greatfountain: (dynasty warriors 6 / zhao yun)
[personal profile] greatfountain
Title: And so passes the sixtieth day.
Author: Kate [livejournal.com profile] greatfountain
Pairing/Characters: Full-cast Shu and Wu; implied Taishi Ci / Sun Ce / Da Qiao
Rating: R-NC-17 for violence
Summary: In which there is trouble, and forgiveness.
Author's notes: From a DW4-5 fusion universe. Because I love Ling Tong and the other characters they added~ :D



--------------------

Ling Tong sighs, kicking the door to his cell in a dull rhythm--one-two-kick, one-two-kick--and staring up at the ceiling. He kicks at the door particularly savagely, and freezes when his foot connects with what is clearly flesh and not a metal bar. He looks up. He groans.

The guard captain has already made his life hell, never quite letting the stab wound in his side heal before he reopens it, and now Ling Tong has managed to make him mad. He's been careful to avoid any behavior outright antagonistic, other than his refusal to share any information, and now his carefully crafted position is crumbling around his ears. Great.

Then there is a body being thrown half atop him, and he scrambles to both catch the flying captive and to protect his side. The face of the man is not entirely unfamiliar to him. Shu's foremost general, Zhao Yun, is not an unrecognizable face, after all.

He grunts when the guard captain kicks him before he slams the cell door shut and makes his way off.

"Zhao Yun," he says, testing the waters, "are you all right?"

Zhao Yun's breath stutters across his throat, which reassures him that the man is at least alive. Zhao Yun struggles to rise, coughing in his chest. His blood splatters everywhere; Ling Tong frowns as he wipes it from his cheek. That is...not a good sign. "Zhao Yun," he says, "you shouldn't be sitting up."

Zhao Yun pushes at his hand ineffectually, and only ends up back on the floor, his breath rattling in his chest as he blacks out.

And so passes the thirteenth day .

--------------------

Zhao Yun hasn't woken once today; it should worry Ling Tong more than it does, but his skin is neither clammy nor warm where they are touching, and his breath is even, though wet. He has sporadic coughing fits that worry Ling Tong, dimly, but he is at this point so tired he cannot even call up the energy to wipe the blood from the other man's chin.

His right wrist is broken; he is trying his best to lay his hand across his chest and breathe at the same time. It is probably a useless pursuit.

It is cold in their cell; Ling Tong shivers, winces, and shifts closer to his cellmate to try and share a bit of warmth. There is nothing to do here besides sleep, most days.

And so passes the fifteenth day.


--------------------


Ma Chao is a stalking, irritated thing in camp. Liu Bei has his hands full trying to recover the location of his missing general without having to deal with Ma Chao's guilt. He had sent Ma Chao and Zhao Yun to defend one of his smaller territories in hopes of securing their position, but Zhao Yun's capture has made things messy.

When Ma Chao snaps at Xing Cai, Liu Bei loses his patience. "Ma Chao," he says, sharply, "go to your tent. You are not helping the situation.”

Ma Chao looks affronted; he swallows his retort, however, and leaves the tent in a flurry of movement.

His departure is followed by Jiang Wei's hasty entrance; Zhuge Liang's student goes directly to the lord strategist and offers him a simple scroll. Zhuge Liang reads it, his jaw tightening thoughtfully.

"Zhao Yun has been discovered," he says, without preamble, and points out an independent lord who has been harassing their camp recently, "and he is not along. The Sun family's general, Ling Tong, is also a captive. It appears Cao Cao's forces have been subverting small landowners in an attempt to distract us from our true goal."

Liu Bei nods.

Zhuge Liang speaks up. "Ling Tong has been in captivity somewhat longer than Zhao Yun," he says, "and I cannot imagine he would be abandoned by the Sun family. Rather than sending a rescuer, we will send an envoy to the Wu camp to liason with them. I suggest Jiang Wei, who has rather intimate knowledge of the territory at hand."

"I...lived nearby, as a child," offers Jiang Wei, "and we were often allowed to explore the castle under the previous lord."

Liu Bei wisely refrains from asking what has happened to that lord. The upheaval in the country could very well mean that the castle has changed hands numerous times.

"Go, then," he says.

Jiang Wei bows his head, and leaves.

And so passes the nineteenth day.

