Chapter 129: Fool or Genius
Also got a new chapter of Ascending the Heavens up, hope you all enjoy :)
Hundreds of ships could be seen floating atop the water’s surface as two naval fleets faced each other. Without a single cloud in the sky nor even the faintest of breezes, it was as if the heavens itself was bestowing the two fleets with the silence before the storm.
Of the two fleets, one numbered a hundred ships while the other fleet possessed what appeared to be quadruple that number.
Most would expect an epic battle to begin, this would likely not happen because of how the two fleets were positioned. The Red Mist Naval fleet had anchored itself behind a shallow reef, making it so that the other fleet could not engage them or risk the possibility of running aground on one of the reefs.
“There must be at least four hundred ships over there.” Gan Ning said as he looked at the hundreds of ships that were anchored across the reef.
“As expected they managed to gather quite a few different provinces to halt our invasion.” Sima Yi said as he looked at the various different banners being displayed within the other fleet.
Gan Ning and Sima Yi were currently on one of the many warships and were peering across the reef.
Sadly, despite the fact that they had departed earlier than the planned invasion date, the other fleet was already waiting for them by the time they neared the waters of the Dark Sea Province. What made things scary was the fact that it had arrived at the location that Zhang and his generals had picked.
The location was selected so that they could safely send out scouts to survey the numbers that the enemy fleet boasted but surprisingly enough the enemy fleet had arrived here even before the Red Mist Naval fleet did.
From this alone they could tell that whoever was leading the Southern Fleet had a good head atop their shoulders.
“Enemy vessel incoming!” One of the soldiers on a vessel belonging to the Red Mist Navy yelled at the top of his lungs, an instant later a dozen more men joined him and yelled.
Off in the distance, a small lifeboat which had ten people on to was slowly making its way over the reef and toward the Red Mist Naval fleet. From their attire, there were eight soldiers, one general and a strategist or noblemen.
“All hands on deck, prepare to intercept the enemy!” Gan Ning roared as he arrived at the side of his warship.
Following Gan Ning’s words, countless of archers made their way to the upper deck of a dozen or so ships that were located at the front of the fleet. With bows in hand and arrows drawn, these archers were ready to shoot the ten people within the lifeboat full of arrows if they are given the order.
“Who goes there!?” Gan Ning asked as he withdrew his sword and pointed toward the lifeboat when it closed in on his ship. The thought that the people who were on the lifeboats could experts did not even come across Gan Ning’s mind, because he knew the other fleet would not risk sending in their experts when they did not know how many experts the Red Mist Navy had at hand.
“My name is Huang Xiao and this is master Zhuge Liang commander in chief of the Dark Sea Naval fleet, we’ve come to seek an audience with your commanding officer!” The man who was dressed in the attire of a general bellowed as he gestured to the man who appeared to be a strategist.
“You think we’ll just let you meet our commanding officer just like that? What do you take us for? Fools?” Gan Ning mocked.
“As a show of good faith we will disarm.” Huang Xiao said as he withdrew his sword and tossed it into the water, following his example the eight soldiers on board the lifeboat also tossed their weapons into the water.
“You and you, lower a lifeboat and check if they are hiding any weapons.” Gan Ning ordered two sailors.
“Right away, boss.” The two men said in unison. Soon after a lifeboat was lowered and not much time passed before the two lifeboats met up atop the still waters. Although they seemed displeased, Huang Xiao, Zhuge Liang and their men allowed Gan Ning’s men to pat search them.
“Boss! They don’t have any weapons!” Gan Ning’s men yelled after they completed their search. Had Huang Xiao or Zhuge Liang or their men resisted in anyway then it was certain that they would become human porcupines.
“Inform his highness that the commander of the enemy fleet requests an audience with him. Tell him perhaps there is an enemy ploy in place.” Sima Yi said as he eyed Zhuge Liang. Although they had never interacted with each other before, Sima Yi had long ago heard about Zhuge Liang, who was considered an unrivaled genius within the Warring States Region. He felt that there was something odd about Zhuge Liang but he couldn’t put his finger on it.
After being made to wait for a while, Zhuge Liang’s ship was allowed to sail toward the commander’s ship where Zhang was.
Once they climbed up a rope ladder and made their way onto the upper decks of the massive commander’s ship, they were greeted by a familiar looking young man. This young man of course was Zhang, however unlike most times he was dressed in the attire of a regular soldier.
“I welcome you my lords onto our ship. I was assigned to show you around our ship before his majestic is ready to allow you an audience.” Zhang said with a smile as he saluted Zhuge Liang and Huang Xiao.
“We’ll be in your care.” Huang Xiao said with a nod.
“If you’ll follow me your lordships.” Zhang said as he gestured to his guests.
“If you don’t mind me asking, my lords, why is it that you have come aboard our ship personally? Wouldn’t it be more safe for people of your status to simple send someone such as me to send a message?”
“I don’t mind telling you it was lord Zhuge Liang’s idea. We truly do not wish to have to shed blood and were hoping that you all would leave.” Huang Xiao said as Zhuge Liang nodded.
However, from the look in his eye, Zhang could tell that what he said was only partially true and there was something else that he was hiding. Zhang also found it odd how Huang Xiao has been the one who has been doing all of the talking instead of his master.
Suddenly the ship they were on began to violently sway, causing everyone to lose their balance. The following events would cause many people to be confused, however they served to strengthen Zhang’s initial suspicions.
As the ship sway and people were falling left and right, the group of ten people who were guests aboard Zhang’s ship acted extremely strange. Instead of attending to their lord and making sure he does not fall over and get injured, many of them had instead helped a man dressed as a soldier.
