Original by Bro Got a Gun, Translated by James
Gradually the night deepened. With a bright moon in the sky, the scenery was like a picturesque charm - one that was meant for moon watching with beauties and poetries.
But Xiapi, the once flourishing city of Xu Province, was still in bloody strife.
The city was engulfed in countless flames. Sounds of fighting could be heard everywhere.
Lu Bu was sitting next to Liu Mang. While Liu Mang could rest, he was not able to. The burning city, every sound of fighting, every scream, every newly lit fire meant that his subordinates, those determined men, are being buried in this ancient city.
“What time is it?” Liu Mang suddenly woke up. He was was tired. Having prepared the whole morning for the Cosplay Contest and then killing all afternoon after being sent to this time. He was dead tired. So tired that he wanted to just lay down and not move at all. However, he still had to move. He did not want to die! He wanted to survive!
“It’s already the hour of Xu now.” Lu Bu said calmly.
“Hour of Xu?!” The ancients used the the ten heavenly stems and the twelve earthly branches for their time into twelve two-hour periods. This hour of Xu is 7pm to 9pm. Liu Mang remembered that when he went to rest, the sun haven’t set. Thus, it should be around 5pm. Now it’s seven something, he had rested for about two hours.
“It’s time for us to move into action!” The sky had darkened. Even with the huge fire in Xiapi, it was still hard to distinguish in the dark.
“Let’s break out via the West Gate!” Lu Bu stood up to inform Gao Shun and Zhang Liao. However, he was stopped by Liu Mang.
“We cannot go through the West Gate!” Liu Mang said.
“Why?” Lu Bu was confused. The East Gate, which was the White Gate Tower, had been lost. The North Gate was guarded by Gao Shun. With Gao Shun currently being here, it meant that the North Gate was also lost. Following, the South Gate too was lost. There’s only the West Gate being guarded by Chen Gong, it should still be standing.
“To go through the West Gate is seeking death itself!” Although Liu Mang does not understand the art of war, he knew of psychology. With three out of four gates of Xiapi being broken through, the last gate too is inevitably going to be lost. Thus, the last gate was no longer crucial to the siege of the city. Rather, it was a place for one to gain credits - the credit of breaking through the gate!
In this siege of Xiapi, Cao Cao brought with him generals Cao Ren, Xiahou Yuan and Xiahou Dun. Below them was the generals Xu Huang, Lu Qian and Li Dian. Not to mention the three peach brothers! A gathering of all star generals. Alas, this Xiapi had but four gates - not at all dividable between all these generals. Thus, this last gate would be a scramble for credits.
“We will go toward the East Gate. We will break out through the East Gate!” Liu Mang made up his mind.
“East Gate? Are you out of your mind?!” Lu Bu shouted. “The East Gate was the White Gate Tower - the place we just lost. Because I was there, the East Gate was also the gate Cao Cao sent the most troops toward. How could we break through via the East Gate?! The East Gate is out of question. We are to break through via the West Gate!”
It was written that Lu Bu was a very stubborn person. Originally, Liu Mang did not believe that but now he does. Lu Bu rejected him without even giving him a chance to explain himself. No wonder Lu Bu still lose so thoroughly even with a first class military advisor Chen Gong, the first class troops Formation Breaker and the Heavy Cavalry of Bing Province, and himself, the pinnacle of super first class general.
But, Liu Mang had a way to deal with people like Lu Bu.
People like Lu Bu are like hedgehogs. If you stroke him following the spines, nothing would happen. If you stroke him against the spines, your hand will be pricked full of blood.
“Boss Lu, do you not want revenge?!” With just one sentence, Lu Bu’s stubbornness was lifted.
“Revenge?!” Lu Bu’s eyes shined. In this darkness, Lu Bu’s eyes were terrifying.
“Yes. Revenge. Bullied so badly by taitor Cao and betrayed by Wei Xu, Song Xian and Hou Cheng. Are you just going to leave without doing anything? Did you not want to kill those three traitors and give traitor Cao a payback?!”
“What must I do?!” Lu Bu was very direct. Although he was known as a hero, he was also a vile person. One of the main characteristics of a vile person was their vindictiveness.
Cao Cao brought forth to him so much pain, how could he possibly not give Cao Cao a payback? There’s the three traitors Wei Xu, Hou Cheng and Song Xian too. Everyone have such an characteristic - one’s hatred for traitors are much stronger than one’s hatred for enemies. E.g. the Chinese traitors in the Sino Japanese War. Cursing them so much, enough for at least three generations of ancestors and descendants.
