Nightmare at the Red Cliffs


Released on November 29, 2020

During the Battle of Red Cliffs, a decisive moment becomes a nightmare for Cao Cao's forces...



I ran away from the fire behind me, as it continued to spread throughout the ship.

I rushed towards the plank that was now a bridge between my ship and the ship in front of me.

Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I saw it - and I screeched to a halt.

"Watch out!" I yelled to my fellow soldiers who were already crossing the bridge.

But, it was too late - the burning ship from the corner of my eye came into full view, as it crashed into the ship ahead of me.

The crash rocked our ships, and some of my fellow soldiers fall into the fiery river below.

Then, the fire began to spread from the burning ship onto the ship in front of me.

Some of my fellow soldiers hastened their way, while others tried to scramble back.

Hoping to stop them from knocking each other off the bridge in their panic, I started to yell, "Calm down! Cal-"

Suddenly, something from the combined ships exploded.

The blast knocked me off my feet, and sent me crashing onto the floor.

In pain, I struggled, and I got up.

In front of me, my last escape route burned up.

I looked at the chains that bounded the ships of our fleet together - the reason that we could not just sail away from the fires.

"Damn it!" I yelled, "Curse you, Cao Cao, curse you and your arrogance!"

***

After putting our Emperor Xian of Han into his protection and reunifying much of northern China, our lord, Cao Cao, had been appointed as Grand Chancellor.

With the authority given to him by our emperor, Lord Cao Cao began his campaign south to reunify the rest of China as well.

The campaign began auspiciously, with the Jing Province quickly being captured - and, with it, part of the Yangtze River and the naval base that was in the territory.

Unfortunately, Liu Bei, a key enemy of our lord, had managed to escape from the Jing Province with the remains of his forces.

Nonetheless, sensing an opportunity with the newly captured naval base, and all the ships that came with it, Lord Cao Cao sent a letter to Sun Quan - a warlord who held vast amounts of territory in the south of China, along the Yangtze River.

In the letter, our lord made his first mistake of arrogance, when he claimed that he had a force of 800,000, suggesting that Sun Quan should surrender to him.

'800,000?!' I thought to myself, when I had learned of it, 'That's four times more than what we have - what an outrageous bluff!'

And called our bluff, they did.

Soon after, Sun Quan and Liu Bei entered into an alliance - and they rejected the offer to surrender.

Still, Lord Cao Cao was confident - even combined, the forces of Liu and Sun were a mere fifth of our forces.

However, as we sailed south on the Yangtze River, our lord's confidence would turn into hubris.

Quickly, we found that the majority of us northerners were completely unfamiliar with sailing - and seasickness plagued most of the soldiers, including me.

This, combined with this campaign starting so soon after the long campaign up north, led to our forces being exhausted, and lowered morale significantly.

Thus, when our forces met with the Sun-Liu forces at the Red Cliffs on the Yangtze River, our forces could not win the battle, despite our numerical superiority.

After reaching a stalemate, our forces retreated to the north side of the river, while their forces retreated to the south side.

Our naval commander, General Cai Mao, who did have years of experience in naval warfare, suggested linking our ships together with chains - to help steady the ships, and to reduce our soldiers' seasickness.

Unfortunately, soon afterwards, General Cai Mao and another naval commander were executed for planning to defect.

However, I believe that our lord had been deceived into doing so.

I do not know all the details, but, as one of the generals, I was there at the execution.

And I saw, at the very last moment, that Lord Cao Cao had tried to halt the execution.

But, he was too late - the swords had already been swung.

So, although I can't be certain, I am convinced that our lord had realized that he had been tricked - tricked into believing that the two naval commanders had been planning to defect, when that was not the case at all.

Yet, another mistake committed by our lord.

Soon, however, it looked as though our fortunes were turning, when Lord Cao Cao received a letter from one of Sun Quan's generals.

The general claimed that he wanted to defect because of unjust punishment and humiliation that had been dealt to him by Sun Quan's strategist, supported by Sun Quan himself.

Our spies confirmed that this punishment, a flogging in front of the court, had taken place because the general had challenged and insulted the strategist, one of Sun Quan's most trusted advisors.

Thus, our lord trusted the general's words, and prepared to welcome the general and the general's ships to our side.

And that was the final act of arrogance that had led to this nightmare.

That fateful night had started calmly, if a bit windy.

Soon, the defecting general's ships were spotted, with the wind carrying them along to us with quickening speed.

However, one by one, the ships began to glow - with an abnormally intense brightness, lighting up the night.

Still, there was no concern from our new naval commanders.

Perhaps General Cai Mao could have spotted the trick, if he wasn't already dead.

However, for us, we realized the trickery too late.

As the ships continued speeding towards us, guided by the winds, we realized that the ships had been set ablaze and abandoned - they were meant to crash into our fleet.

Panicking, I yelled for a messenger to quickly send word to unchain all our ships.

But, it was too late - my ship violently shook, as the first of the fire ships had rammed into our fleet.

***

The wind continued guiding the rest of the fire ships towards us, as well as spreading the fire throughout our fleet.

Was this merely good fortune, or did they have some kind of magic that allowed them to control the wind like this?!

The damned chains rattled again, as another fire ship rammed into some other part of the fleet, sending a violent quake throughout all of our ships.

The fire was spreading too fast to unchain the ships, and there was no one at the helm anymore to steer the ship anyways.

The ships that I could have escaped to were now all ablaze, as was the ship that I was on.

All of my escape routes had been cut off - except for, perhaps, the waters below.

I peered at the river, now covered with oil and fire.

The dock wasn't that far away, but it wasn't close enough for it to be safe to swim to - even without all the fires, and even if under the best circumstances.

But now, with the fires raging...

There was no telling how far the fires stretched for, no telling where it would be safe to come up for air.

It was highly likely that I would get burned, just by poking my head above the surface of the water.

And if, by some miracle, I didn't get burned, all that smoke could still suffocate me, causing me to lose consciousness and drown.

Not to mention all the debris flying around, thanks to the explosions.

There were so many things that could go wrong.

I turned, and saw a fire ship speeding towards my ship.

"Of course," I wryly said to myself.

Seeing no other escape, I prepared myself, and took a deep breath.

Then, as a fire ship rammed into my ship, I jumped - into the fiery waters below.



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