The Quarry - The Loop
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|“||As the new Clan Zhan rises rapidly in number and power, Clan Ming is falling back on every front. Ming Shuiyuan decided to attend the inaugural ceremony of Clan Zhan's new master and find out what's going on...||”|
Alternate name: Endlessly Overcast
- (Year 680, New Era. North Cloud.)
- (The sky is getting dark, and a light rain beats against the eaves.)
- (Outside the front hall, a maidservant is holding an umbrella for Ming Shuiyuan, who watches people leaving one by one.)
- Servant Girl: Master, you have been standing here for a while.
- Ming Shuiyuan: How many of them does that make?
- Servant Girl: ...Forty-seven, Master.
- (A follower walks out from the front hall with a suitcase and stands before Ming Shuiyuan in the rain.)
- Follower: I will never forget your favor... Sorry, I let you down.
- (Then he bows deeply to Ming Shuiyuan.)
- Ming Shuiyuan: Take care.
- (The follower unbends his body and turns to leave, his head lowered all the time.)
- Servant Girl: When a tree falls, monkeys scatter... How fitting.
- Ming Shuiyuan: If only I could be stronger...
- Servant Girl: My lady, how could you blame yourself? If it weren't for that Zhan Clan who came from nowhere, we would not lose so many followers...
- Ming Shuiyuan: ...
- Servant Girl: This contest has weakened Clan Ming, but Clan Zhan only grows stronger.
- Ming Shuiyuan: They grow because they are strong.
- Servant Girl: But it feels that they come to this position overnight... I have never heard of such things.
- (Some more followers walk out from the front hall with luggage. They don't pay honor to Ming Shuiyuan.)
- Servant Girl: ...
- (Ming Shuiyuan looks up at the gray sky. The rain grows heavier.)
The Dubious Invitation
- (Several days later)
- (Ming Shuiyuan is fixing a contraption in the room, the disassembled parts all over the desk.)
- (Someone knocks on the door gently, interrupting the sound of the contraption.)
- Servant Girl: Master...
- Ming Shuiyuan: Come in.
- Servant Girl: (Enters room) Clan Zhan is holding an inauguration ceremony for its new master and here is the invitation.
- Ming Shuiyuan: A new master?
- Servant Girl: Yes, I heard that it's a young man in his twenties named Zhan Qiuming.
- Why is current master stepping down?
- Ming Shuiyuan: The current master is also in his prime years, why is he stepping down?
- Servant Girl: The rumors said that the new master is a from a collateral line. [sic] He's extremely talented and the current master gave his position voluntarily.
- Ming Shuiyuan: Hmm, these things happen sometimes.
Drinking and Dining
Alternate name: Goblets and Gambling
- (A few days later, the inauguration ceremony of Clan Zhan's new master.)
- (The interior of the great hall, decorated in modern Apple style, is a stark contrast to its traditional Cloud exterior. It's said the new master lives in Apple and likes its style.)
- (The ceremony sees the elites of a wide range of backgrounds. The venue is basically the upper class of the whole Cloud.)
- (Ming Shuiyuan heard the loud laughter the moment when she walks in. A young man, surrounded by a large crowd, seems at ease in the big scene.)
- Guest A: You're absolutely right, Master Zhan! I'll do exactly as you say in the coming year, but I'll be expecting your help when the time comes!
- Zhan Qiuming: Between you and me, helping one another is as natural as breathing.
- Guest A: Actually...
- Guest B: (Interrupts) If Master Zhan seeks the cooperation of this level, I can give you all the details right now. But this really is not a good deal, Master Zhan!
- Guest A: ...You!
- (The guests' anger only serves to make Zhan Qiuming smile. He sways the paper fan in the hand and watches them curiously.)
- Zhan Qiuming: Oh? You seem to have a better way, so why not speak a bit more about it?
- (Just as the maidservant said, this ceremony is a trap... but it seems Ming Shuiyuan is not the only prey.)
- (As Zhan Qiuming and the guests toast each other, the new power is trading with every party for the possible interest in the future.)
- Guest C: Master Zhan, I just found a special Guqin recently. Its tone is very unique and I would like to present it to you on this special day.
- Zhan Qiuming: That's very considerate of you.
- (Zhan Qiuming takes over the Guqin and plucks it casually.)
- Zhan Qiuming: Such a clean and pleasing tone. It's indeed unique!
