(This is a short humorous/romantic story about Zhuge Liang, Xiao Qiao and Zhou Yu, with Cao Cao and Lu Su as guest stars. Took inspiration from the 2010 Three Kingdom TV series. You can read it without the need to know the original story, but knowing a bit about the Three Kingdoms will help. If you like it, I will post more Zhuge Liang stories.)
The Legendary Zhuge Liang:
South bank of the Yangtze River, Cao Cao's camp
It is 208 CE. Cao Cao has gathered an 800,000 men strong army and has marched to the south bank of the Yangtze River, in a location known as Red Cliffs. Liu Bei and Sun Quan have allied and with a force of 50,000 men try to stop Cao Cao from taking over the South. But even thought they are allies, frictions are already beginning to show up. Zhou Yu, Grand Commander of Sun Quan's forces, jealous of Zhuge Liang's talent and fearing that the latter would become a threat to his lord, Sun Quan, in future, asked Zhuge Liang to make 100,000 arrows in ten days or face execution for failure in duties under military law. Everyone thought that this is an impossible task.
But Zhuge Liang is not a common man. Zhuge Liang had lived as an hermit during his early life, but his fame as a great military strategist led Warlord Liu Bei visit him three times in order to persuade him to join him. Zhuge Liang indeed joined Liu Bei and helped him forge the alliance with Sun Quan against Cao Cao. Zhuge Liang has almost heavenly foresight. So, when Zhou Yu ordered him to complete this task, Zhuge Liang promised that he could complete the mission only in three days.
With help from Lu Su, Sun Quan's military strategist who is a supporter of the Liu-Sun alliance and does not wish to see Zhuge Liang dead, since this would mean the end of the alliance, Zhuge Liang prepared 20 large boats, each manned by a few soldiers and filled with human-like figures made of straw and hay. Near dawn of the third day, when there was a great fog, Zhuge Liang deployed the boats and they sailed towards Cao Cao's camp across the river. Now that they have reached the camp, he orders the troops to beat war drums loudly and shout orders to imitate the noise of an attack. Hearing the noise, Cao Cao's generals send a messenger to Cao Cao's tent.
"My lord! My lord!"
the man shouts as he rushes into the tent.
Cao Cao is still sleeping. He had a hard day yesterday, because he had to manage the flow of supplies toward his army and to decide if he would follow Pang Tong's chain links strategy or not. Hearing of the voice, he quickly gets up.
"What is it?!"
Cao Cao, alarmed and fearing an attack, shouts.
"A small number of ships are coming towards our camp, sir. The Generals wish to ask you what to do."
"I will go inspect the attack myself!"
Indeed, Cao Cao gets out of his tent and watches the enemy ships. Seeing the great fog, he assumes that this is Zhou Yu's trick to lure his large but inexperienced navy into combat and destroy it. Laughing and very happy that he has seen through Zhou Yu's plan, Cao Cao gives his orders: "Do not engage. This is a trap. Have all archers to fire arrows at the ships."
Cao Cao then laughs and says to himself: "I got you now, Zhou Yu! You think that I do not know military strategy? You think that such simple tricks will work on me? What a great strategist you are!"
Cao Cao's troops follow his order and soon hundreds of archers fire their arrows at Zhuge Liang's ships. The arrows become stuck in the straw figures, as Zhuge Liang had predicted. The boats change direction when one side becomes loaded with too much arrows so as to restore balance. And so, thousands of arrows are being collected every second. Meanwhile, Zhuge Liang enjoys wine with Lu Su inside the cabin. While Zhuge Liang is excited, Lu Su is not so happy, especially since some arrows penetrate inside the cabin and almost kill them.
"Brother Zijing (Lu Su's courtesy name)"
Zhuge Liang, while laughing and drinking wine, says. "As you see, I was not boasting when I said to Gongjin (Zhou Yu's courtesy name) that I would bring more than 100,000 arrows in three days."
"How did you manage to predict the fog?!"
Lu Su, surprised and startled, asks.
