When Cao Cao was discussing matters with his ministers, a servant stepped up to him and whispered into his ear. Cao Cao smiled and said to the guards at the gate, ‘Send him in!’ Zhao Yun entered the hall wielding a steel spear. He kneeled and unwrapped his bag; inside lay several bloody heads with their eyes still open. ‘Ha! Not bad!’ praised Cao Cao. Sima Yi handed Zhao Yun, the mercenary assassin, his rewards and a treasure box. She said, ‘New job. The name’s Liu Bei.’ ‘Do you want him dead? Or do you want him to beg to die?’ ‘This man might obstruct Master Cao Cao’s domination, but Master Cao Cao sees talent in him, so we’re sending you to deliver this gift to him. We’ll see if this is enough to rope him in. If he refuses…’ She did not finish the sentence, and Zhao Yun did not ask any further. All he had to know was what he had to do to get paid.
As a professional assassin, Zhao Yun had built up his own web of connections. It included exclusive informants who knew of Liu Bei’s whereabouts. Zhao Yun was told that Liu Bei was heading to a village, and he arrived there before Liu Bei did. He watched from a distance as Liu Bei set foot in the village. Moments later, Liu Bei began to deliver a speech about the meaning of life and Cao Cao’s crimes, and an audience gathered around him. Listening to Liu Bei’s speech, most of the crowd cheered and nodded. Zhao Yun thought, ‘No wonder Cao Cao cares about this man so much. I can see the charisma in his leadership.’ After the crowd dispersed, Zhao Yun finally got the chance to talk to Liu Bei.
’Cao Cao sent me to look for you,’ said Zhao Yun as he strode confidently towards Liu Bei. ‘Cao Cao?’ Upon hearing the name, the girl and the boy behind Liu Bei turned around nervously and stood before Liu Bei. The girl pointed her Green Dragon Crescent Blade at Zhao Yun and asked furiously, ‘What are you up to?’ ‘This is a treasure box from Cao Cao. It serves as a token of his wish to become your ally. I'm sure this contains something worth a lot of money.’ The girl replied in disgust, ‘Humph! He thinks he can buy us?’ Liu Bei signalled Guan Yu to step back and grabbed the box, saying, ‘I’ll bite. Let’s see what he’s got.’
As Liu Bei opened the box, the girl heard the sound of flints clashing each other. She yelled, ‘Get away from it!’ But it was too late for them to react. The box exploded. In a blink, Zhao Yun felt heat all over his skin, and his muscles tingled in pain. He blacked out before he could figure what had just happened…
Days passed before Zhao Yun came to. He opened his eyes and found himself lying in an unfamiliar room. He tried to straighten up, but the pain from his injuries stopped him, and he lay down again in exhaustion. At that moment, the door opened, and Liu Bei came in with two girls. He stepped up and helped Zhao Yun sit up, saying, ‘We’ve just staunched the blood. I suggest you stay still. Cao Cao sacrificed your life to kill us. Judging from your reaction at that moment, you knew nothing about the explosion. Oh, Zhuge. Please.’ The girl he called Zhuge flicked her hair and walked up. She touched Zhao Yun’s wrist and murmured, ‘His pulse is unstable. He needs to take some herbal soup.’ ‘Why did you save me?’ ‘Every life matters,’ answered Liu Bei staring into Zhao Yun’s eyes. ‘You all are a bunch of weirdos,’ said Zhao Yun coldly, but Liu Bei replied gently with a smile, ‘We’re driven to act by our hearts.’
Zhao Yun stayed with them for several months before he fully recovered from his injuries thanks to Liu Bei, Zhuge Liang and Guan Yu’s care. During that period, Zhao Yun observed them closely. It changed him gradually. He was a cold-blooded killer who would kill anyone for money before he met Liu Bei. Now he began to doubt his way of life. Zhao Yun decided not to kill Liu Bei and left quietly on a silent night.
’You’re escaping from your own fate if you leave like this,’ Liu Bei’s voice came from Zhao Yun’s behind. Zhao Yun turned around and found Liu Bei and his comrades standing there; Liu Bei stepped up and stared into Zhao Yun’s eyes, saying, ‘To root out Cao Cao’s regime, I...the people need your power.’ At a loss, Zhao Yun looked at Liu Bei’s outstretched hand with hesitation.
Guan Yu leaned over and said excitedly, ‘It’s fine if you feel lost. We’ll help you find yourself together.’ Zhao Yun looked into Guan Yu’s eyes and sighed, thinking this might be his true destination. He reached out to shake Liu Bei’s hand and said, ‘You saved my life. I’ll help you destroy Cao Cao!’