The tale of one swordsman's journey across war ravaged 17th century China.
|WINTER DREAMS : THE BROTHERHOOD OF SWORDS
( EDITION BETA @ 34.2% COMPLETE / 451 PAGES TOTAL 167402 WORDS ) 27TH jULY 2004
“A Three Part Historical Chronicle Of Loyalty, Love, Honor, And Heroic Brutality”
Written by John F. Tang
First Draft Edit.
"Heaven Has Brought Forth Countless Things For The Nourishment Of Man.
Yet Man Does Not Do One Good Thing To Show Gratitude To Heaven.
Kill Kill Kill Kill Kill Kill Kill"
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HISTORICAL BACKGROUND AND BRIEF NOTICE
THE WARRIOR IN THE SNOW
REUNION OF OLD FRIENDS
THE CHASE FOR THE MANTIS
WE HAVE MET
THE RETURN TO THE FRONT
CHECKPOINT TO THE SOUTH
ROAD OF DESTINY
THE THREE SWORDSMEN
BY THE CAMPFIRE
THE TWIN GENERALS OF THE IRON FIST
THE YELLOW TIGER
FRIENDS OF YEARS PAST
THE SIEGE OF TONGGUAN
THE VICTORY BANQUET
THE THREAT BEYOND THE NORTHERN WALLS
THE MARSHAL’S ORDERS
THE ENCOUNTER REDUX
THE BLACK KNIGHTS
THE RETURN OF YANG GUOMING
THE FINAL CHARGE
ENEMIES FROM WITHIN
DUEL TO THE DEATH
TRAINING OF MIND AND BODY
THE NEW LORD
TALES OF THE LIVING DEAD
THE TRAITOR WITHIN OUR MIDST
A FATAL MISTAKE
TAINTED BLOOD THAT NEVER RUNS DRY
I PROCEED ALONE
THE WAY OF THE SWORDS
SUMMARY (SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!! DO NOT READ ON UNLESS YOU WANT TO BE SPOILED!!!!!!)
EPISODE I: HOMECOMING
Winter Dreams opens during a winter storm in China’s central mountains in the year 1654. The lone swordsman is being hunted by Manchurian swordsmen dispatched by the turncoat Ming renegade General Wu Sangui. Amidst the snowstorm and the confrontation against those sent to kill him, the lone swordsman tells his story. His tale begins in 1640 following the life of a young aristocratic military officer by the name of Yang Wulong. Being the second youngest man in a brotherhood of three, the tough-minded ideological older brother Zhang Sijun and the lighthearted younger brother Liu Ying are introduced. As members of an elite ten-man military unit, they are dispatched under the leadership of veteran officer Zhou Juzheng to the Ming fortress of Jinzhou during its siege by Qing forces. However things go terribly wrong, and the brothers barely escape death under the hands of a highly skilled Manchurian noble, Aixin Jueluo Shiden. Zhang Sijun falls during the battle.
Returning home to Beijing after their tour of duty, Zhang Sijun is presumed dead. Enjoying civilian life for the first time in many years, Yang Wulong and Liu Ying catch up with an ambitious childhood friend Chen Biao who has now become the chief deputy in Beijing. Yang Wulong later encounters Mantis, an assassin for hire whose questionable background leaves a vacuum of questions within Yang Wulong. The meeting in the teahouse results in a violent confrontation. Mantis is finally apprehended and signs of bigger things to come soon arrive in the form of a government investigative team dispatched from the western frontier province of Shaanxi, the home province of the most feared swordsman in the Jianghu underworld named Fearless.
Yang Guoming, the father of Yang Wulong is introduced and revealed as the retired general of the famed Black Knights Regiment, the heavy horse unit from the Northern Army. During a royal palace banquet, Yang Wulong falls for a beautiful aristocratic lady named Zheng Xueling. However, Liu Ying has also fallen for the same lady. Seeds of tension build between the two brothers as jealousy develops, even though Zheng Xueling has clearly chosen Yang Wulong over Liu Ying.
