Three Kingdoms: Declaration of Fate


Liu Bei had to hide himself.


He was a great man who had done nothing, and wished for nothing to disturb him. He spent his days in the field, planting radishes and picking crops. It was imperative that he was normal. To act as a man with no dreams, content to spend the rest of his life farming. 

A plot. To remove Cao Cao from power, to free all from his grasp. The plan was coming to fruition, but it had to be kept hidden away. Remain a farmer- at least until the time comes. 

To have power is to be feared. To have wisdom is to draw attention. To draw attention is to welcome death.


And so he worked in the field.


But souls of true leaders, the ones of people who would shake the world with their fist– they are drawn to each other by an invisible hand. The string of fate ties all to each other, and it draws people together, away, and into battle. Around souls of worth, it coils tightly, if only to make sure they walk the path of glory.


It was a hot, misty morning when Cao Cao saw a man on the side of the dirt path, carrying boxes of harvested crops with a bored look on his face. Men worked on either side of the road; most seemed content, dragging things along, dumping dirt into piles and pulling weeds. The sun was glossed over with clouds, and the heavy heat gave the whole scene a sense of stillness. 

Cao Cao walked in the front of two guards, and a small procession made its way across the road towards a building a short distance away. Man after man, Cao Cao looked at their eyes as he passed. Dull. Lifeless. He sighed and continued walking. These people weren’t unhappy, just without dreams. They aspired to be nothing, and as such, would never amount to anything. Shaking his head, he continued to gaze at the hazy scene. The dirt was dry, and every step he took kicked up small dirt clouds that swirled around his feet. What he wouldn’t do to go a bit faster, to arrive at the building quicker. 

A glint.

What was it about him? A pulling at his forehead, a guiding force– his gaze was drawn forwards. There was a man doing the same as all the rest. He carried things in his arms, he dumped dirt, he looked lifeless. But his eyes! His eyes! How bright they were! His face called out boredom and dissatisfaction, his mouth contorted in a derisive manner. Cao Cao took several quick steps towards him across the road. Upon seeing him, the man jumped, and his face relapsed into a passive boredom. It was too late. His face had shown something more than the men around him, for just a second. It was enough. 

“You there.” Cao Cao directed his voice at the peasant.

The man jumped. He pointed to himself in a sort of bewilderment.

“Yes you. What is your name?”

“Liu Bei, sir.” 

“Well, good work.”

“Why, thank you sir.” Liu Bei shook with terror.

Cao Cao nodded his head, and continued on his way, noting where his house was on the road. The stillness and humidity was suddenly cut with a cold wind. Things were starting to move.


Days Later, in Cao Cao’s Abode


“You summoned me, sir?” Liu Bei looked hurriedly around the room. It was quite plain, with Chinese paintings hung about on the walls and a circular wooden table near a window. Cao Cao sat on one end, gesturing to the other, where a chair was placed. Liu Bei took a seat. 

“How is your farming going?” Cao Cao asked with a smile.

“V-very well sir, it’s the season for radishes. I think this year will be a good harvest indeed. So why-” Liu Bei trailed off at the end of his sentence. Cao Cao’s piercing gaze rested on his face, and he felt heat rushing to his head. Why was he here? He was sure he had done nothing out of the ordinary- no, he had made sure not to. Nothing was out of place, so why was he summoned here?

Outside the window, the faint call of thunder alerted the two to a coming rain. A drizzle started, and for a moment there was silence.


“Hm? Yes, indeed. I’m glad your farming is going well. Tell me, do you enjoy it?” Cao Cao placed just the slightest bit of emphasis on the word “farming”. Just a bit of venom. It threw him off. He tried to swallow his fear- fear would alert him.

“I do! I do.” He realized he sounded unsure of himself. He tried again. “Yes, it is satisfying to support the community with our grown food. Am I not doing a good job, if you don’t mind me asking?” Liu Bei stared at his feet. Cao Cao’s eyes were that of a predator. 

