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    Shan Wu Ling

Daughter of the Shan merchant clan, and fiancee (later wife) of Sima Yi. Like Sima Yi, Shan Wu Ling possesses genius-level cunnings and ruthlessness, as well as a drive to gain profits for her clan's business with little respect for common ethics. Thus, similar to Sima Yi, she is the clan's strategist and the advisor-commander of its private assassin squad, the Defeated Generals.

Under her leadership, the Shan clan pursues a different policy from that of the rival Sima clan: they seek to associate with prominent warlords, such as Cao Cao and Sun Jian, to expand their influence, and the Sima's estrangement with such affiliation to preserve wealth is looked down upon as unambitious miserliness. As such, Shan Wu Ling doesn't hold Sima Yi in very high regards, and secretly aims to take over the Sima clan once they marry. They finally meets in a mission to aid Sun Ce conquer the Eastern region, during which they are captured by Yuan Shu's advisor. When Wu Ling is humiliated by the advisor for trying to seduce him to get out of this pinch, Sima Yi, moved by her courage and noble intentions to protect her family, speaks up in her defense and genuinely accepts her as his wife. After he outwits and kills the advisor, she learns that he's Sima Yi and falls in love with him.

  • All Is Well That Ends Well: Although Sima Yi saves her life, it's still a rather dick move on his part to blackmail her family to make up for his monetary loss in this rescue mission. But she's already in love with him and they're about to marry and unite the two families anyway, so the incident is Easily Forgiven.
  • Arranged Marriage: To Sima Yi. She does not have any particular regard for him and sees her betrothal merely as a means to take over the Sima clan.
    • Perfectly Arranged Marriage: Once both show their colors to each other, it doesn't take them long to realize how much their personalities, interests and life philosophies have in common, and their political engagement changes into a loving relationship.
  • Big Damn Heroine: Fakes insanity to save Sima Yi from being ratted out by Xu Ding's spy in volume 25. She also secretly harbors the Sima brothers, and arranges for her foster father to protect the remaining Sima clan's servants. With her support, Sima Yi survives Xu Ding's manhunt and makes a spectacular comeback in volume 26.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Appears very early on in volume 6, but does not returns until volume 15 and is revealed to be Sima Yi's betrothed in volume 16.
  • Cool Big Sis: To Sun Quan.
  • Distaff Counterpart: To her fiancé Sima Yi. Both are intelligent and manipulative, Young and in Charge of their family businesses, considered very dishonorable by common standards, and willing to go to extreme ends to expand the clan's influence. Though unlike Sima Yi, she's not averse to making big investments in warlords such as the Cao and Sun clan.
  • Genius Bonus: The historical Zhang Chun Hua's mother comes from the Shan clan. With her foster revealed to be a Zhang, it might explain Wu Ling's dubious "name change" into Zhang Chun Hua in future texts.
  • Happily Married: To Sima Yi.
  • Historical Domain Character: Don't let her name fool you. She's also known as Zhang Chun Hua, Sima Yi's historical wife.
  • Femme Fatale: Attempts to be one to seduce Yuan Shu's advisor. It doesn't work, but Sima Yi appreciates the efforts.
  • Lady Macbeth
  • Mad Love: Post-Sima clan massacre, she fakes insanity over losing her beloved fiancé to deceive her relatives and have a good excuse to dispose of Xu Ding's spies in order to host Sima Yi and his brothers in secret.
  • Rich Bitch
  • Right in Front of Me: When she realizes the manservant she's been casually leaking her unsavory marriage plans (among others) to is actually her fiancé in disguise.
  • Rescue Romance: Falls in love with Sima Yi after he defends her honor and saves her from Yuan Shu's advisor.
  • The Woman Behind the Man: She's the brains of Shan clan and advises the Tian clan (relatives on her mother's side) on their political endeavors with Cao Cao.
  • Underestimating Badassery: Thinks Sima Yi is just a typical rich boy with a case of Small Name, Big Ego before she knows him. That she has never actually met him before, her only reliable source of information Liu Da holds a prejudice towards the family's Only in It for the Money policy and looks down on their lack of ambition in general and Sima Yi in a servant disguise purposefully gives her an exaggerated account of his achievements (or so she believes)note  do not help matters. Cue a volume later, Sima Yi easily outwits a man who outwitted and humiliated her earlier and kills him, saving her life.
  • Violently Protective Girl Friend: Will do anything to aid and protect the love of her life, up to and including killing someone with her own hands (which apparently is true to actual history!).