[TL: No idea who author decided to add it. Guess it resonates with the chinese people. Many still aren’t over what the Japanese did in WWII.]
“Breakthrough via the East Gate!” Liu Mang spoke his mind. “It is true that the Cao troops was most heavily stationed in the East Gate. However, that is to guard against the Lu Bu army!”
“What do you mean?!” Lu Bu inquired.
“Hehe. We are now Cao troops under General Xiahou Yuan’s nephew. Say, would the Cao troops be stopping us now?!”
“That’s right!” Lu Bu only now remembered that Liu Mang had Zhang Liao get all the soldiers to change into Cao army uniform. Under the dark sky, it would be hard to differentiate them from regular Cao soldiers.
“Cao army had broken through Xiapi. With the whole Xu Province in his fingertips, based on Cao Cao’s personality, how would he possibly not express his heroics and enjoy the feeling of a victor? Thus, he would certainly be holding a celebratory banquet for his acquisition of Xu Province in the building that indicates Xiapi - the White Gate Tower!” In the Romance of Three Kingdoms, boss Lu was killed on the same White Gate Tower.
“The moment when one is most proud is also the moment when one is most neglectful. Say, how strong would his guard be at that moment?! The reason why I had general Zhang Liao lead the front and the eight hundred Formation Breaker following behind was to see if there was a chance to directly assault Cao Cao’s tent. The three traitors are certainly going to be with Cao Cao. Perhaps, if we were lucky, we could get rid of Cao Cao, deciding Heaven and Earth in a single inning. Once Cao Cao is dead, both the Yan Province and the Xu Province will be sent into chaos. Boss Lu could take advantage of the situation and replace Cao Cao. Even if we can’t kill him, we would still leave the city in quick succession, making a comeback at another date!”
[TL: 一局定乾坤: deciding Heaven and Earth in a single inning. Basically, one moved settled the game. Kill Cao Cao, win game.]
After hearing Liu Mang’s explanation, two words was evoked into Lu Bu’s mind - do it!
What the Lu Bu army was best at was their speed. Formation Breaker was the elite amongst elite and the rest of the Lu Bu army was those that had survived despite all odds; soldiers that had experienced hundreds of battles, their speed certainly not slow.
Holding the banners of Xiahou De, an army of “Cao soldiers” strut toward the White Gate Tower.
On the White Gate Tower
Cao Cao was holding a banquet. He cannot withhold himself from showing off his strength and vigour! That Lu Bu, the same Lu Bu who once held the twelve warlords to naught was defeated by him. Not only had he defeated Lu Bu, he also obtained Lu Bu’s estates. Perhaps later he will obtain his harem too - he had yearned for Diaochan for quite some time now.
“Congratulations Prime Minister! Xiapi had been conquered; as for Xu Province, it is within the grasps of sire’s palms. With Xu Province in hand, sire could feed a hundred thousand troops!” A scholar kneeled to congratulate Cao Cao.
“Haha. Rise, rise!” Cao Cao was in a very good mood. As for the person kneeling on the ground, he’s Chen Qun who had previously been serving Lu Bu. This Chen Qun was a very talented individual. Lu Bu didn’t use him? Well, I, Cao Mende will certainly use him. Haha.
“Being able to conquer Xiapi and defeat Lu Bu today is all because of everyone present! I, Cao Mende, thank you all here!” Xiapi ah, Xu Province ah, oh this was a fertile region. Although being the battlefield of four battles, it could still feed an army of a hundred thousand.
[TL: Literal translation of fertile region: land of fish and rice.]
Cao Cao didn’t set his sight on the Xu Province just once or twice. The first time he attacked Xu Province, he did it under the guise of his father Cao Song’s death. The then owner of Xu Province was Tao Qian, the old and corrupt. Although Tao Qian was no master of the arts of war, he fought Cao Cao back just by using the wealth of Xu Province.
And now was the second time he attacked Xu Province. After much cultivation, Cao Cao finally fought all the way to Xiapi using his Qing Province soldiers. Hell, this was also because Lu Bu dug his own grave by refusing to listen to his advisor.
[TL: Lu Bu did not listen to his advisor Chen Gong’s advice to attack Cao Cao when their troops were tired from a long march. Instead, he decided to stay in Xiapi and wait for Cao Cao to arrive.]
“Dare not, dare not!” Cao Cao’s subordinates all lowered their heads, humbly refusing to accept Cao’s thanks.
[TL: The reason why Cao Cao’s subordinates are refusing to accept his thanks is because he is essentially their master, thus, he needn’t thank them. It’s a social thing, yo. They’re trying to be humble.]
“Humph!” A cold humph was heard.