--------------------


Taishi Ci leads the rescue team, by virtue of the fact that he has been itching for action. It is not Sun Ce who sees him off, but Da Qiao, a scroll held firmly in her hands. She folds it within his fingers, her hands moving gently, as she looks up at him. Taishi Ci nods solemnly as he accepts it, and then she is embracing him swiftly, her small hands warm on the back of his neck.

"Be careful," she says into his ear. He nods once more before he mounts his horse and leads his troop away from camp, ignoring the twitching of his lips at the corners.

--------------------

The rescue is quiet, bloody, and quick. Taishi Ci had been surprised by a small Shu troop in the nearby village, lead by a firm-faced Jiang Wei who said, in no uncertain terms, that he knew a secret entrance to the castle. Taishi Ci, not one to pass up an opportunity to spare the servants of the castle some mayhem, agreed with a nod. He is now following the young scholar-warrior to a back servant's entrance, where he messes brutally with the latch and shoves the door open with his shoulder.

They find Ling Tong and Zhao Yun by virtue of the blood smell coming from underneath the storehouse. There is one small cell, guarded by three men. Taishi Ci does not take his time bashing their skulls in. Jiang Wei picks at the lock before he shakes his head.

"Just bash it in," says a voice from inside the cell; Taishi Ci will never admit that he starts at it before he does as he is told. The door swings open; Ling Tong, covered in blood and other foul things, with Zhao Yun curled up next to him, greets them with a grudging nod, a feat when his face is barely recognizable.

Taishi Ci leverages Ling Tong up and almost has him standing when he realizes both of the other man's legs are broken. He catches Ling Tong, holding him off the ground. To his credit, Ling Tong bites back a scream. Outside, Taishi Cu hears the dim sounds of metal and metal; his troops must have found the lord. He looks to Jiang Wei and frowns grimly.

Then Jiang Wei reaches up and pushes at the part of Ling Tong's neck that makes him collapse right there. Taishi Ci hoists the other We general onto his shoulder, watching Jiang Wei wake Zhao Yun with a rough shake of his shoulder. Zhao Yun can still walk, when he opens his eyes, though he is clearly weak.

They somehow manage, between the two of them, to get back to the horses.

--------------------

The trip to Wu's main camp is the most exhausting trip Jiang Wei has ever taken, his mind set as it is on keeping Zhao Yun and Ling Tong alive.

They arrive, and Jiang Wei is almost afraid there will be trouble; Sun Ce's face is darkening in rage. But Zhao Yun chooses that moment to hack up some blood, and the Wu family's leader’s face softens a bit before he orders them put up until Zhao Yun is well enough to move. Taishi Ci pulls Sun Ce aside and speaks to him, his voice pitched low.

Jiang Wei is lead to a small tent; Zhao Yun is laid on the bed, and a doctor arrives to care for the older general. Jiang Wei sips tea in the corner, trying not to worry.

And so passes the twenty-sixth day.

--------------------

“Oi, wake up at some point, you little bastard,” says Gan Ning, his voice rough. Daily sparring matches with Ling Tong had been one of his daily challenges (fights with Xiao Qiao aside) and he kind of misses them, at least a bit.

Ling Tong stirs, and Gan Ning stands up in surprise, dropping a nunchaku to the ground. “Oi,” he says, “Gongji?”

Ling Tong groans. “Xingba,” he whines, “you are so damn loud.”

Gan Ning grunts. “Don’t know why I bother worrying about you,” he manages.

Ling Tong opens his eyes to glare at Gan Ning. “I never asked for any worrying,” he says, “now go let Xiao Qiao beat the crap out of you so you’re in shape when I can walk again.”

Gan Ning grumbles about bedridden moronic cripples, and takes the nunchaku with him on his way out to spite him. Ling Tong sighs. He wishes he could sleep.

--------------------

“Ci, what are you doing outside?” asks Sun Ce, pushing aside the tent flaps and leaning out.

Taishi Ci doesn’t move much, besides to look back over his shoulder at his liege lord. “Bofu,” he greets. He doesn’t say anything else.

Sun Ce, wearing only linen pants, sidles up next to his general, heedless of the chill in the sir. Taishi Ci lets him lean close for a moment in silence.

“Gongji,” he begins, “did not scream.”

Sun Ce looks up. “He never does, really,” he answers, not sure where this is going.

“He had been tortured within an inch of his life, Bofu, and yet he never once screamed,” says Taishi Ci. He doesn’t understand.