    Liu Da
He appears in volume 15 as the leader of an assassin group ('Defeated Generals') serving Shan Wu Ling and her relatives the Tian clan. In the same page, he's revealed as the founder and 1st generation leader of the Crippled Legion, and also the original legendary one-eyed assassin.

  • Chekhov M.I.A.: He's first mentioned in the hostage rescue arc (volume 1-5) as a legendary assassin whose mantle Huo has taken up. Then he shows up in volume 15, very much alive and still kicking ass, and he introduces himself as Dian Wei's boss.
  • Cool Old Guy
  • Cool Teacher: He has a good eye for recruiting talented assassins who will become great assets for warlords in the future. Some of them are Liaoyuan Huo who is Zhao Yun, a great general for Cao Cao named Dian Wei, and generals Xu Sheng and Pan Zhang who will go on to serve Sun Quan. He also tutors Shan Wu Ling's younger oath-brother, who is actually Sun Quan.
  • Evil Mentor: He's not really evil per se, but is definitely not a nice person.
  • Eyepatch of Power: Sports one when he was in charge of the Crippled Legion.
  • Heel Realization: At Huo's glorious Heel–Face Turn at Changban slope, specifically after Huo stabs him through Lady Mi to retrieve Adou, Liu Da comes to realize and acknowledge that his student has not only finally found his path in life but even surpassed him; in comparison Liu Da's own opportunitism makes him come off as the bad guy. It comes with him getting old and mellowing out a bit.
  • Jerkass: A coldly practical, calculating and full of Genre Savvy jerkass.
  • I Fight for the Strongest Side!: He serves Shan clan instead of returning to Sima clan because he sees the latter as full of greedy, unambitious misers.
  • Ironic Echo: When he first met Liaoyuan Huo, he tried to sacrifice the boy to kill his target (by running them through with a sword) but Huo didn't die, instead beating Liu Danote  and asking to be taken in as a subordinatenote ; as Liu Da put it, "I bought a bun and another me that day." Decades later at Changban slope, to retrieve Adou from Liu Da's grasp Huo turns on him and stabs him through Lady Mi, imitating what Liu Da did that day... but this time Huo renounces his old ways and his assassin identity and becomes Zhao Yun for real.
  • Living Legend
  • Retired Badass
  • The Worf Effect: His first on-screen fight against a hundred-man squad of soldiers (as well as his off-screen curbstomping them) shows that his legendary skills as the original one-eyed assassin have not diminished one bit, but he barely lasts two panels against Taishi Ci and even less against his own student Liaoyuan Huo. All the better to establish the badasses they are.
  • Would Hurt a Child