Meanwhile, in Beijing, Mantis escapes and leaves no clues to any previous questions by killing the investigative team. Simultaneously several hundred miles in the south in the heavy fighting between imperial forces and rebel armies led by Li Zicheng, the imperial sharp shooting archer named Priest is introduced and stumbles across a body of seemingly grave importance atop a mountain.
The furlough for Yang Wulong and Liu Ying draws to a close and they prepare for another tour of duty in the northern front. They end their differences with Yang Wulong realizing that nothing could possibly happen during the short term between himself and Zheng Xueling. He is determined to return to Beijing after this tour as an even more respected officer than he is now. Chen Biao is transferred from Beijing to the city of Tongguan in the south, near the front lines of the civil war raging in the south. Yang Wulong inherits the family weapon known as the Tzixing sword from his father who has finally decided that he is ready to handle it, and leaves home for war once again. Having not had a chance to properly bid his friend Chen Biao farewell, Yang decides to travel south for final farewells before returning to service, however, things go horrifically wrong. Upon witnessing the brutality of Imperial troops upon their own citizens, Yang Wulong loses his anger and accidentally sparks a confrontation with the troops, killing many of them with his new sword. Horrified at what he has done, Yang Wulong sends the accompanying Liu Ying back home with final messages for his father and Zheng Xueling and the friends at home. He leaves them all behind and goes on the run as a fugitive marked for death by his own people.
EPISODE II: DUTY
A wounded Yang Wulong scrambles through the forest for many days and is tracked by three masked swordsmen. The leader of the three swordsmen engages in a quick battle with Yang Wulong, but both soon realize who the other is; the older brother Zhang Sijun is reintroduced, along with two men named Zhu Hongquan and Hsu Qichang. The men heal Yang Wulong’s wound and reveal that they are commanders of the rebel Special Forces group known as the Iron Fist. There is much hesitation at first but Yang Wulong eventually joins his brother now as a rebel against the Ming Empire. The cocky and ambitious rebel army commander Tang Siliang and the Marshal of rebel forces Li Zicheng are also introduced in a meeting in rebel occupied Kaifeng. Rivalry can immediately be detected between the two camps of Zhang Sijun and Tang Siliang as they both try to maintain superiority of command over the Iron Fist unit. Tang Siliang develops a particular dislike of Yang Wulong but also a fondness of Yang Wulong's Tzixing sword.
A series of Manchurian characters are introduced as focus now falls on the events in Manchuria. The Manchurian noble Shiden and his kin demonstrate their skill and prepare for an assault upon Ming China’s northern frontiers; the Qing army lays siege to the Ming fortress of Jinzhou against Ming General Hong Chengchou and continues its assault towards the fortress of Ningyuan. Wu Sangui's role as one of eight subordinate generals under Hong Chengchou is explored. Returning to the rebel cause in the south, a mother-son relationship is explored between Zhang Sijun and an old lady whom he has treated for these past years. Yang Wulong stays within Zhang Sijun’s shadows and learns from his older brother. It is not long until Yang Wulong is caught in the middle of a full-blown civil war. Many former allies return as adversaries, with Chen Biao and Yang Guoming returning as elite Black Knights on the opposite side of the battlefield. The warlord of Sichuan, Zhang Xianzhong, is also introduced to explore the dynamic of the geopolitical situation.
