Ravaging Times

chapter 1

Over eighteen hundred years ago, a comet streaked across the night sky over the Central Plain. Not only did it bring death, it set the ambition of the lords on fire.
Decades of war between their ambitions…

(“central plain” is more or less synonymous to “middle kingdom”, but has clearer connection to the title “fiery phoenix light up the plains”)

killed one-seventh of China’s population

but also created legends.

After the comet passed, the sparks were enough to lit up the plains.

People believe firmly in the meaning of dreams.

There once was a man of the Cao clan who dreamed of three horses eating from the same trough.
The spoken word for trough sounds the same as Cao, so the man was afraid he would be devoured by a horse.
(puns and superstitious, at least in China it’s a big deal)

And because of that, he avoided anyone whose name sounds the same as horse – such as the surname Ma – even going so far as to kill them!
(surname “ma” is obvious, but surname “sima” also contains “ma”, that’s the foreshadowing)

But a dream is just a dream! Why do we wallow in them…

Those who believe too firmly in dreams are all weaklings. That’s why I never believe in dreams!

The funny thing is, lately I’ve been having a recurring dream- one that is unbelievably crazy!

Everything in that dream was beyond imagination! Was it a dream? Or an omen from fate? …I don’t know.

However, I actually hoped that this dream becomes a reality… I bet it’ll be very interesting!

[?]: Charge! Everyone!

[?]: Kill! Kill!

[?]: Don’t let him near the Grand Tutor!

[?]: Don’t let him into the grand hall!

{sfx: shoom~}

{sfx: shoom~}
[?]: Fire! He’s shooting fire again!

{sfx: shoom~}
[?]: Ahh! Is he a monster?

[?]: Father! Please!

[?]: It’s not too late to flee!

[?]: Stop trying to persuade me…

[?]: This is fate. No one can escape fate!

[?]: After my death, Your Majesty, you’ll be free of my torment!

[?]: Laugh!

[?]: You should be laughing!

[?]: Today marks my end, as was destined!

[?]: Father…

[?]: Just like how this reign under your clan…

[?]: was destined to belong to my Sima clan!

[?]: Accept your fate, boy!

[?]: Kneel to the future Emperor!

[?]: Stand up, my sons!

[?]: We Sima clan are destined to tower above!

[?]: No one can change fate!

[?]: No, except for that man who has come to kill your father!

{sfx: shoom~}

A monster who’s crazier than a madman!

[?]: Huff!

{sfx: shoo~}

[?]: You’re here!
(“you came”)

{sfx: ta!}

[?]: You’re finally here!

[?]: Here he comes! Get ready!

{sfx: ka~}

[?]: He’s trapped!

[?]: Now’s our chance! Go!

[?]: Everyone, attack from both sides!

[?]: Spear him to death! Kill!

{sfx: YAH~ YAH~}

{sfx: Hoo~}

[?]: No way you’re unkillable!
(“I don’t believe…”)

{sfx: ka~}

{roar sfx: HOH~}

{sfx: ka~}

[?]: It’s falling! Run!

{sfx: hoo~}
[?]: Ahh!

{sfx: pong~}

{sfx: hoo~}

{sfx: shoo~}

{sfx: huff~}

[?]: You have certainly kept your word!
(“you indeed obey our promise”)

{sfx: ka~}

{sfx: pong~}

MASTER!

I’M HERE!

{banner flapping sfx: pa~ pa~ pa~}

{banner flapping sfx: pa~ pa~ pa~}

[?]: Handicapped, Warrior!

{banner reads: Handicapped And Cornered, No Way Out}
{banner reads: Warriors Routed, Like a Landslide}
(“army defeated…”; I’m still conflicted about how to translate this branding, like so many other iconic lines in the series, this one never seems exactly right for me; for the sake of consistency and maintaining fan-translation legacy that was passed down for over 10 years, I’m keeping “handicapped”, but “crippled” or “crippling” is starting to sound much better/useful for me; “Crippled and Cornered; Warriors routed like a landslide”)

[?]: Come!

[?]: Give our destiny

[?]: its perfect ending!

{sfx: ka~}

{sfx: huff~}

[?]: DIE!

AHHHHH~

The Grand Tutor Sima died that day.

Some said he was run through with spears, while others said he was burned to death!

Opinions differed, but one thing was certain…

They have all seen…

a Fiery Phoenix Light Up the World
(“fire phoenix set-ablaze plain”, the title of the series)

The Burning of Luoyang: chapter 1, The Awakening of A King

Just then, I’ve dreamed of the fiery phoenix again…

Talks of important matters put me to sleep because they were always full of cliché and non-constructive rambling.

However, I would grow bolder after every such nap.

And,

I couldn’t believe just how bold I became.

This was my conclusion-

[?]: Kill him!

[?]: Cousin
[?]: Ah! My Qin Dynasty jade horse!

[?]: Be rid of him once and for all. No more headaches.