"A great General, except for formations, must also know astronomy and geography. I saw the stars and I knew that there would be a fog today. That's why I accepted Gongjin's challenge."
A few minutes later, Zhuge Liang orders the ships to return to the camp. By the time they returned to camp, Zhuge Liang had acquired more than 100,000 arrows and Zhou Yu had no choice but to let him off. However, Zhou Yu does not give up in his quest to kill Zhuge Liang and has thought a plan to kill Zhuge Liang under military law.
Zhou Yu's tent
Zhou Yu, in order to achieve this plan, needs the help of his wife, Xiao Qiao, one of the most beautiful women in China. Her beauty is such that it is said that Cao Cao started this campaign against the Southland only in order to have her. Zhou Yu knows that Zhuge Liang has not seen his wife for quite some time and that she is not as beautiful as Xiao Qiao and plans to use this in order to kill Zhuge Liang.
Zhou Yu says to his wife. "As you know, Zhuge Liang has once again outsmarted me. But, if you are willing to help me, I have a plan which will allow me to kill Zhuge Liang."
"Why do you always want to kill him? He is our ally and he has helped us many times."
Xiao Qiao, not understanding the strategic plans of Zhou Yu and that he is already thinking of the next day after Cao Cao's defeat, asks.
"My lady, if we allow him to live, then he will become a threat in the future."
"What is your plan?"
"I will use your beauty to make Zhuge Liang fall for you. You shall call him in the tent to congratulate him of his success, say that I am not here, and try to make him fall for you. Meanwhile, I will be hiding in the tent, along with General Cheng Pu and several men. When the time is right, I will rush into the tent and with the charge of trying to seduce my wife, I will execute him!"
"My husband, will you really use me in this way in order to kill Zhuge Liang? Do you hate him so much?"
"You must help me! It is for the greater good of the Southland."
Zhuge Liang's camp, a few hours later
Zhuge Liang is sitting in his office, with a book on military strategy on his left hand and his hand fan made of crane feathers on his right hand. He is guarded by eight bodyguards. Suddenly, a messenger from the Southland rushes into Zhuge Liang's camp. When he sees him, Zhuge Liang thinks "what trick has Zhou Yu prepared this time?"
The man bows before Zhuge Liang and shouts "Sir, Lady Qiao wants you to come to the Grand Commander's tent."
Zhuge Liang thinks about it for a few second. "Lady Qiao wants me?"
he asks himself. He then replies to the messenger: "I will be coming in a moment."
A few minutes later, Zhou Yu's tent
When Zhuge Liang enters Zhou Yu's tent a few minutes later, he finds a table prepared for him with wine and some dishes. He also finds Xiao Qiao, dressed in a beautiful blue dress, waiting for him. Zhuge Liang is surprised and says to himself inside his mind: "This time, Zhou Yu outsmarted me. I have not idea what this fellow is planning and why I have been called here."
"Master Kongming (Zhuge Liang's courtesy name), why don't you sit and have some wine?"
Xiao Qiao asks.
Zhuge Liang sits and drinks a bit wine.
"Where is Gongjin?"
Zhuge Liang, curiously, asks.
"He is not here. I asked you to come here, not him."
"To congratulate you for completing your mission."
Zhuge replied, although it sounded more like a question than an answer.
"I am sure that you know of how good I am at playing Zither."
"Yes, I've heard of it."
"Let me play a tune for you."
"No...no. No need to trouble yourself."
"No, I do not trouble myself at all."
Once Xiao Qiao starts playing her Zither, the music almost bewitches Zhuge Liang, who closes his eyes and enjoys the wonderful sound of the music. Meanwhile, Zhou Yu, who is hiding along with twenty men and Cheng Pu behind the tent, cannot help but laugh. He has at least outsmarted Zhuge Liang and now it is his time to take revenge for all the humiliations he has suffered. Meanwhile, Zhuge Liang starts to understand Zhou Yu's plans, but he then dismisses it as his imagination, as he knows that Zhou Yu loves Xiao Qiao very much and would never use use her like this. After a few minutes, Xiao Qiao stops playing her Zither and pulls out a long sword.
she says "allow me to show you my swordplay."