As generals from within Zhang Xianzhong's own command turn against him and devise plans for a coup, Yang Wulong and others are sent south to assassinate what Li Zicheng perceives as a potential threat in the near future. The assassination ultimately fails upon the reemergence of Mantis, now a lieutenant within Zhang Xianzhong's ranks; Yang Wulong and company are withdrawn. As the war rages across Shaanxi, Yang Wulong experiences many harsh battles against veteran Ming General Sun Chuanting, including battles at Tongguan and Xian. Captured along with Zhang Sijun by the Black Knight and former friend Chen Biao, they expect death but are unexpectedly released. However, the worst is yet to come as Zhang Xianzhong retaliates to the attempt on his life; Mantis leads a group of assassins and decimates Yang Wulong and Zhang Sijun's village. Zhang Sijun experiences a major character shift with the death of his mother figure by the hands of Mantis and grows ever more brutal with each passing day; Zhu Hongquan and Hsu Qichang die under Zhang Sijun's hand as he slips ever more into darkness. As Li Zicheng's armies march north towards Beijing, Imperial Forces including units from the Black Knights make their final stand at the battle of Ningwu Pass. Outnumbered ten to one against a rebel force one million strong, Imperial forces fall and Beijing is captured. The Ming Dynasty comes to a tragic end.
At this time, Yang Wulong learns critical new information about his own life, that he was not born as the Yang Wulong he imagined himself to be, but rather born as a member of Manchurian royalty. Also at this time, Yang Wulong, after witnessing the suicide of father and Black Knight Commander Yang Guoming decides to forfeit his position as Iron Fist commander the very night General Wu Sangui of the Ming Northern Army allies himself with Manchurian forces to counter Li Zicheng. A mass fight of epic proportions between Yang Wulong and Iron Fist Commanders Tang Siliang, Tiger, Viper ensues in the courtyard of the Forbidden City in front of tens of thousands of spectating troops. Yang Wulong emerges victorious and escapes but is tracked down by Zhang Sijun. The two brothers’ duel to the death blindfolded in a bamboo forest, with Yang Wulong emerging victorious but fatally injured…
EPISODE III: DREAMS
The War of the North reaches its ultimate climax. The allied armies formed from splinter groups of the Ming Northern Army under command of Wu Sangui and Manchurian invasion forces under Doregun begin their conquest of China proper. The epic Battle of Sanhaikwan unfolds with the complete collapse of Li Zicheng.
Yang Wulong, having sustained near fatal injuries from the duel against Zhang Sijun, makes his way out of the bamboo forest onto a road filled with refugees escaping the tides of war in the North. Near death, Yang Wulong collapses and is left for dead. None of the passers by takes notice of him until the passing of the Wulin monk named Zikong, and his disciple Yu Wencheng, the man who formerly appeared as Priest. The Wulin monks carry Yang Wulong away. One full year later, Yang Wulong awakens at Wulin Monastery in shock of the differences around him. The Qing dynasty has been established and he has to cope with the new world still ripe with conflict. Recovering from physical and emotional wounds, Yang Wulong follows Zikong's Taoist teachings and under Yu Wencheng's guidance masters the art of Wulin swordsmanship. Despite the death of the Ming dynasty and Han rule, anti-Manchurian insurgencies grow stronger under the occupation. The power of the triads emerge, and soon Yang Wulong finds himself once again as the reluctant warrior amongst the Triad's struggle during their war of Resistance. Through Wulin's ties with the underground Sihai organization, Yang Wulong meets Zhang Liang the Blind, the organization's head, and is eventually reunited with Liu Ying and Zheng Xueling. Mantis returns as a prominent figure in the Sihai organization and a strange relationship between himself and Zhang Liang spanning the length of the previous ten years is gradually brought to light. The tension between Yang Wulong and Liu Ying over their love for Zheng Xueling once again flares up and does not die down as Zheng Xueling's heart is truly split over the two men.
