As Li E strolls through the Western Market of Chang'an, still with the bloodied peony in hand, he recalls to mind the tenets of the Creed and his life mantra. He reflects on how even in all the prosperity and splendour of the Tang, there are people suffering from injustice and oppression whose voices are drowned out by the lively clamour of the blissful. Though the secret community which he has bonded to is "no more", he is resolute that as long as he, alone, is there to hear those faint cries, "it is enough".
Arrival of An Lushan
He passes through a gate in time to see a company of armored horsemen galloping down a wide street, shouting at the crowd to make way for General An Lushan, Jiedushi of Fanyang, Pinglu, and Hedong. The detachment slows to a trot and march down the street. As Li E moves through through the dense crowd, he catches whispers here and there of people in awe of this "battle god of legend" and his "fiendish" guardsmen. There are those who remark of Lushan's steadfast defence of the nation at the northern borders, ensuring that the common people can rest soundly at night. Others counter that there have been rumours of Lushan plotting treason, aware that Right Chancellor Yang Guozhong had insisted to Emperor Xuanzong that he summon Lushan to the capital to test his loyalty, yet Lushan's prompt arrival appears to have swept this rumour aside as nothing more than jealous slander.
In the meantime, a group of men report to their boss, a bald man with an eyepatch who is serving as Guozhong's delegate in the competition. They wonder if they should continue waiting for the last wagon in their cortege to arrive, knowing that the festival is to commence very soon. Their boss decides against it, believing that one small missing wagon would be inconsequential as their whole presentation should already be the most beautiful. Still, his henchmen cannot help but worry that trouble had befallen it. The boss brushes this aside, citing traffic around the Western Market, but while gloating about the riches and status that await them, he suddenly senses the piercing, hostile glare of someone in the crowd. It retreats, and he convinces himself it had only been his imagination.
The Flower Banquet commences
Drums sound, excited crowds shout "It has begun! The festival has begun!", and the gates to Xingqing Palace thunder open. The people are greeted with a magnificent parade of elephants, acrobatic dancers, illusionists, and jesters, among other jovial entertainers. They blow peonies which transform into butterflies which then soar in the direction of the Flower and Calyx Pavilion's balcony. There, high above, appear the beautiful Yang Yuhuan to the cheers and wonder of commoners below. Gracefully catching one of the butterflies on her finger, she redirects it to the one-eyed delegate of Yang Guozhong, signalling to the announcers that the winner is Guozhong's "Shifting Spring Cage".
The overjoyed petty crime boss is invited into the Flower and Calyx Pavilion with his team for their awards. All the while, other guests with invitations begin making their way inside. The pavilion bursts into music, the festivities having sprung to life. Into the evening the merriment extends. Musicians and dancers are performing a song tuned to Li Bai's poem "Lyrics for Wandering in the Palace" when into the Emperor's audience chamber marches An Lushan.
Behind the scenes
In the English edition of Assassin's Creed: Dynasty, published by Tokyopop, there are numerous translation errors littered throughout the chapter. The following is a list of the most significant, though it is by no means exhaustive.
- When Li E thinks to himself, "even though I have returned to my homeland of the Great Tang. . .there are still people who suffer from injustice and oppression", this line is mistranslated as "even if I were to return to my homeland, the Tang..." Li E is in Chang'an, the capital of the Tang, so he has already returned to his homeland. The subjunctive mood indicating that his return to the Tang would be a hypothetical scenario is erroneous.
- Jiedushi is translated simply as "governor", and often misspelled "gorvernor" [sic]. Although jiedushi were military governors, the English word governor is far too broad and ambiguous, leading to the loss of specification to An Lushan's position. In later chapters, governor is also used to translate other titles, like the grand protector in charge of a commandery. The distinction between all these offices are lost because they are all rendered governor.
- An Lushan is introduced by his retinue as "Jiedushi of the Three Zhen: Fanyang, Pinglu, and Hedong". This is mistranslated as "the governor of three towns, Fanyang, Pinghu, and Hedong".
- As aforementioned, governor is an imprecise translation of jiedushi, which did not mean just any governor but the semi-autonomous warlords established by the Tang.
- While zhen (鎮) normally means 'town', it is an abbreviation of fanzhen (藩鎮) in this case. Fanzhen literally translates to 'border town' but as a whole term refers to the military districts established by the Tang government to guard the frontier. They were far larger than towns, being regional commands rivalling circuits and provinces.
