Art of War is a set of Story Suits. When you obtain the Flashing Wind, Poised Forest, Invading Fire, Firm Mountain, and Prosperous Reign suits, which can be obtained from the Art of War Event, you will unlock a story.
Time is limited for everyone, but not for Xiao Zong.
Possessing this infinite resource, he would just spend his days practicing swordsmanship by the waterfall, or enjoying the breeze in the valley after getting dead drunk. He has lived for so long that even time has become meaningless.
At his young age, he used to lead a wandering life on the Miracle Continent, trying to experience all the wonderful views.
However, as he went all over the land, he found the world to be nothing but a mixture of the same elements. No matter how extraordinary or fantastic a scenery could be, there must be a similar one somewhere else, and it is just a matter of time until it is found.
Well, not everything was totally disappointing. Here was this boy who was different from any others. At least Xiao Zong thought he was. All he could see in this young man was flourishing vigor, and the most amazing potential ever, a kind of infinite potential.
Ever since they met, Xiao Zong has put forth all his energy and efforts to support him, hoping the bud would release all his potential one day and burst into a glory of blossom.
However, on a rainy night, Xiao Zong received on last letter from the boy. The water stain on the envelope was telling the sorrow brought by the rain, or tears. The boy gave up his plan and life, and the only reason was love, which was boring as hell to Xiao Zong.
A huge magic circle was deployed in the South of the Cloud Empire, freezing the time and the flower field there. For sixty years, Xiao Zong has been waiting for another soul, one that could amuse him and make his life meaningful again. Day after day, he has been longing for another chance to feel the fascinating temperature of that vigor again.
But the reality failed him again and again. His hope and passion were like a pebble in the river, being washed away as time passed. Life has become mere suffering. He began to indulge food, wine, beauty, all that could stimulate his paralyzed mind.
The never ending waiting and the frozen time at the flower field have together made an inescapable cage, blocking him from any happiness. He even thought his mind would die in the middle of waiting.
That was until seven years ago when he found Zhu Yuxian.
The man was unique and interesting. He has got the most complex mind and the simplest feelings at the same time, making him the carrier of the sharpest conflict in the world. In Xiao Zong's view, this man could never make anything significant, but Zhu Yuxian went beyond his expectation.
Even if trapped hopeless, this man changed the game all by himself, and he smiled as always, as if things were going just as planned.
Finally, Xiao Zong got to walk out of the desert of his mind, and his long-frozen blood started to pump again.
Xiao Zong left the flower field. For the first time he began to cherish every minute of his life.
And Zhu Yuxian didn't let him down. Xiao Zong was on fire, and it was burning even more fiercely than that when he was young.
But the longer he stayed with Zhu Yuxian, the more certain he was about Zhu Yuxian's limit. Maybe that's all he got, he thought.
What Xiao Zong didn't expect was that Zhu Yuxian himself also found out that fact.
At Mansion Voyage Moon, Xiao Zong was teaching Zhu Yuxian the magic of forgetting and sealing. Zhu Yuxian has longed for this magic for long, so he tried very hard in order to master it as soon as possible. Seeing his hard work, Xiao Zong couldn't help laughing out of disappointment.
But Xiao Zong didn't see he would save the one who Zhu Yuxian tried to kill, the one he once loved.
The girl was totally different from Zhu Yuxian. Her mind was as pure as the driven snow.
If she could become what he expected, the two of them would definitely have an even more interesting story, and perhaps he could find the truth of the world and the true meaning of life in that story.
Hah, this is too fun a world to leave.
The little girl couldn't see her dad often. And technically, she was not allowed to call him 'dad', but 'your majesty'.
One day, even her mother was gone. At first the girl asked the nanny about her mother over and over again, crying over her disappearance, but her sorrow was gradually washed away as time passed. She was just a child, after all.
It seemed to her that the world was limited inside the courtyard, and all she would meet in her life was just the nanny and maids.
Therefore, she was not prepared at all when the white-haired boy broke into her little world.
The girl hid herself behind the curtains, trying to peep at the boy talking with her nanny.
'That's a real poker face he's got', thought the girl.
She couldn't hear what they were talking about. Well, maybe she was just too young to understand it. All she could see was that her nanny got so nervous and knelt before the boy.
Then she saw him turn around and walk towards the curtains. Knowing that she was found, the girl crouched down at once and held the curtains tightly to cover her head. She could only hear her heartbeat and the footstep.