Xiao Qiao's swordplay is one of the best Zhuge Liang has ever seen, as Xiao Qiao is very skilled in the sword and her beauty adds an unique aura to her moves. As Zhuge Liang watches her and is bewitched by her wonderful sight, Lu Su rushes inside the tent shouting "Brother Kongming, I need some advise on the 'Eight Docked Gates' formation."
Zhuge Liang looks at Lu Su in a way that is like him saying "Why did you have to come now?!"
"My lady, please excuse me. I will be back in a moment."
Zhuge Liang says, with a smile in his face, and then leaves with Lu Su.
After they walk some distance, Zhuge Liang decides to asks Lu Su why he came in the tent.
"Brother Zijing, you were not rushing into the tent in order to talk with me about military strategy, right?"
"Yes. I rushed-"
Before Lu Su can continue, Zhuge Liang interrupts him.
"Let me guess. Zhou Yu uses his wife as a bait to lure me in his trap, right?"
"Yes! You knew already?"
"I had thought of it, but I dismissed it as I had not thought that Zhou Yu would go so far in order to kill me."
"Now, better leave. If you are killed, the Liu-Sun alliance will collapse and Cao Cao will take over the entire world."
"Why leave when I can humiliate Zhou Yu in front of his men and gain the admiration and trust of Southland's soldiers?"
Zhuge Liang runs back to Zhou Yu's tent. There, he finds Xiao Qiao, nervous, waiting for him.
"My lady, I hope I have not let you wait for too long."
"No, Master Kongming."
Xiao Qiao puts up a smile and comes close to Zhuge Liang.
"Master, I am sorry for being frank, but from the first moment I saw you, I fell in love with you. I want to be with you for the rest of my life."
Then, there is silence for a moment. Xiao Qiao's touches Zhuge Liang's hands, who is trembling, or at least shows this impression in order to make Zhou Yu more happy and sure of his success, so when he fails, his failure will pain him even more. Zhou Yu prepares for his charge inside his tent and cannot wait for Zhuge Liang's reply. He is sure that this time, he has tricked Zhuge Liang.
Zhuge shouts (in order for everyone to hear him) with tears in his eyes. "I can never do something like this to Gongjin. He is the most brilliant strategist alive, a great man that I admire and a friend, for whom I would give my life. I admire him more than anyone else in this world and I view him as a brother. I can never do anything to hurt him. Also, I do not believe that he really hates me and wants me dead. Those are just rumors spread by Cao Cao to present my good brother as a man who puts petty revenge over the good of the Southland! This is done by Cao Cao in order to break our alliance and take over the entire realm. But my good brother Gongjin is not such a man who would put petty revenge above the defence of Southland! I am sorry, but I have to leave."
When Zhuge Liang leaves, Zhou Yu's face is almost red because of his anger. He enters the tent and shouts "Damn you, Zhuge Liang!"
. He then spits blood and falls on the ground. Cheng Pu, who is near Zhou Yu, says "Zhuge Liang is a honorable man and would not pose a threat to us. You should really focus on Cao Cao, who is our real enemy, rather than trying to get a petty revenge."
Zhuge Liang's camp, a few hours later
A few hours later, Lu Su visits Zhuge Liang to tell him about Zhou Yu's condition.
"Brother Zijing, did Zhou Yu learn his lesson?"
Zhuge Liang asks.
"No. Once he entered the tent, he spit blood and collapsed. He then had a fight with Xiao Qiao, because she said that you are an honorable man and he should not try to kill you, and had her send back to their home. As you predicted, now most Southland men do not understand Zhou Yu's hate and want him to stop trying to kill you and focus on Cao Cao. However, Zhou Yu still wants to find a way to outsmart you."
"Haha! Zhou Yu, it seems, will never change."