The film opens with a scene of Cao Cao attending Guan Yu's funeral — Guan's severed head is buried with a wooden statue in place of his body. The scene flashbacks to 20 years ago: After Guan Yu had been separated from his sworn brother Liu Bei, he temporarily served Cao Cao while he waited for news of Liu's whereabouts. At the Battle of Baima between Cao Cao and his rival Yuan Shao, Guan Yu slew Yuan's general Yan Liang and lifted the siege on Baima. As a reward, Cao Cao suggested to Emperor Xian to grant Guan Yu a marquis title and promote him to a higher rank.
Liu Bei's family, including his concubine Qilan, were staying in Cao Cao's base together with Guan Yu. Cao Cao showered Guan Yu with precious gifts, hoping that the general will be touched and will decide to remain by his side, but Guan refused to renounce his loyalty to Liu Bei. When Guan Yu received news that Liu Bei had taken shelter under Yuan Shao, he negotiated with Cao Cao to release Liu's family. Cao Cao agreed, but Qilan remained behind with Guan Yu. As Cao Cao was aware that Guan Yu was secretly in love with Qilan, he tricked Guan into consuming food spiked with aphrodisiac, in the hope that Guan would express his feelings to Qilan and rape her when she was immobilised. However, Guan Yu managed to maintain his composure and refrain from dishonouring his sworn brother's concubine. He and Qilan made preparations to leave Cao Cao after he knew Liu Bei's whereabouts from a messenger sent by Liu himself.
Cao Cao's followers strongly opposed their lord's decision to allow Guan Yu to leave as they felt that Guan might become a threat to their lord in the future. Despite this, Cao Cao gave a strict order that no one was to stop Guan Yu. However, along the way, Guan Yu encountered resistance and had to fight his way through the passes. Guan Yu slew Kong Xiu, Han Fu, Meng Tan, Bian Xi, Wang Zhi and Qin Qi, consecutively after they attempted to stop him. It was eventually revealed that it was Emperor Xian, and not Cao Cao, who issued the order to kill Guan Yu. Before reuniting with Liu Bei, Guan Yu agreed to kill Yuan Shao but entered a dilemma on whether to stay or leave in favour of his relationship with Qilan. However, before Qilan left, she pretended that she loved Guan Yu and said that she would ask for Liu Bei's consent for them to marry. Her true intention, however, was actually to stop Guan Yu from helping Cao Cao. Guan Yu refused and was stabbed by Qilan before Emperor Xian sent assassins to kill him. After a final grim exchange of words, Guan Yu turned his back on Cao Cao and the emperor. He headed to reunite with Liu Bei, fighting against his lord's rivals for the next two decades until his death.
The scene then turns back to Guan Yu's funeral. Cao Cao is sad and sheds tears for the loss of his friend. Before the film ends, Cao Cao makes some final remarks on how not he, but others such as Sun Quan, Liu Bei and Zhuge Liang, are responsible for Guan Yu's death. In a post credits scene, Guan Yu is seen wielding his Green Dragon Crescent Blade upright and stroking his long beard.
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