It got closer and closer until it reached her side.
Instead of pulling her out, the man out here just touched her head through the curtains.
The strength passed through the touch terrified the girl. All of a sudden she opened her eyes, and the tears finally dropped down.
As the boy left, the girl peeped behind the curtains again. Finding a view of his back, she took a few step to the door to see him off.
Since then, many people brought countless presents to visit the girl, but her nanny stopped all of them under 'Bai Yongxi's order'.
And later, 'Bai Yongxi', the white-haired boy, took the girl away. From his hand, she could [feel] the warmth her mother used to have.
Bai Yongxi told the girl that she would become the emperor one day, owning the whole country, so she must start to learn whatever it needs to manage the land.
Actually she didn't understand his words.
All she knew at her age was that 'As long as I stay on the tall chair and work hard at studying how to manage the country, Brother Bai Yongxi will stay by my side.'
He has always been busy, as she could see. The light at midnight in Wenying Hall and piles of files to be coped with on the table sufficed to show that.
Maybe I can help him with the burdens if I become the 'good emperor' he talked about?', thought the girl, but she never asked anyone about it.
She worked hard and gave it all she's got, but she's just a child after all.
Once she had trouble understanding a sentence in the book, even after asking Bai Yongxi three times, but she didn't feel like giving him any more trouble.
Right when the girl was distressed, a sage-like boy walked in. The whole room became refreshed as if it was decorated by the wind and the moon.
'Brother Immortal, you are finally here!' The girl jumped off her chair happily and ran to him with a book, 'I don't get this. Tell me about it.'
The boy held the girl in his arms and sat on the dragon throne, starting to explain the sentence patiently. The girl nodded as she listened.
'If only Brother Immortal could come more often. He knows really a whole lot ... well, not as much as Brother Bai Yongxi.'
Day after day, the girl thought this was what life was supposed to be, one common day after another.
However, these common days became a wild wish when she was locked in a dark room inside Jinlin Palace.
She screamed and cried, but the only response from outside was the crash of weapons.
Suddenly 'Brother Immortal' opened the door and walked in as usual, but something was actually different; he looked so miserable with all the wounds and blood on him. The girl held his arm tightly in case that he would fall to the ground at any time, but the boy just said something and pushed her to the door. She looked back while walking out of the room, with tears in her eyes.
'All I need is to do as Brother Immortal said, so he would get back on his feet, and Brother Bai Yongxi would come to save us, and the General would win the war, right? Right? Please let me know!' With her small figure covered by dazzles, the girl set her teeth and closed her eyes.
It was late at night. The house of the Zhan clan was in dead silence.
Inside a small room in the Qinglian Courtyard, Zhan Liu was bathing in moonlight in front of the mirror. As he tore off the lifelike mask from his head, a beautiful but dangerous man showed his real face. It was Zhu Yuxian.
The people of the Cloud Empire believe the full moon will always grant peace to the country, and those travelling abroad will also receive its blessings. 'No calamity would befall tonight, with the full moon in the sky.'
However, Zhu Yuxian knew the fact would be on the contrary. Wars were going to start tonight as he planned.
It was destined to be a sleepless night.
Far away in the palace at the capital, the lights were always on in Wenying Hall.
Bai Yongxi was sitting in front of piles of files alone, with his hand on the forehead. He didn't seem to be looking at the papers, but something hidden behind.
The war tonight was already inevitable. He could have stopped it, but only through the spread of chaos could he have an insight into the plot behind.
The small profit brought by temporary peace meant nothing compared to stopping the real plot.
But things would happen after the war, so he must think very carefully before taking the next step, the critical step.
It was hours before dawn. Bai Yongxi finally turned a page of the book.
After three months, on New Year's Eve the war in the empire eased off, as if everyone was preparing for the Spring Festival.
But Bai Yongxi didn't let down his guards. He was clear that under the seemingly peaceful surface a storm was fermenting, and it would strike at any time.
A storm was too wild a stimulation to the country. What he wanted was a breeze, a breeze that would change the country mildly and breed their descendants or generations and generations.
After millions of games on the chessboard, Bai Yongxi managed to stimulate all the possible situations in his mind, including how his opponents would react. Anyone who dared to challenge him wouldn't stand a chance.
As Bai Yongxi stared at the direction where the Brocade City lay, a thick cloud seemed to be coming over.
At that time, the rumor about the divine palace above the Brocade City was spread over the country. It was said the Bixiao Goddess was trying to save the country, so she has come forth to the world with the Blue Sky Tower.