He heard laughing from the figure across the table. Cao Cao’s presence was huge. As large as the room was, it seemed as if it was filled with his intangible pressure. 

“I’m glad…glad to hear that.” Another smile. Silence. One man gazed out the window at the splashing rain, now pitter pattering at the roof. The other stood in fear at the relaxed form of the man across the table. The wind was starting to blow.

Swirling winds and furious rain. The two for a moment seemed in the center of a tempest. Was the fated encounter between the two men the cause? For as strong as a guiding force is, the destination is much stronger. The colliding tales of greatness show themselves in history through tales and word of mouth, but the events are real. The people were real. Where there is vision, there is conflict. And it is conflict that decides history.

Looking out of the window, Liu Bei seemed to see a dark swirling shape in the clouds, dancing in between the twisting winds. A dragon? 

Perhaps it was his overeager imagination. Perhaps it really was a dragon, a symbol of the emperor, of the great ruler of China. It couldn’t be. It mustn’t be.

Cao Cao laughed. 

“Look at that! The winds almost look like a dragon! Isn’t that interesting?”

Liu Bei shuddered, not daring to look him in the face. He felt like his face was being studied for movement. He forgot to answer in his fear.

“Nothing? I guess I just have an overactive imagination. Tell me, out of all the esteemed men in our time, who do you think will do it?”

“Do what?”

“Unite China.”

A flash of lightning from outside. The storm was getting worse, and the bolt illuminated the room with a white flash. 

“Yuan Shao?” Liu Bei answered after some time.

“No, not him. He doesn’t have the vision that others do. He’ll be trodden on. Again.”

Cao Cao leaned forward and took a sip from a tea cup, placing it back on the table gently. 

“Liu Biao? He’s famous around these parts. I’ve heard his tales of heroism from many-”

“No, no, no. Not in the slightest. He’s empty inside, and simply rides the waves of dull stories. Again.”

Liu Bei tried again. And again. Five times he brought up names. Five times Cao Cao dismissed them all. Liu Bei picked up his tea cup with trembling nerves, trying to calm his beating heart.

“Enough of this.” Cao Cao stood, and in the flashing lightning it seemed as if he glowed, towering over Liu Bei as if giving a sentence. “Let me tell you- the only two in the world who will ever grasp China in their fist is me-” 

He pointed his thumb at himself.

And you.” 

Thunder struck outside, and Liu Bei shook so hard that he dropped his cup to the hard, wooden floor, the porcelain cup smashing into pieces upon impact. The wind howled, and the index finger that Cao Cao directed at him violently was seared with light. 


The sun was low in the sky as he exited the building. Liu Bei was mentally exhausted, and stood for a while outside his house. The sun cast bright lines of red across the sky, and he imagined he could almost make out the faint sounds of clanging metal, of blade meeting blade. The metallic smell of blood. The dirt road in front of him shifted into a battlefield, the old decaying trees into fighting soldiers. He blinked. The greenery returned. 

As the sun dipped below the horizon, he shook his head, trying to clear his thoughts. With one last look at the dimming sky, he shut the door behind him as he stepped into his house. Outside, a sparrow chirped, its head cocked to one side inquisitively. With a rustle, it darted away into the sky. 


// I think it is interesting how The Romance of the Three Kingdoms portrays heroes. Throughout it, great men are shown to be inherently different in some way that made them more visionary than those around them. People like Liu Bei and his group were simply farmers, the story pushes them along in the sense that they were great to begin with. Don’t get me wrong, there is character development, but the story relies on the fact that these people are legends from the moment they are introduced. You can see it in the sometimes fantastical way the story develops. None of it is strictly impossible, but reading it, you can see how word of mouth has caused people to turn into legends. There is a clear distinction between normal people and the characters in the way they are portrayed. So I guess in a way, the story holds that “Geniuses are born, not created.” Who knows. Still a great story.