Sun Ce grabs his elbow and pulls him back toward the tent, away from the wide, oppressing sky and the sleepless night. “C’mon,” he says, “Ling Tong doesn’t bother screaming about pain, Ci, remember that time he got stabbed and never made a peep while they were stitching him up? The man pretty much feels no pain.”

--------------------

“It is strange to consider that, if we were on the same side, we would be good friends,” mourns Lu Xun to his mentor, miserably placing a piece on the Goban.

Lu Meng raises his eyebrows at his pupil's move, and places a tentative, testing stone at the edges of his territory. "Jiang Wei?" he asks.

Lu Xun nods, ruffling his hair nervously.

Lu Meng frowns. "It has been said," he begins, "that the greatest friendships can be forged across swords."

This strikes Lu Xun as an odd thing to say, but he leans closer to listen anyway.

--------------------

"Your philosophy could use some work," complains Jiang Wei, pointing out a cluster of stones, "I don't even know what you were trying to do here!"

"I hope to manage to simultaneously attack and defend, once I have improved enough," answers Lu Xun, affronted, "I know my game needs some work, but really now!"

"Oh, don't start," answered Jiang Wei, "you're approaching these stones as if that's all they are! You'd never fight a battle this way, would you?"

Lu Xun wonders if this is how Jiang Wei learned, in his time.

--------------------

"How are you, today?" asks Jiang Wei, his voice quiet in the otherwise still room.

Zhao Yun glances up. "I am feeling much improved," he answers, his face unreadable. Something in his voice makes Jiang Wei's brow furrow, and he turns to look more fully at the older general. Zhao Yun, a cup of tea nestled in his hands and his long hair loosely tied back, looks like the picture of contentment, but Jiang Wei can see the way his fingers shake around the mug.

"You miss the battlefield that much?" asks Jiang Wei, his voice and expression level.

Zhao Yun cannot hold his gaze for too long; he looks down into the depths of his teacup. "It is all I have known," he finally replies, after a time.

Jiang Wei hopes he will never look so lost in the face of a momentary peace.

--------------------

Taishi Ci is an unexpected visitor to Zhao Yun's bedside; he greets the older man with an incline of his head.

"I thank you," he says.

"We may be enemies across a battlefield," answers Taishi Ci, "but you were unable to free yourself, and I wouldn't leave any just man in danger when it's in my power to prevent suffering."

Zhao Yun looks away, his mouth set.

"There were...times when I was awake, and they desired to press me for information. He always distracted them," his expression is agonized, as he says this.

Taishi Ci shakes his head. "Gongji has a good eye for injury. If he kept them from you, it was because he thought your condition bad enough that he offered himself instead."

Zhao Yun sighs deeply. "I am... not used to being protected," he says, "I am not used to... needing to be protected."

Taishi Ci nods. "I understand the feeling," he answers.

--------------------

Twelve days have passed, and Zhao Yun is walking and breathing with ease. As such, Sun Ce has arranged for a pair of horses with supplies to be prepared.

Zhao Yun visits Ling Tong before they depart, ignoring the surly pirate stretched out on the floor to bow deeply. "Thank you, Gongji," he says, and means it.

Ling Tong plucks at his blanket with his one good hand and answers, "it wasn't as big a deal as everyone makes it out to be. It was either you get hurt, or I get hurt, and I knew I could handle it fine. So I let them hurt me, instead."

"You shouldn't have had to," answers Zhao Yun, "but...I appreciate it. You have my thanks."

He departs in silence. Gan Ning shifts uncomfortably for a moment before he makes a noise, as if to speak. Ling Tong cuts him off with a hand cutting the air. "Don't," he says.

Gan Ning shuts his mouth with a snap.

--------------------


It shouldn't take as long as it does to get home, but Zhao Yun is pensive and thoughtful, and Jiang Wai is loath to hurry the man along to sit and wait some more. So they arrive back in camp a full three days after their departure from their place in Wu, and as they arrive in the aftermath of a successful sortie with Cao Cao, their arrival is fairly anticlimactic.

Zhuge Liang, his wife, and Liu Bei are discussing the battle in some depth, their heads bent together over the map. Both Jiang Wei and Zhao Yun bow a greeting; Liu Bei stands to examine his errant general.

"You look tired," says Liu Bei.

Zhao Yun sighs, heavily. "It has been... a long few days, Lord Xuande," he says.

Liu Bei smiles tightly. "That it has," he admits, "report to your tent, Zhao Yun, you are still clearly not well, if you will admit to your exhaustion."

Zhan Yun looks sheepish, before he bows his head.