Zhu Yuxian couldn't help but sneer. The Blue Sky Tower was never built to protect the country, instead it was an omen of war.
'Destiny is nothing more than a rumor people make up to deceive themselves.'
'They bet everything including their lives on some illusions, just to explain how incompetent they are.'
'And the curse of blood is like an impregnable chain that deprives people of the power to fight against Destiny, turning them into permanent prisoners.' 'It's like an endless-loop, dragging them to desperation.'
'This crap should have been removed long ago.'
'The order could never be rebuilt until this loop is ended.'
Bai Yongxi's reaction was actually part of Zhu Yuxian's plan. The situation was totally under his control.
It was midnight of another day. The lights were out in Wenying Hall, and the moonlight went dim after going through the window. As the door was closed, Zhu Yuxian smiled from inside.
A sword penetrated her body. It was a sword hidden inside a flute.
The breeze turned into a piercing cold wind at night. She held the sword tightly to stop it, despite the pain caused to her palms.
Before the first sword was drawn back, more swords of the same appearance stabbed into her body from all directions. It was that man again. He laughed with contempt and pushed her crumbling body into the abyss.
Ming Shuiyuan woke up with a start, drenched in cold sweat.
There was no sword, but only deep darkness around.
The late night seemed tranquil with the moon in the sky. Only the water and cicada in the courtyard could be heard.
The black tortoise mech was disassembled into parts, exposing the complex structure of the interior. Constant optimizations by Ming Shuiyuan have equipped it with layers of flexible armors and a variety of hidden weapons, making it the most powerful killing machine and an impregnable shield.
A mechanical serpent opened its eyes right after Ming Shuiyuan assembled its components, slithering around her.
A few days ago, she woke up as the dawn shined on the Deep Ocean Pavilion. Right then her maid was still lying on the table, just awake from sleep. The maid couldn't help crying and laughing when seeing Ming Shuiyuan was finally awake.
She was home, as if nothing had happened.
Only when she was changing the dressing could she see the wound and the sharp pain would remind her that it did happen, that the dream did happen in reality.
No matter when, as long as she was not occupied or asleep, she would have endless problems to think about. She didn't know what the reason was, but even the simplest thing seemed like a mess to her.
Maybe it was out of caring, or boredom. The white-haired man who saved her life was found to be waiting for her outside her room when she was going to bed.
They talked for a long time till it was late.
The wind blew into Ming Shuiyuan's room when Xiao Zong left, but it didn't blow all the way into her calm heart.
Zhu Yuxian was no longer the boy who had given a big smile to her at the warm flower field in the South. She used to indulge him with cover-up, which seemed ridiculous now, and the fact was she was even an accomplice.
She has always known that, and she just pretended that she didn't.
However, Bai Yongxi was not trustworthy either. Rebellion had risen in the South though, it wouldn't have been totally separated if he took any action. Ming Shuiyuan couldn't think of any reason why Bai Yongxi would give up the South but one. That is, he exchanged it with something.
It was never easy to see through someone. Human has a warm body, but their hearts are actually as cold as the mechs. Ming Shuiyuan would never trust anyone easily again.
One after another, the components were all assembled into the Black Tortoise, which then started to move. Surprisingly, not even the slightest sound was heard from its movements, but its power was not that low-profile; the mech crushed the iron tool in its mouth within a second.
She would take the responsibility and guard the empire if they couldn't keep it, she thought.
On her own way, she needed no help or understanding, and the South was only the first step of her plan.
However, she still didn't make it to save Yue Qianshuang on New Year's Eve. By the time she arrived at Brocade City, Yue Qianshuang was already dying. The arrows she blocked was negligible compared to the amount in Yue Qianshuang's body.
Ming Shuiyuan commanded the Black Tortoise to wrap Yue Qianshuang's body. As she was trying to cut off the chain from Yue Qianshuang, she heard countless words coming from nowhere. Most of them were doubts, guessing and even slanders with acrimony. The few pleadings were almost overwhelmed.
She didn't react to any one of them, but just placed Yue Qianshuang on the ground carefully.
No one knew why she was here.
And no one dared to approach her, as none of them would understand her.
Without a word, she went on the way back to the South. The Black Tortoise withdrew its weapons and followed behind.
My name is Bixiao. I am the embodiment of peace and hope for the mortals.
Chixiao is my sister, the closest family of mine.