Cao Cao shifted his focus toward the originator of the humph - a tied up middle aged scholar. ...to even forget about him due to being too rejoiceful. Cao Cao, in a complacent manner, asked the scholar “perhaps Gongtai have some enlightenment?!”
This man, who was currently being tied up, was Lu Bu’s number one military advisor, Chen Gong, Chen Gongtai.
[TL: Gongtai is the courtesy name of Chen Gong.]
“Despicable vile man, if not for the fact that Fengxian did not take my advise, how could you possibly conquered Xiapi! Humph!” Cheng Gong’s prejudice against Cao Cao had never once subsided. Instead, it only deepened over the years.
“Gongtai oh Gongtai, why must you be so. Had you joined me back then, then a seat would be reserved for you in this grand celebration. You could even exhibit your aspirations and grand prospect. To not choose I, Cao Mende, I initially thought it was because Gongtai’s sight was far reaching and had a better candidate. Alas, it appears that Gongtai’s sight was only so!” What Cao Cao meant was: Chen Gongtai, you’re so short sighted. Huge future prospects was presented in front of you and you refused it. Instead, you insist on relying on Lu Bu.
“Hehe, with you? You want me to join you to in your killing of innocents? What had Lu Boshe done to you? Not only did you kill his whole family, you wanted to kill him to? Cao Mende, you are a cruel and unscrupulous person!” The more Chen Gong said, the more excited his tone became.
[TL: Lu Boshe was an old acquaintance of Cao Cao, pretty much his uncle. Cao Cao killed his family when Cao stayed at Lu’s place while on the flee after Cao’s failed attempt at killing Dong Zhou. Cao heard the sharpening of knives and suspected that Lu’s family were plotting to harm him so he killed them for preemptive purposes. Cao remarked “I’d rather do wrong to others than allow them to do wrong to me!”]
[TL: lit. translation for cruel and unscrupulous: heart of wolf and lungs of dog. To call an individual as possessing a heart of wolf and lungs of dog meant that he is an immoral and evil person!”]
All the scholars and generals present were silent. It was their first time hearing the incident regarding Lu Boshe. Although Cao Cao compromised morality, he was still their lord.
“Silence!” Cao Cao’s facial expression changed.
“What, you, Cao Mende, too is afraid? You, Cao Mende, too seek reputation?! If you want my silence then I will continue speaking! I dare you to try killing me!” Chen Gong sneered.
“You really believe that I dared not kill thee?!” Cao Cao pulled out his sword. The sword was called Heaven, forged with highly refined iron and rated as a superior weapon.
“Kill me! For every day that you, Cao Mende, does not kill me, I will continue speaking that day!”
The atmosphere was frozen.
Cao Cao, after looking at Chen Gong for a long time, suddenly had a smile on his face. “Speak, continue speaking! Curse, continue cursing!” The sword came down and chopped off the ropes that was tying Chen Gong.
“Gongtai must be thirsty!” Cao Cao ordered servants to bring wine cup and filled them with fine liquor. Doing this, he was telling Chen Gongtai to continue his curses and when he gets thirsty from all of curses, he could drink the wine to quench his thirst before continue cursing.
Chen Gong picked up the wine cup in front of him, drank the wine in a single gulp, and said while shaking his head “Cao Mende oh Cao Mende, I really did not expect for you to be this thick skinned!”
“Ha ha!” Cao Cao laughed boldly and stood up. “Oh Gongtai, it is not I, Cao Cao, who is thick skinned. Instead, I had already thrown away my regards for all the utterly filthy and debased guiding principles and ethics of the world. Everyone calls me a villain but none could do anything to this villain. All you self proclaimed men of noble characteristics, alas, still lose to this villain. If the price of being a noble man is to be insulted, trampled, perish and even killed, then I would rather be a villain who could realize his ambitions. Since ancient times the most treacherous person appears the most guileless, the most disloyal person appears the most loyal, loyalty and righteous, craftiness and evil, neither one of them could be read from just the surface. You had previously viewed me wrongly and now you are viewing me wrongly again; but I am still me, I had never once been afraid of people viewing me wrongly. Brother Gongtai, objectively speaking, do you not agree?”
Chen Gong have nothing to say. As the saying goes, persons who walk different paths cannot make plans together. Perhaps Cao Cao was right and perhaps he was right. Only heaven knew! Regardless, Xiapi had been conquered and Chen Gong was prepared to die.
Seeing the speechless Chen Gong, Cao Cao smiled. Afterall, he was Cao Cao’s first advisor. Back then, when Chen Gong discarded his official position for him was something that really moved Cao Cao.