    Liu Xie/Emperor Xian of Han
  • A Child Shall Lead Them: Deconstructed. He has royal blood, his capabilities are beyond his older brother and both Dong Zhuo and Cao Cao have acknowledged he has the makings of a great emperor, but circumstances beyond his control ensure he would never be more than a Puppet King. To start with, the bloody background of his coronation and Dong Zhuo's backing of him made his claim illegitimate in some warlords' eyes. Then there's the fact that by his time the Imperial clan has lost their clout due to the previous Emperor really sucking at his job, and Imperial powers having been delegated to distant relatives whose bases are too far away from the Imperial seat to be of any actual help. Lastly, a time of great social turmoil when every warlord worth their scent are looking out to be top dog and everyone is a Bastard at some point is not a good time for a royal child doing his first days of ruling. Naturally, all his potentials do not save him from falling into the Puppet King stereotype.
  • Authority in Name Only
  • Badass Decay: He shows potential of a capable Emperor under Dong Zhuo's tutelage, but reduces himself to a submissive figurehead under Li Jue and Guo Si.
    • He has a brief makeover when he subdues Cao Cao in volume 19note , but Guandu comes up and it turns out Cao Cao has taken the reins again.
  • Catchphrase: "[insert anti-heroic warlord name here]——!!!!! I resent that you are so late!" Said to both Dong Zhuo and Cao Cao, to which the latter comments that it's just his way of shifting blame for the fall of Han from useless Emperors to warmongering vassals.
  • Just a Kid: Cao Cao joins the Emperor "escorting" arc believing him to be this, thus malleable to his manipulation and influence. Liu Xie quickly disabuses him of this notion via slap and a scenery-chewing Breaking Speech worthy of Dong Zhuo that puts Cao Cao and his soldiers to their knees. From that point on, their communications are always conducted via Xun Yu.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: His supporting Lu Bu's scheme to assassinate Dong Zhuo was one of the worst examples in-storynote .
  • Large Ham: Manages to play at it evenly with Dong Zhuo, and beats Cao Cao in what's very close to a Ham-to-Ham Combat during the Emperor "escorting" arc in volume 19. As Cao Cao remarked after that, had said Imperial spirit not been in short supply since the time of this Emperor's fathernote , "how could the world be in pieces now? And how could anti-heroes like me fight each other for our own gains?" Sadly, the display of his Imperial spirit stops then and there.
  • Puppet King
  • Offered the Crown: More like forced to have the crown, after Dong Zhuo entered the capital and dethroned his older brother. Given that said brother behaved much like a selfish Royal Brat who cared more for his pleasure than his kingship, Dong Zhuo's choice worked out better than it first looked.
  • Wise Beyond Their Years: With all the years he spent living under Li Jue's, Guo Si's and later Cao Cao's thumbs, it's hard to remember that he was just a wee kid when Dong Zhuo took over the palace and placed him on the throne, and (contrary to most people's belief) Liu Xie managed to put his foot down to the seasoned war veteran, gained his respect and actually maintained an equal relationship with him as well as his usurper Lu Bu until Jia Xu came. Sadly, wisdom and great potentials for political maneuvering just do not translate to actual authority, especially not with ambitious servants like Cao Cao around.

    Water-Mirror/Shuijing/Sima Hui
The headmaster of a secluded institution famous for having produced many great advisors in the previous era. He's the teacher of the Eight Geniuses.

  • Cool Old Guy
  • Cool Teacher
  • The Chessmaster: Yuan Shao implied he had seen through the Yuan's ambition long before they surfaced after Dong Zhuo's rebellion and had gathered the Eight Geniuses as a counter to Yuan Fang. Shujing was silent on this point, but the fact that he also hid the true identity of Yang Xiu from Yuan Fang, allowing him to eventually set up Fang's downfall in Guandu is pretty telling on its own. Yang Xiu even lampshaded it when he met Shujing after Guandu, saying that his murder of Yuan Fang was in deferrence to Shujing's wish.
  • Femme Fatalons
  • Genius Cripple: Old, blind as a bat - and the mentor of the eight most brilliant men in Ravages.
  • Old Master
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: His real name is Sima Hui (unrelated to those Sima folks, by the way), but people only ever call him 'Shuijing' (Water-Mirror).
  • Opposed Mentors: He and the leader of Northern Taping cult, Zuo Ci, to Yuan Fang.
  • What Could Have Been: He once rejected Sima Yi's enrollment into his school because he found the boy to be lazy (to be fair, sleeping on the headmaster's couch on your first day in his house is not exactly proving yourself star student material, even if you're just too tired after reading his books, Sima Yi). His opinion of the boy did not change until years later, when Sima Yi solved the puzzle in Guandong camp with Zhuge Liang, beating the four other students in attendance.
  • You Remind Me of X: In a conversation with Cao Cao, he compares the man to "that boy"note  and Yuan Fang in talents (as in, Cao Cao and "that boy" did not have to study under Water Mirror to be brilliant, while Yuan Fang has surpassed his classmates in the opening act of Guandu) and in personality (the former two men are similarly unlikable jerks while Yuan Fang has become onenote ).

