenly lays her head on his chest, "Zhen Ji...?"
"Make this be one chance to be with you in peace," Zhen Ji thought quietly.
Zhao Yun face turn a bit shy. He was all right the moment after returning from the river. Could Zhen Ji be so worried about him? Surely her hair feels warmer than her head, it place a special affection in his comfortness. Zhao Yun rest himself with Ji not making her disappointed if he did touch her enough.
"Damn...she's really worth more than other priceless valuables. I can't see her being with someone like Yuan Shao," Zhao Yun thought. "What can I do to accept her?"
There are so many opportunities in his destiny and this young woman is also a part of him. To lose her will be unforgivable, but now is not the time to decide. Yes, he needs time. Zhao Yun closes his eyes and gets some sleep with Zhen Ji sleeping on him never letting go of him.
The morning after...
The people are beginning to leave in following with Liu Bei. Guan Yu loads the small carriage fill with weapons took out of the ruined armory shop at Bei Ping with Guan Ping helping him and Zhang Fei proudly loads a small carriage with barrels of wine on it. Guan Yu sighed when he found out his sworn brother up to his wine craze days again. It can't be helped in Guan Ping's view and Ping went to see if Zhao Yun awake. All the officers of Liu Bei's forces have awaken to prepare their march to Yue Ling port on the trip to Jing.
"....mm," Zhao Yun woke up and notices Zhen Ji is not laying on him instead there's a letter left in front of him. He reads the letter in hoping there's a reason to what's going on. Guan Ping shows up to see the little dragon awake. Some silly philosophers told dragons don't sleep, but it was not taken as a compliment.
"Good morning, Lord Zhao Yun. We're about to depart for Yue Ling so are you coming with us? It's boring sparring with only my father and other officers. I heard you were the youngest and toughest garrison in the days of Dong Zhuo," Guan Ping said. Zhao Yun didn't pay attention to him, but does listen and he's still reading the letter Zhen Ji left him. "Hmm, so that is a letter from Lady Zhen Ji? Don't tell me she's not..."
"She decided to leave in search of her own path...." Zhao Yun said. Sadly he is, her departure gave away his chance to have her on his side. Wherever she goes, he'll never forget her. Someday, they'll reunite again. Searching his true love is a long and patient one.
"I'm sorry man..." Guan Ping said. He's playing with his sword drilling the ground. Zhao Yun gets up putting the letter on his mail pocket. Today is a new beginning for the Chinese warrior; starting today he'll go visit his older brother then prepare to depart on a ship to Jing. He'll catch up with the others soon. There is still some time he need alone before he joins Liu Bei's forces.
"Tell your lord that I won't be around till a few months or a year or so. I'm going to go visit my brother," Zhao Yun said.
"Alright, don't forget I wanted to be your sparring partner once you join us!" Guan Ping said.
Zhao Yun mounts his horse and turns around at Guan Ping and said, "I'll be glad to accept you as my sparring partner. Just don't whine about me throwing overpowering thrusts and intercepts," Guan Ping smirks as if he's not the type to regret anything. Zhao Yun leaves the field of refugees moving to Yue Ling. Liu Bei shows up late to watch Zhao Yun depart.
"He's going to visit his brother, my lord," Guan Ping confirmed.
"I see, it's good to fight along side with him again. Your father and I are about depart as well, are the preparations going as proceed?" Liu Bei said.
"Sigh.... you don't want me to tell you about Lord Zhang Fei brought a small carriage hidden with wine barrels he found off the ruined saloon?" Guan Ping said. Liu Bei turns to the direction where Zhang Fei is whistling like an innocent child on his way with the rest of the people and then turns back to Guan Ping.
"Forget it, we're off," Liu Bei sighed. The entire forces leave the destructed Bei Ping on the way to Yue Ling.
Zhen Ji is staring down Bei Ping on the cliffs with small tears in her eyes. She doesn't want Zhao Yun to feel bad about her leaving. It's her choice alone because she wants to be a free woman for now. Living with the Yuan family made her life angst with little disorder to sitting around watching other concubines seduce more than one man after another. Wearing priceless jewel against her will, but as beautiful as she is, how can her talent not have the most attention than her beauty? Is that how life of the wealth sees in women? There are hardly any women in warfare and were outlawed in the battlefield. Zhao Yun, he's quite the opposite of any man she sees in. Zhen Ji turns around and faces her own destiny aside from Yun's. It's going to take some time to get through it till they meet again face-to-face.... as enemies.
A few weeks later at Ye...
Yuan Shao sat on his imperial chair to read reports on the latest in Cao Cao's move. To him, it's fascinating and the plan to raid their forces at Guan Du with 650,000 troops is accounted for. This is not an ordinary battle, but a total annihilation. Soon, the entire central region will be his.
"Lord Yuan Shao, I like to advise you we can send hidden envoys to stock our provisions at a site near between Guan Du and Chen Lin. Cao Cao will not know that we already invade a part of north Xu Chang without his scouts detecting it," Tien Feng said.
"Hm, excellent!" he accepted. Yuan Shao stands up proudly and calls in the major order, "Prepare the troops, we shall march to Guan Du and settle this with Cao Cao's forces!" Yuan Shao commanded.
The battle of Guan Du is set. From here, the chaos that filled the land was all staged for this battle of the beginning of the 3rd century...
That night at Zhao Yun's now vacant home...
The time has come for him to leave his former home. The memories of this place have some good times and bad ones. His home is now the entire journey he sets out. Those new memories are going to bring him some true reasons why he fights. Zhao Yun rides out fast with his white horse east to the port of Yue Ling. What new things await him in Jing and will he decide to meet his old friend Taishi Ci on the way? But, without Zhen Ji, will she ever comeback to him and comfort his wounds? That is another story....
(The scene shows him riding with his white horse in view on the corner left of the sky there is Zhen Ji covered on her hood and blue scarf)