Just as Cao Cao was thinking away in his mind, a messenger ran in. “Reporting to the Prime Minister, General Hou Chen is requesting a meeting!”
“Oh?” said Cao Cao. Hou Cheng had already surrendered himself. This time, he left to find Wei Xu and Song Xian and the Lu Bu that they captured. For Hou Cheng to come back, the captured Lu Bu must have also been brought back.
Cao Cao laughed in his mind, he said to Chen Gong that’s drinking sorrow drowning wine “Gongtai oh Gongtai, your former master is soon to arrive!”
“Allow him to come in!”
“Yes!” The messenger left.
“Ai!" Chen Gong sighed with a desolate face.
Hou Cheng strode in rapidly. He came toward Cao Cao and kneeled down. “Surrendered general Hou Cheng, Prime Minister!”
“General Hou Cheng need not be over courteous. Please rise. To defeat Lu Bu today, the Lu Bu army will thus be removed from this world. Thus, General, you need not call yourself a surrendered general, instead, it should ‘this general’! ” Cao Cao was stroking his beard. He appeared to be considering of Hou Cheng.
[TL: 末將: this general; honorific used for generals to address themselves to their superiors.]
“Yes, this general will execute the order!” This traitor Hou Cheng really eats this shit, he got deeply touched.
“How come generals Wei Xu and Song Xian are not with you? This Prime Minister was going to reward the two generals for capturing Lu Bu and opening the gates!” Cao Cao always rewards his soldiers based on merits, causing his soldiers to willingly give their lives for him.
“Eh!” It was fine before Cao Cao asked. However once Cao Cao asked, Hou Cheng started sweating bullets. ‘This general, this general!” stammering, Hou Cheng cannot speak.
“What happened?!” Cao Cao frowned.
“This general admits his mistake, please Prime Minister Cao forgive me! Lu Bu, Lu Bu broke free from his ropes and escaped!” Song Xian and Wei Xu had not told Hou Cheng about Liu Mang because if they did, then it would mean that they are idiots! To believe a man they met without good cause and in the end, to be betrayed by the same man, if this was not stupidity then what is?!
“Escaped?!” Before Cao Cao could speak, a black skinned general standing next to him had already spoke. “Did you not said that Song Xian and Wei Xu had already tied up that slave with three surnames?! To allow him to escape after throwing away his Sky Piercer, you really are a bunch of useless imbeciles!” His voice was extremely loud, his spittle had almost reached Hou Cheng’s face. Although Hou Cheng was behaving with utmost respect in front of Cao Cao, but in front of this general, he didn't have to - his face already started getting pale.
“Third brother, don’t be rude!” A large eared scholar walked out and pulled the black faced general away. That’s right, these are the three peach brothers. You don’t say, Liu Bei really has a decent appearance - kind brows, pleasant eyes - from head to toes, if he cries then he really does look like he’s concerned for the whole world.
“Hahahaha, great escape, great escape!” The happiest person present was Chen Gong. If the wine from earlier was like water then it has now became bejeweled nectar.
“For the Water Dragon to return to the sea, to release the tiger back into the mountains! Mende, this Xu Province of yours is certainly not going to be stable!”
“En?!” With a gloomy face, Cao Cao did not speak. He too knew that Lu Bu was like a fierce tiger, once escaped, much less Xu Province, even Yan Province might no longer be calm and peaceful. Lu Bu originally had been one without foundation, at most he just returned to his roots.
But Cao Cao, he cannot afford to play that game. To be attacked by Lu Bu every now and then, he could give up on a smooth and steady route toward world domination. By then, much less world domination, just being able to secure his own territories would already be pretty good.
Cao Cao took a deep breath. Without any anger, instead he showed a smile and said “General Hou Cheng is of no guilt. This Lu Bu, Lu Fengxian, was a fierce tiger. To be able to open the gates, offer the Red Hare and the Sky Piercer is already great merit. General need not remorse!”
“Prime Minister!” Hou Cheng was moved to complete shambles. “Prime Minister, please rest assured. This manservant Lu Bu is known to be most concerned of his harem; generals Wei Xu and Song Xian was already en route toward the Province Governor's Mansion to bring them here. As long as we have them, Lu Bu would certainly surrender without a fight!”
“Oh?!” Cao Cao really did forget that Lu Bu was a family man. You don’t say, Hou Cheng’s scheme was certainly useful. Had Lu Bu been like a certain someone, regarding wives and children as clothes, more willing to change clothes than to eat a meal, then Cao Mende was certainly at a loss.
Cao Cao glanced at Liu Bei.