    Yu Ji
  • Archenemy: To Water-Mirror and the Sun clan. They later team up (the former via his proxy, Pang Tong) to destroy him.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: With three Zhang brothers, Zuo Ci and three unnamed others, they are the "Eight Eccentrics". The first five have all had nefarious records - the Zhangs started a civil war, Zuo Ci leads the Taiping cult in the North and avenges Yu Ji by killing Sun Ce, Yu Ji himself is a personal enemy of Water-Mirror and his sect converts people to false religion - but it's unknown how evil the remaining three are.
  • Dark Messiah
  • Driven to Suicide
  • Drunk with Power
  • Emperor Doctor: The ancient-Han variant of this trope; a former skilled doctor turned religious leader commanding a military force of tens of thousands.
  • Evil Mentor: Huo Tuo learns medical arts from him, but thankfully not his ideal or religion.
  • Fallen Hero: Until his position as a religious leader made him evil, he was just a doctor trying to save lives.
  • Heel Realization: When Zhou Yu essentially begs for the "Great Saint" to cure Sun Ce and offers the Taiping cult safe refuge outside of the eastern region, Yu Ji answers that his once-healing hands have now simply become weapons of death. Moments later, he commits suicide by choking himself.
  • Mind Manipulation/Master of Illusion: He's got some serious expertise with this, with the help of opium smoke and all. In case you wonder, yes he can brainwash people into being his informant/assassin this way. Comes in full set with:
    • Hypnotic Eyes
    • and Trigger Phrase: "Hunting", which when said by Sun Ce will trigger the hypnotized person into an Ax-Crazy mode and attack him.
    • At the end of his arc, the readers learn that he might have Psychic Powers after all — it's just not strong enough to affect people like Cheng Pu — if the last hypnosis he placed on Zhou Yu to let him see Sun Ce's parting spirit is anything to go by.
  • Red Baron: "Great Saint".
  • Scam Religion: His Taiping sect gives people cake and blessed water to treat their illness. In the occasions they are cured, it's usually thanks to Yu Ji being a really good doctor and giving out decent health advices.
    • Cult of Personality: With Yu Ji at the top, hailed as its 'Great Saint' and whoever believes in his 'power' will be saved from their illnesses and death.
    • Religion of Evil: What it became during Yellow Scarves rebellion of the Zhang brothers. With a massive number of followers ready to go to war inspired by their blind faith in Yu Ji, it's seen as a threat by the reigning warlords of many regions.
  • Villain with Good Publicity