From this Zhang could guess what was going on and a smile crept onto his face. Maybe it was because he had noticed the look on Zhang’s face, but Huang Xiao reached his hand out to Zhuge Liang and stopped him from falling over.
“Too late, you think you can fool me?” Zhang laughed as the rocking subsided.
After leading the ten guests to a small room, Zhang had bid them goodbye and departed. Before long he had arrived at another room where the beauties, Sima Yi and Gan Ning could be seen waiting for him around a large table.
“No need for formalities.” Zhang said the moment he entered the room and walked toward a chair and said down.
“Do you need me to rock the boat some more?” Ling laughed as she looked at her husband.
“No need, some of my suspicions have been confirmed, however they only serve to raise more questions.” Zhang said as he shook his head.
“From what I’ve seen, the man who they are claiming is Zhuge Liang is but a stand in and the real Zhuge Liang should be masquerading as a regular soldier. However, we still don’t know their reason for coming here, nor why Zhuge Liang would pretend to be a regular soldier.” Zhang said afterward.
“No need to keep guessing, a bit of poison and they’ll sing like birds.” Lingqi said as a jade bottle appeared in her hand.
“Or a simple touch will do also.” Yuying added as she tapped the wooden table.
“Or we can just kill them.” Gan Ning said as he stabbed a dagger into the table.
Ai did not say anything because she was busy nibbling on a meat bun that she had gotten from somewhere.
“Your highnesses no need to be so drastic, perhaps he’s trying to test our lord.” Sima Yi said.
“Perhaps.” Zhang said. Of all of the people within the room it could be said that Sima Yi would be the most likely person to understand what Zhuge Liang was thinking. Although Zhang could be considered a genius in his own right, Sima Yi and Zhuge Liang could be said to be two peas in the same pod.
“Alright let’s go meet them.” Zhang said as he got up from his seat, following him were his generals while the beauties stayed behind.
Only after walking out of the room did Zhang remember something that he had forgotten to do.
“Shit… I forgot to go change.” Zhang said as he face palmed himself and reentered the room he had just left.
Moments later he reappeared in his usual black colored gown that was embroidered with golden dragons. There were also a few lipstick marks left on his cheeks which he had to quickly wipe off before anyone could noticed.
“Alright let’s go.”
Zhang’s steps were brisk and full of anticipation as they headed toward the room where he had left their guests. Once they arrived at the room, the guards stationed outside pushed open the twin doors and Zhang proceeded inside.
Of the ten people within the room, eight of them gawked once they saw Zhang dressed in different attire and accompanied by his generals.
“Just the reaction I was waiting for.” Zhang chuckled inwardly, he had been waiting to see the reactions on these people's faces once they figure out who he was.
Of course Huang Xiao did not look too surprised, neither did real Zhuge Liang. They both stared blankly at Zhang before getting up from their seats and saluted him along with the rest of their men.
“Lord Zhang, you sure are a prankster, to dress up as a regular soldier to trick us.” Huang Xiao laughed.
“I might say the same for master Zhuge Liang.” Zhang said as he eyed Zhuge Liang who was dressed as a soldier.
“You caught me, Lord Zhang.” Zhuge Liang laughed as he took off his helmet, revealing a handsome face.
“So now if you would please state the real reason you have come here.” Zhang said as he seated himself at a table.
“Truthfully we have come here because we did not want to shred blood.” Zhuge Liang laughed.
“However that is of course if my lord was not a fool, had someone duller been in charge then perhaps blood would definitely be shed.” He added stating his intentions to attack had Zhang been a fool.
“You know they say the line that separates a fool and a genius is but a thin one. What if I am a fool, one who likes to shed blood.” Zhang laughed as his eyes glinted.
“If your highness is confident in victory then who am I to stop you?” Zhuge Liang replied with a grin.
“True, true, had you not arrived here personally then you could stop me. But since you are here how about I introduce you to my father in law, after I send you off to the underworld.” Zhang said as he withdrew his white bottle with an endless amount of wine in it from his interspatial ring and poured himself a glass of wine.
“I’m afraid if I were to go on such a trip then your highness will regret what he had done.” Zhuge Liang said as he took Zhang’s wine bottle and poured himself a glass of wine.
“Regret? Maybe if I were to let you go back, I’d regret that decision also.”
“Had you been a fool then you would regret letting me go back, however now that I’ve deemed you as someone who possesses quick wit and intellect, I can make an offer that you can’t refuse.”
“Unless you're offering to have the some like the entire southern region then there aren’t many offers that would entice me.” Zhang said.
“What if I were to offer you the world?” Zhuge Liang asked.
“Then I’d say it was too good to be true and only a fool would believe your words.” Zhang laughed.
“But as you said, the line that differentiates a fool and a genius is but a thin one.”
“One cannot offer up what one does not own.” Zhang said as the conversation between him went on with each of their words filled with hidden meaning.
“Perhaps it is too soon to say I can offer you the world, but I can offer you something smaller, maybe a light to beacon your path. But it is for you my lord to either play the genius or the fool.”
After some thought and a few sips of wine Zhang said, “You may leave. Gan Ning show them the way out.”
“Then I bid you a good day, your highness.” Zhuge Liang said as he saluted Zhang and departed with his men.
“Let’s see what kind of show you show me.” Zhang thought with a chuckle as he watched his guests depart.
The future was uncertain but from Zhuge Liang’s words, Zhang could somewhat understand what he was implying, and if Zhang’s guess was right then letting Zhuge Liang go would be rather advantageous to himself.
But to be sure all he could do was watch and let things unfold. Whether or not his hunch about Zhuge Liang was true or not, it did not really matter to Zhang because if it was true it would only mean his work would be slightly easier and if it were to be false then nothing really changes.