--------------------

It is the forty-first day; Jiang Wei joins Zhuge Liang and Yue Ying in their quarters for tea. He settles onto his familiar cushion, cradling his familiar chipped teacup in his hands, and lets Yue Ying worry at him, her hands brushing his bangs from his face and asking him if he needs anything. Zhuge Liang finally cuts her off with a gentle hand on her wrist and eye contact; she starts, and settles on Jiang Wei's other side. He smiles; it is almost like he is being bracketed by care, Yue Ying's visual concern and the look Zhuge Liang gives him when he puts too many leaves in his tea.

"Lu Xun of Wu... is very much like me," begins Jiang Wei, his voice cutting the silence to the quick, "but his go is worse than mine."

Yue Ying laughs. "I hadn't thought it possible," she says, reaching for the bowl of stones and pulling a white one to worry between her fingers, a nervous habit she'd picked up from her years married to Zhuge Liang.

"I imagine you would fancy a game?" sighs Jiang Wei. It never fails; Yue Ying was always fancying a game of go.

"I imagine you're correct," she says, "between myself and my esteemed lord. You shall watch, and learn how much farther there is to go."

Zhuge Liang almost chokes on his tea, but accepts the offer with a hand in the air. Jiang Wei smiles.

--------------------

Ma Chao enters his tent with stiff shoulders and a surly expression. Zhao Yun glances up from his desk, where he is writing a letter.

"Good evening, Mengqi," he says, bowing his head.

"How...are you?" asks Ma Chao, looking uncomfortable.

"Better than many others, I assume. All of my limbs are in working order. I can still speak and breathe and see. I can walk, I can write, and I can still fight for my lord. Did you have any other questions?"

Ma Chao tries to speak. He can get nothing out. He nods shortly, turns sharply, and stalks from the tent.

Zhao Yun sighs. This is harder than he had thought it would be. When had the inside of that tent in Wu become easier to deal with than the rest of the world?

--------------------

Zhao Yun is back on the training ground, Fierce Dragon in hand as he runs simple training exercises. He has been instructed to stop if anything begins to pull or tear; he ignores that directive for the euphoria of finally holding his weapon again, at least until his lungs seize up and he has to stop to cough.

Guan Ping leans down to examine his face. "Are you all right?" he asks, his hand firm on Zhao Yun's shoulder. Zhao Yun nods, still coughing, and turns to walk back to his tent.

War, it seems, will have to wait another day.

--------------------

Ling Tong looks up to see a messenger poking his head in. "Enter," he commands, and receives a scroll. Blinking, he nods to the servant, who backs quietly out, and breaks the seal.

He reads, and at the end, he laughs. "Zhao Yun, does peace really bore you that much? I, for one, am enjoying all the sleep I'm getting!"

"Izzat from that bastard?" snarls his roommate; Ling Tong is never alone for long, these days.

"I'm gonna rip it up, who the hell does he think he is?"

"Leave it, Xingba," says Ling Tong sharply, "your righteous anger is stupid."

Gan Ning grumbles, but goes back to shining his sword without a word.

--------------------

"My lord," reports the spy, "I can't help but think they are speaking in code!"

Lu Xun blinks. "Really?" he asks.

"Yes, my lord, they kept referring to places as if they were spaces on a go board!"

Lu Xun's smile widens. "I see," he says, "can you remember those spaces they pointed out?"

The man nods.

Lu Xun is excited; he's never played go wihtout a board or an opponent to look at.

--------------------

Ma Chao has entered his quarters wordlessly, then turned and left again, each day for the past week. Zhao Yun knows that his patience will come to fruition, however, and never begins the conversation. Ma Chao will break down soon enough.

He does, catching Zhao Yun coughing as he enters. He freezes, stricken.

"I--" he stutters, "I--I'm sorry."

Zhao Yun nods, encouraging him.

"I should have been better about---I should have been better. I will be a comrade more worthy of your trust in the future."

"Thank you," answers Zhao Yun. He has been pondering this very idea for some time, now. Forgiveness is the only way he can see.

--------------------

Zhao Yun pulls his hair back, tying it away from his face, and adjusts his belt. Every inch, every cell of his body seems as if it sings with joy.

It is, after all, not every day that he is to lead a strike force to take down Taishi Ci.

Zhao Yun mounts his horse and prepares to ride.

And so passes the sixtieth day.

--------------------

END.

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SIBERIAN WINTER

February 2013

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