    Zuo Ci 

  • Avenging the Villain: He reveals in the climatic battle of Chibi that he only joined Cao Cao to get revenge for Yuan Shao and Yuan Fang.
  • Best Served Cold: He surrendered to Cao Cao and waited for seven years for a chance of payback for the deaths of Yuan Shao and Yuan Fang. He got his revenge when he pretended to kill Kan Ze to lure the overconfident Cao camp into a battle on Chibi river with Zhou Yu's fleets, ending in Cao Cao's first ignominious defeat in years, just as when his Taiping infiltrators in Cao camp began undermining the force at Cao Cao's base.
  • Chekhov's Boomerang: He had a minor but significant debut at the end of the Sun Ce arc to kill Sun Ce, then again at the climax of Guandu arc to incite Cao Cao's Qingzhou troops against him. He returns in Chibi arc, this time with a much more plot-turning role.
  • Diabolus ex Machina: To the entire Sun Ce vs. Taiping cult arc. Just when Sun Ce has completely wiped out the southern Taiping sect and come out on top in this enduring battle of wits with Yu Ji, Zuo Ci appears out of nowhere in Yuan Shao's camp and orders Sun Ce assassinated to avenge Yu Ji. Then happens against in Chibi arc where he appears on Cao Cao's side to foil Kan Ze's espionage, but it turns out the joke is on Cao Cao this time.
  • Didn't See That Coming: Sima Yi, who joined him in sabotaging Cao Cao's war plan in Chibi, intervened at the last moment when Zuo Ci was about to complete his revenge and order his henchman San Chuan to unceremoniously kill him off. Because Sima Yi had always wanted to stick to his cross-generational usurpation master scheme, on his own terms. Given Sima Yi's notorious record of turning on anti-Cao Cao detractors shortly after taking their sides, the only bigger suprise here is how Zuo Ci could not have seen this coming.
  • Emperor Scientist: In the same vein as Yu Ji, only he's even more dangerous.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Cao Cao found out the hard way that he did not take the deaths of Yuan Shao and Yuan Fang well.
  • Evil Genius: Zuo Ci has also proven himself to be a much more effective villain than Yu Ji in every way.
    • Whereas Yu Ji comes out with his ambitions early on and directly challenges the reigning warlord Sun Ce for control of the Eastern provinces with attempted assassination and military coups, only to be constantly one-upped and finally killed, Zuo Ci befriended the mighty Yuan Shao, kept a low profile in the North while his sect steadily expanded with Yuan Shao's blessings.
    • Regarding infiltration tactics, Yu Ji's rats in Sun Ce's ranks failed to contribute anything to his coups when they're up against the superior military minds of Sun camp. Zuo Ci, on the other hand, waited long until his men has acquired enough power to strike. When he turns up in Guandu arc, Cao Cao's formerly loyal Qingzhou troops (who used to be Taiping men) did a Face–Heel Turn and heavily detrimented Cao Cao's strategic position.
    • Even in shaman skills, Zuo Ci's also got Yu Ji beat. Both men rely on their advanced medical knowledge (specifically, some sorts of hypnotizing drugs) to brainwash people, and so far as it's shown Yu Ji's "hypnosis" could only control weak-minded individuals and has little to no effects on people like Cheng Pu. Yet, in chapter 433 where Zuo Ci finally demonstrates his shaman showmanship, he manages to cause Cao Hong and Cao Cao's entire elite guard team to hallucinate into attacking each other, giving him leeway to attack a weakened Cao Cao.
  • Evil Mentor: To Yuan Fang, being a long-time associate of his father Yuan Shao. A flashback to their younger days revealed that he agreed to tutor Yuan Fang as an acceptance of Yuan Shao's challenge to rear the ultimate Tyke Bomb for the Yuan clan.
  • Hero Killer: What Yu Ji and badasses like Gan Ning failed to do against Sun Ce, he did. He's also the one that came closest to personally killing Cao Cao, something not even Lu Bu or Sun Ce have managed before, and would have succeeded had Sima Yi stopped him in time.
  • Heel–Face Turn: In Chibi arc, it turns out that he has joined Cao Cao's side during the interval after Guandu but in reality he was bidding time to wait for a chance to avenge Yuan Shao and Yuan Fang.
  • Killed Off for Real: Courtesy of a painful Neck Snap by the assassin San Chuan.
  • Master of Illusion: Even better than Yu Ji, to the point that even the likes of Cao Hong got brainwashed while Yu Ji failed to brainwash Cheng Pu.
  • Unwitting Pawn: He is set up to be the biggest threat to Cao Cao's life in the Retreat at Huarong Path but ultimately became just another stepping stone to power for Sima Yi, who saw his vengeance coming, played along with it and turned against him at the decisive moment to win charisma point from the Cao loyalists.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: After he joined Cao Cao, he endeared himself to the Emperor using his medical expertise and knowledge in occultism, cultivating great reputation in the court. All the better to stab Cao Cao in the back with, when the time for revenge is ripe.

Four Commanderies Arc

General Trope

  • We ARE Struggling Together: It's clear that each of them hopes the three other will take the brunt in repelling Liu Bei and makes opportunity for them rule four commandery themself.
  • The Alliance: Against Liu Bei.


Lady Fan

  • But Not Too Foreign: Mentioned in a flashback that her mother was from a "barbarian" tribe.
  • Femme Fatale
  • You Killed My Father: Huo caused the death of her entire clan by proxy of assassinating Xu Lin (because the Zhaos were held responsible by those in charge).

Zhao Fan

Zhao Tong

Eighth Genius, ne Zhao Tian