She looks so pure and lovely that my light seems nothing compared to her face. The joy and love she can bring to others are what shall be remembered by people.
To describe the kind of beauty she has in her smile, I just can’t think of a word except ‘unparalleled’. It is a kind of smile that I will pay any price to see every day.
However, despite that smile, she’s actually the embodiment of war.
Chixiao and I were responsible for guarding the sky and observing the ground. Each of us was in charge for half the time of each day.
She loved the mystery and tranquility at night and enjoyed observing the mortals in darkness, so I left the nighttime to her, while I myself only appeared in daytime.
As the day and the night never appear together, we didn’t get to see each other often.
But when [an] eclipse appeared, we would have the chance to meet for half a day. It’s quite selfish to say that, but I have always looked forward to the eclipse though it’s an ill omen to the mortals.
We don’t have a limit of life, so I thought our life would just go on this way till the end of time. Isn’t that nice?
But things changed. At first it was the mortals. They seemed to be tired of peace. Their minds became explosive and violence was no longer terrifying. A few wars broke out.
Before long wars spread over the whole land. The mortals have totally gone mad and indulged themselves in rage and the will to fight. The world was in a whole mess.
I was not sure if Chixiao noticed that, as I haven’t met her for a long time back then.
Finally, the eclipse befell. Right after the moon rose, I ran to Chixiao immediately. I really wanted to ask if she knew anything about the wars, and more importantly, to know how she’s doing and tell her how much I missed her.
Behind the heavy fog and the curtains, Chixiao smiled to me. It felt so familiar yet surprisingly strange, and I even saw a kind of charm in her.
'Sister, I miss you so much,' said Chixiao, with a fragrant breath.
She grabbed my arm and surrounded it with her soft body.
Maybe that strange feeling was just an illusion, I thought. She was pure and lovely as usual.
She started to complain about the endless boring days to me with a lovely frowning, and I comforted her with a smile.
But I was then shocked by her words.
'Sister, have you ever tasted war?' The bliss on her face was so real, and I got freaked out. 'That’s amazing! I can’t live without war now. Life has never been so much fun!' She waved her sleeve as she finished the sentence, and a violent vibration and a sound of explosion came from the ground.
Upon hearing the sound, Chixiao couldn’t help but lay on me and started to laugh. She even had to cover her face with the sleeve.
I burst into tears with my heart trembling, and I persuaded her to stop it.
She became very unhappy and pushed me off. SHe was so powerful that I was even knocked into a pillar and fell to the ground.
Right. She’s the embodiment of war. War will never obey peace.
I coughed up blood while lying on the ground.
Both her nature and strength have awakened. Her power even destroyed my physical form, and I had to attach my consciousness to the universe. In the end, my body was torn apart into four wills of fight: the Wind, the Forest, the Fire and the Mountain.
I could feel my body was screaming out of insanity. I never imagined I would have such a maniacal desire for wars.
Yes, that was the only power I’ve got. This power of war was prepared for the day when Chixiao regains her nature and strength, so that her outrage could be stopped.
Right. Stopping a war with a war.
In this case, I should have stopped Chixiao by taking her consciousness directly, so that her body would just fade away.
But I hated to do that. That’s my dearest sister!
I just couldn’t do it, even if the price would be the whole world. Maybe she was just being playful, like she always was at childhood.
And maybe all I needed to do was to wait for her at home, or to go find her when it’s late. I could always find her.
I deployed a magic circle in the clouds where later I sealed Chixiao with my wills of fight, but I didn’t leave her alone.
My consciousness and our memories were with her by her bed.
Afterwards, she woke up once, when the whole land was covered with wars and a mysterious curse. Back then I was still asleep, and an emperor-like boy woke me up. My consciousness then appeared on the clouds, and once again I sealed Chixiao.
It turned out the boy was a mortal emperor, a farsighted one.
I made a deal with him as a token of gratitude. As long as he or his descendants summon me with blood when wars spread over the land, I will befall again.
After that I fell asleep again.
My name is Bixiao.
Chixiao is my sister, the closest family of mine.
But I sealed her inside the Lingxiao Circle in the clouds with my own body, my wills of fight. Maybe many years later, both of us will wake up again. And I hope by the time we will still have the chance to hold our hands and enjoy the fogs, the rain, the moon, the sun, the clouds, the breeze, every beautiful side of [the] world till the end of time.
|The Gift of The Magi|
Art of War