[?]: It’s a mess!
[?]: Zhong Da, are you joking?
(Sima Yi’s courtesy name is Zhong Da}

[?]: Xu Lin is Dong Zhuo’s top adviser. No one dares to touch him!
(“…number one braintrust…”)

[?]: Not to mention he came to recruit us under Dong Zhuo’s order. This is a rare opportunity.
[?]: A bright future awaits us Sima clan if Dong Zhuo conquers the world!

[?]: Dong Zhuo is holding the Emperor hostage to control the lords, with Lü Bu and Xu Lin as his brawn and brain,
[?]: no one in or outside of the court could do anything but submit to him!

[Sima Yi]: The Central Plain has been around for thousands of years. No dynasty has lasted more than a few hundreds. New talents are born every generation. The demise of Imperial Han won’t surprise me at all!
[SMY]: Dong Zhuo is merely playing his tiny part to start the fire.

[?]: After Dong Zhuo promoted the fourteenth prince to the throne,

[?]: such unorthodox practice will surely incite ambitious warlords to oppose him.

[?]: If they aim to attack Luoyang, all of their forces will occupy Henei.

[?]: They’ll pillage the region in the name of “Overthrowing Dong.”

[?]: As the wealthiest of Henei, the Sima clan will be singled out.

[SMY]: The short-term fame means little when we’re stuck between Dong Zhuo and the opposing warlords.
[SMY]: The loss will be incalculable!

[?]: Then a tactful refusal would do.
[?]: Why kill Xu Lin?
[?]: I’m afraid it’s… unwise.

[?]: Killing Xu Lin is like severing one of Dong Zhuo’s arms. A vicious tiger without claws is less scary.

[?]: The act will also make the warlords think twice about raiding our assets.

[?]: Yes! This strategy is perfect!
[?]: Yes!

[?]: Third manager, remember how Zhong Da always managed to deflect various warlords’ demands of funding and supplies?

[third uncle]: Even the owners of eighty shops of seven streets approve of this.

[third uncle]: We’re only good at handling money. If you could, Zhong Da, go for it!

[third uncle]: Fear not, big brother, we’ve got Zhong Da!

[?]: Sigh. Are you sure?
(“…really possible?”)

[SMY]: Fourth uncle, an annual tribute of one million to Dong Zhuo will squeeze us dry within five years.

[SMY]: Money or fame, fourth uncle, which do you want?

[fourth uncle]: Money of course!

[SMY]: Hahaha! Fourth uncle is so honest!

[SMY]: A toast to you!

If it was between money and life,

how would they choose then?

[?]: Have my respect- you number one lazy butt of the world!
{hat sign reads: number four in the world}
(“si” or “four” sounds similar to “death” in Chinese)

[?]: Who said we gotta train sword-fighting first thing in the morning?

[SMY]: Can’t you see I was discussing important matters with the elders?

[?]: We saw nothing,
[?]: other than you sleeping till now, second brother!
{hat sign reads: number three in the world}
{hat sign reads: number five in the world}
{hat sign reads: number six in the world}
{hat sign reads: number seven in the world}

[?]: What’s the punishment for being inarticulate?
[5th]: Kill him!
[SMY]: What’s all this nonsense?

[SMY]: Punish me? Think again!
(“want deal with me, not easy”)
[SMY]: You can’t even wipe your own ass without my help!

[4th]: Shutup, that’s three years ago…
(“nonsense, I three years ago could [do it] myself…”)
Haha!

[4th]: Guards! Kill him!
[?]: Need some more wiping?
{tickle}
{tickle}

[SMY]: Back off! Stinky brat!

[?]: Finishing move!
[?]: Seventh, battering ram!

{sfx: pong~}

[SMY]: Damn you brats!

[?]: G… good morning!

[?]: Young Master, I’m ready!

[SMY]: Sleeping on demand. Little devils!

[SMY]: Ouch!
(“hurts”)

[?]: Can’t you tell they’re faking?

Hee~

[?]: Who knew you’ve been getting ready since meeting Xu Lin last year…

[SMY]: Take this ring of command.

[SMY]: I want that top adviser’s trip to be his last!

[?]: Yessir!

[4th]: Sister Meng, you’ll be sorry if you ever tell on us again!

[Meng]: What sister? I’m a guy.

[4th]: Nonsense. Eunuchs don’t count as men!

[SMY]: If you’re willing to dress up, Xiao Meng, your beauty will be out of this world!
(“xiao” or “little” is a common diminutive prefix for an affectionate reference to someone)

{galloping sfx: da da da}

[Meng]: I…

[M]: am not a woman!

[SMY]: Ugly mutt. Who let you in?

Here again to listen to me speak the unspeakable?
{sfx: huff huff}

[SMY]: This is the one hundredth time I’ve had this dream…

I don’t know why I’m having this dream.
Perhaps this is an omen from fate?

It has been the hundredth time, as if it doesn’t want me to forget…

Never forget that crazy fate!

Why is that man me? Or is it that…

I am him?

[SMY]: Is this fate that no one can change?

What is our fate? By Heaven’s design? Or our own? …No.

We have but one fate – death.

Death is not scary. The goal of our birth is to move toward death. The scary part is that between life and death…

WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?

(I know the last bit feels like Chinglish in syntax, but that Chen-style is just not the same if I make the word order more conventional)

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