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"The Flower Banquet (Part 1)" (花都刺客 (其一), lit. 'Flower Capital Assassin (Part 1)') is the first chapter of the manhua Assassin's Creed: Dynasty written by Xu Xianzhe.

Plot summary

"The middle of the 8th century CE. Under the continuous expansion of the Arabian Empire, the Eastern Roman Empire begins its rapid decline and yet tenaciously clings onto survival. Concurrently, the Central Plain's Tang Empire is experiencing the prosperous era of Kaiyuan, becoming the most powerful dynasty since the Han: a magnificent, cosmopolitan empire."
―The opening lines of Assassin's Creed: Dynasty[src]

One morning in the Tang capital of Chang'an during the spring of 754 CE, the poet Li Bai finds himself drinking wine on a balcony beside a solitary, young stranger. Already drunk, he breaks into ramblings about his life and the affairs of the day, beginning with the Flower Banquet that is soon to commence. This is an annual contest for the most splendorous procession of flowers, with the winning team earning innumerable prizes. As Li Bai describes it, the festival means that this is not only the best time of the year to enjoy flowers in Chang'an, but it is also the only time during the year that the Imperial City is open to commoners.

Yet here the poet cannot contain his disillusionment. Having once been a member of the court literati, Li Bai caustically muses that there is nothing good to see within the palace walls, neverminding that the contest is rigged every year in favour of Right Chancellor Yang Guozhong. At his mention of Guozhong, he reminds himself of the chancellor's cousin, Yang Guifei, whose beauty is such that not even the most gorgeous of flowers can compare with. His memories of the Emperor's most beloved consort are every bit as unpleasant. After mockingly reciting the opening lines to a poem he wrote for her, he tells of how he had dreamed of becoming a famous adventurer in his youth but eventually found himself serving as an imperial scribe. Finding it humiliating to have to compose poems for Yang Guifei, he claims he deliberately ran afoul of a eunuch so as to be dismissed. Upon leaving Chang'an, he had roamed the far corners of the land, drinking his dreams away.

It is only to attend the funeral of his late friend Abe no Nakamaro, who perished in a shipwreck while attempting to return to Japan, that Li Bai has returned to Chang'an. Given this, he declares that this may as well be the last time he sees Chang'an. Throughout his venting, the stranger standing beside him did not appear to pay him any heed. Only when the poet suggests that they take in the resplendent scenery of the city brimming with peonies does the young man finally respond: "One peony is worth a thousand gold, one peony can buy the favours of officials. And how many people have had their families destroyed for the sake of one peony?"

At this, it dawns on Li Bai that this young man—in truth an Assassin—is akin to those same individuals he had known as a boy in his hometown of Suyab in the Western Regions. His interest piqued, he asks the stranger for his purpose in Chang'an, but he is only given the cryptic answer of: "to pluck flowers". Perhaps misunderstanding this to mean "flirting" or "finding love", Li Bai laughs it off as "impossible" while looking away. Beside him, the stranger puts up his hood and corrects him that "nothing is true, everything is permitted". By the time the poet glanced back at him, he had disappeared onto the streets below.

The Assassin blends in with the crowds below to stalk a fancy flower wagon being escorted by three men up ahead. The men shouts at the throngs of people to make way for the wagon, proclaiming to them that it is for Chancellor Yang Guozhong's procession and that none of them would be able to compensate for any damage dealt to it. Suddenly, the Assassin leaps at the henchman in the rear and plunges a Hidden Blade into his neck before quickly throwing both his slain target and himself into the wagon's pile of flowers. The two henchmen in front turns around in confusion to peer at the wagon and out springs the Assassin to pierce the throat of the man to his right. Before the other could react, the Assassin had tossed him onto the flower bed in one swift motion.

Blade held to the last henchman's throat, the Assassin interrogates him for the location of his boss, in the process revealing that he was avenging their violent robbery of Duling village for its prized peonies. The terrified grunt. pleading for his life, answers honestly that his boss had already entered the palace grounds and that this is meant to be the last wagon for their cortege. But the Assassin reminds him that he and his colleagues had not spared the lives of the Duling villagers and executes him. With that, he fulfills his earlier answer to Li Bai and plucks a bloodied peony from the wagon.

Behind the scenes

Translation errors

In the English edition of Assassin's Creed: Dynasty, published by Tokyopop, there are several translation errors. The most significant are:

  • When Li Bai first mentions "Right Chancellor Yang Guozhong" (右相楊國忠), the line is mistranslated as "Right-hand man, Prime Minister Yang Guozhong". Right is actually part of Yang Guozhong's title as there is also the position of Left Chancellor (左相).
  • Li E's answer to Li Bai's question as to his reason for being in Chang'an, "to pluck flowers" (折花), is mistranslated as "to destroy the flowers".


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