Clunk. Clunk. Clunk. The barrel of arrows slapped Sun Shang Xiang’s back as she hurried forward. A boat was arriving in the city’s harbor, and on that boat was her future husband. Husband. Shang Xiang scoffed as the memory replayed in head.
“It’s time for you to get married,” Sun Quan, her brother said. “You’re 20. An old maid now.”
Old maid, my ass. Shang Xiang pounded the dirt harder. That husband didn’t stand a chance against this old maid. She knew exactly what she would do: Drown him, shoot an arrow in his head, accidentally drop a sword through his heart. Accidentally.
She slowed her pace as she reached their pier. The boat had arrived before she did. A green flag sat above the giant white mast as the dragon on it twisted itself up into the sky. Shang Xiang bit her lip, folded her arms, and leaned to the side. She had heard of this guy before. Liu Bei was his name, and he was famous for his virtue as well as for his kindness. Getting rid of a nice guy would be easy. If she just acted as a weak damsel, he would come in to rescue her, and die along the way. Liu Bei. She scoffed again and then walked forward to stand beside her brother. Shang Xiang pushed the enormous body of the guard Zhou Tai out of her way and took her place.
She rolled her eyes. Here it comes.
“I told you to wear a nice dress,” said Quan as he turned to look at her. His eyes immediately went down to her legs.
“I am wearing a dress,” she replied, keeping her eyes on the workers who were unloading the ship.
Quan gave a short chuckle. “That seems to have a giant rip up the side.”
Of course she had done that on purpose. Shang Xiang felt suffocated in the new dresses Quan bought. The straight tight fit constricted her movements, stopping her from running, jumping, and just living in general.
Quan reached up and rested his hand on her head. “I asked you to be on your best behavior.
“Don’t tell me what to do.” She shoved off his hand and jerked to the side, bumping into Zhou Tai. He grunted and looked down but didn’t say anymore. There was a bit of a snarl on his lips. Shang Xiang nodded her head slightly and moved closer to her brother.
“I don’t think I’m cut out for marriage,” she said softly, taking Quan’s hand in hers.
He looked at her. Quan took Shang Xiang by the shoulders and turned her towards him. “I know you can do it. Just think of it as another battle.”
Shang Xiang glanced up at him and saw the solid look in his eyes. They radiated fierce confidence and made her think Quan actually believed in her.
“Lord Sun,” a man called out. “Lord Liu is disembarking now.”
All three of them turned their attention to docked boat. Off stepped a man of average height with an oval face. His beard and mustache reminded Shang Xiang of past emperors and political men. He didn’t smile. Neither did she. There was something…something about him.
He looks old. Shang Xiang cringed.
Shang Xiang grabbed a fistful of Quan’s cloak as he approached the boat with open arms. Her grasp held Quan back for a moment until Zhou Tai lifted Shang Xiang arms and pushed her back. He stepped in between the two and escorted Quan forward. Shang Xiang growled at his back and targeted the back of his helmet. He might as well be added to her hit list. People to kill: her husband and the nuisance that stopped her from stopping her brother.
“Lord Liu Bei, welcome to the kingdom of Wu,” Quan said as soon as Liu Bei stepped onto the dock.
“It’s an honor to be here.” Liu Bei gave a slight bow and then looked around Zhou Tai’s large shoulder.
As soon as he glanced at her, Shang Xiang retracted further behind Zhou Tai. She had to study her enemy before he studied her. Finding his weak spots would ensure her victory. At least that was what she told herself. She faced the street behind them. City-dwellers carried bundles or dragged carts filled with food, clothes, and pottery. Crossing her arms, she glared at them all. Why did they get to go about their normal business without their brothers interfering?
“Kyaa!” Shang Xiang yelped as strong hands ripped her from her thoughts. Zhou Tai shoved her besides Quan and then added an extra prod to her back.
“Meet my sister, Shang Xiang,” Quan said.
“It’s an honor to meet you.” Liu Bei locked eyes with her and then bowed. She bowed too, staring into those dark brown eyes that had her locked. As soon as she straightened up, she averted her gaze to the ground and simply nodded her head, looking up one or twice to see Liu Bei still watching her.
“I’ve heard stories about you,” Liu Bei said.
“Tch. Please. You ain’t heard nothing yet.” Shang Xiang rolled her eyes and placed a hand on her hip. “Let’s cut the crap. Don’t pretend you know me.”
“Shang Xiang.” Quan wrapped an arm around her shoulder. “I’m sure Liu Bei wants to get to know you personally.” He shot her the look: narrowed eyes, scornful, saying “Don’t you dare make another move.”
Shang Xiang crossed her arms and pushed Quan away. “Hmph.” She walked off, stomping extra hard on all the loose planks and making them rattle so that she could pretend she didn’t hear Quan call her name.