After months of bitter continuous in fighting amongst various triads, the power of the Sihai organization begins to falter. Zhang Liang's mysterious past begins to unveil while Manchurian forces dispatch their top man, Shiden, to the south to crush the loyalist uprisings. Tiger and Viper, former Iron Fist Commanders under Li Zicheng return as turncoat lieutenants working under Shiden. Shiden's entry is brutal as he calmly dispatches a teahouse full of Ming loyalist without breaking a sweat. Upon discovering Yang Wulong's presence in the triad networks, Shiden begins his personal quest to capture Yang Wulong, his biological brother, and return him into the family of Manchurian royalty. In light of deteriorating events coupled with his hesitant warrior nature, Yang Wulong goes into self-exile, much to the disdain of his fellow Sihai members and Yu Wencheng in particular. However, Zhang Liang's insistence that the Sihai's most talented asset be allowed to withdraw results in Yang Wulong's leave without incident. It is at this this time that Yang Wulong and Zheng Xueling rediscover their love for one another. The two embrace and Yang Wulong vows to live a life of peace, without death nor war. The Tzixing sword is passed on to Liu Ying. Fate unfortunately, as the mysterious and powerful Zhang Liang had previously predicted, was not in Yang Wulong's favor for Liu Ying's jealously over Zheng Xueling's love jeopardizes the safety of all.
Tiger and Viper operate ruthlessly under their new command, and conditions worsen for the Resistance with the arrival of Shiden's forces. Mantis, ever so observant of the relationship between Yang Wulong and Liu Ying, takes advantage of the atmosphere and begins to pursue his own agenda; that of following the dying wish of his master who died under Zhang Liang's sword. Mantis draws Liu Ying under his shadow and sets him against his brother by setting up the eventual attack of Wulin Monastery itself, an attack that is to be triggered by Liu Ying's jealous nature. Meanwhile, Yu Wencheng leads the Sihai warriors in a last ditch effort to assassinate Shiden himself much to Zhang Liang's objection. The assassination almost succeeds, but ultimately fails in bloody fashion. Zhang Liang and Mantis's history is fully realized and concludes with the death of Mantis. Liu Ying performs the unthinkable out of jealousy by offering Yang Wulong’s whereabouts to Shiden; Tiger and Viper spearhead the assault into Wulin Monastery resulting in the slaughter and the deaths of Zikong and Zheng Xueling.
Absent from Wulin during the assault, Yang Wulong is shattered and returns to confront an equally devastated and remorseful Liu Ying; he once again takes up the Tzixing sword from Liu Ying and spares his life, disowning him as a brother and embarking upon the short road of death driven by hatred and revenge. The enigmatic Zhang Liang offers Yang Wulong words of guidance before the final series of bloodbath begins. Viper is the first man to be hunted down, dying in a spectacular duel alongside his fifty or so guards in yet another teahouse battle with Yang Wulong, armed with a dozen swords. Ajige, the Red Banner commander and Yang Wulong's biological uncle is next to die as the regional Manchurian leadership attempts to strike a peace deal. At this time, Wu Sangui, the turncoat ex-Ming General, is sent from Beijing to replace Shiden as the prefect of Jiangnan. Shiden has no options but to leave Jiangnan behind as well as relinquishing his quest of reuniting with his brother.
While boarding an imperial vessel on the shores of the Yangtze River with the mountains and the imperial fleet serving as the backdrop, Yang Wulong arrives to settle his final score against the man who destroyed his life. Tiger is killed, leading to the final showdown of Winter Dreams between Yang Wulong and Shiden, a duel between brothers. The extended duel continues from a bridge down onto the river shore below. As Yang Wulong loses initially to Shiden's brute strength, Liu Ying returns for redemption but is slain. The death of Yang Wulong's final friend triggers his explosive inner strength, leading to a reversal of the balance of power and Yang Wulong's ultimate bloody victory. With so many dead, Yang Wulong walks away from the scene without interference from the Manchurian troops who look on in awe.
Winter Dreams ends the where it had begun. Up in China's central mountains in the year 1654...a decade after the bulk events. Zhang Liang returns for one final speech and disappears into the winter blizzard. Yang Wulong stands before the devastated and abandoned Wulin monastery and pays final tribute to the graves of the fallen dead.
The sun rises, breaking the darkness, and the trilogy comes to an end.