- Apart from this, the territory of Pinglu (平盧) is erroneously given as "Pinghu". In simplified Chinese writing, 盧 (lú) is written 卢 which translators may have confused with the character 户 (hù, 'household').
- When the civilians in the crowd exchange whispers about An Lushan's arrival, one of them concludes that rumours of Lushan's treasonous plot is false. His companion replies, "Of course! His majesty has treated An Lushan with what one can say is kindness as immense as the mountain. How can he not know gratitude?" This is mistranslated as "Of course! His majesty is indebted to An Lushan. He must show his gratitude."
- The translation changes the entire meaning, reversing the positions of the Emperor and An Lushan. Rather than Lushan being indebted to the Emperor for his kindness, the civilian instead says that the Emperor somehow owes Lushan. But this mistranslated suggestion does not logically flow from his companion's preceding assertion about Lushan's loyalty, which he is affirming. The translator appears to have mixed up the antecedent for he.
- The grand prize of the flower contest is called 花魁 (Mandarin: huākuí, Cantonese: faa1 fui1, Japanese: oiran), which simultaneously refers to the most beautiful and spectacular flowers and the winner of this prize by extension. This term also came to refer to a class of high-ranking courtesans in Japanese society and hence oiran, the Japanese reading of the term, has been loaned into English for this meaning. The translators of the comic used this latter meaning in their translation, even adding in the margins a note not present in the original: "*oiran: a high ranking courtesan". In this context, 'flower crown' might give somewhat of an analogous meaning, but 'courtesan' is certainly not an appropriate translation.
- The announcer shouts "The crown of flowers has been decided!" to present the winner, but this is mistranslated as "The oiran* is born!". Coupled with the asterisk leading to the aforementioned note in the margin, the announcer in the translation is literally declaring that a prostitute is being born.
- The sign at the entrance to the Flower and Calyx Pavilion giving its full name is mistranslated as "Tower of Flourishing Splendour". The actual full name is "Pavilion of the Flower and Calyx's Mutual Radiance".
Translating the Creed
There is also a case where the inaccurate translation may be intentional. When Li E recites the three tenets of the Creed, the original English versions are used to translate the Chinese:
- "Stay your blade from the flesh of an innocent."
- "Hide in plain sight."
- "Never compromise the Brotherhood."
However, the principles as Li E declares them in Chinese do not have the exact same meaning:
- "Never harm an innocent." (絕不傷及無辜)
- "Never expose one's movements." (絕不暴露行蹤)
- "Never betray the (secret) society." (絕不背叛結社)
Since the tenets were originally given in English in other Assassin's Creed media, the Chinese versions of the tenets may themselves represent imprecise translations. The figurative language of the tenets in English should not be ignored, for "stay your blade from the flesh of an innocent" still prohibits harming innocents by means other than that of using a blade. However, the tenets given here in Chinese would nonetheless convey understandings of the Creed that are different in slight but substantial ways.
The second tenet in Chinese puts emphasis on hiding one's whereabouts and covering one's tracks, whereas the English puts emphasis on the art of remaining incognito even when one is present before the enemy. Both lessons are ultimately the same, but they focus on different aspects of stealth.
The third tenet is broader in English, as it encompasses actions which inadvertently and indirectly bring harm to other Assassins. Hence, Altaïr Ibn-La'Ahad breaches this tenet in Assassin's Creed when his hasty return to Masyaf leads the Templars to the very base of his order, putting the lives of his comrades in danger. On the other hand, the tenet in Chinese implies that only actions which deliberately and knowingly bring harm to the Assassins is a violation. While one might interpret betrayal more loosely to involve deliberate, bad faith actions that indirectly harm the Assassins, it should still exclude good faith acts of incompetence, inexperience, or conflicts in duty that endanger allies in a mission. Mere defection is also sometimes seen in some organizations as an act of betrayal, but the English tenet gives more room to the idea that walking away from the Assassin life is acceptable as long as it does not jeopardize the Assassins.
Perhaps more noteworthy is that the Chinese does not use the name Brotherhood (兄弟會) in this instance, whether to preserve a certain rhythm or for lore-related reasons. Instead, Li E calls the Hidden Ones by a gender-neutral term, 結社 (Mandarin: jiéshè, Cantonese: git3 se5), meaning 'association' or 'society', such as a secret society. However, the English translation reverts this choice back to Brotherhood.