- Guest C: I'm glad that you like it, Master Zhan.
- (Somehow, Zhan Qiuming shows great interest in the Guqin and plays several pieces of music, evoking waves of clapping. Ming Shuiyuan is lost in thought in the familiar music.)
- (In the memory, the air is warm, and there is a young man, clustered in the flowers, plucks the Guqin and music flows gently into her heart like a creek in the south Cloud.)
- (In the end, the young man presses his hands gently on the strings to stop the music, the turns to smile at her.) [sic]
- Zhu Yuxian: Lady Ming, do you like this song?
A Dance Together
Alternate name: A Dance
- (The ceremony begins, and Zhan Qiuming solemnly walks towards an elaborately-decorated stage and gives a speech.)
- Zhan Qiuming: ...And so, Clan Zhan would never be here without the help of you all. As the new head of the Zhan Clan, I wish our cooperation will continue and we shall prosper together.
- Zhan Qiuming: As an inexperienced leader, if I would commit anything improper, I ask for your forgiveness.
- (After the speech, the music rises in the hall, the guests chat or dance freely.)
- (Zhan Qiuming comes out of rear hall the after changing clothes and finds Ming Shuiyuan waiting for him.) [sic]
- Ming Shuiyuan: Master Zhan, can I have a minute of your time?
- Zhan Qiuming: Oh, it's you, Master Ming.
- (Zhan Qiuming, seemingly not surprised by Ming Shuiyuan's arrival, greets her like an old friend and approaches her as he gently sways the paper fan.)
- Zhan Qiuming: Such good light and beautiful music, why don't we stay a little longer?
- Ming Shuiyuan: ...
- Zhan Qiuming: How about... We have a dance before you 'have a minute of my time'?
- (Zhan Qiuming smiles as he extends a hand to her, an invitation to dance.)
- (Ming Shuiyuan hesitates, and as she looks at his hand, she suddenly spots a little scar on a finger, just like the one in her memory.)
- (The young man in the memory smiles, but his heart is veiled.)
- Zhu Yuxian: Don't you like this kite, Shuiyuan?
- Zhu Yuxian: I'll get rid of it if you don't.
- (Just as he was about to rip the kite in his hands apart, Ming Shuiyuan saw it: a little wound on his hand.)
- Ming Shuiyuan: Wait... I'll take it.
- (She took the kite from him but didn't look up at him.)
- (The sweet boy, however, didn't mention he made the kite himself and that's where the wound came from.)
- (There seemed to be something more... under his unrestrained and playful surface.)
- (Ming Shuiyuan didn't know what it was and she dared not to ask.)
- (And she didn't tell the young man that the kite couldn't fly when the wind was good and she put it away in a corner of the cabinet.)
- (The bustling dinner overlaps with Ming Shuiyuan's memory.)
- (Seeing that Ming Shuiyuan doesn't respond, Zhan Qiuming takes her hand boldly. When Ming Shuiyuan comes back to herself, she is already int hea dancing pool.)
- Ming Shuiyuan: ...What are you doing?
- Zhan Qiuming: You didn't answer, so I decided for you.
- (Ming Shuiyuan pushes off the hand Zhan Qiuming places on her shoulder, but her hand is then taken by him and held tightly.)
- Zhan Qiuming: You don't dance much, right?
- Ming Shuiyuan: ...
- Zhan Qiuming: It's okay. Just relax, and try to follow my lead.
- (Zhan Qiuming dances freely to the flowing notes and shows nothing though Ming Shuiyuan's fingers almost dig into his shoulder.)
- (As the music ends, Ming Shuiyuan wants to leave the pool, but Zhan Qiuming, lost in the music and dance, doesn't like her go.) [sic]
- Ming Shuiyuan: You--
- Zhan Qiuming: (Interrupts) Isn't this song wonderful? It's been so long since I've danced. It really brings back memories, doesn't it?
- (The next song begins, and Zhan Qiuming pulls Ming Shuiyuan closer to go on dancing, but Ming Shuiyuan makes several steps back.)
- Ming Shuiyuan: This dance is over.
- Zhan Qiuming: But I really like this one. Would you indulge me?
- (Ming Shuiyuan wants to break loose, but only falls into Zhan Qiuming's embrace. After a frantic spin, Zhan Qiuming holds her when she almost staggers.)
- Ming Shuiyuan: Zhu Yuxian, what on earth do you want?
Old Friend's Invitation
- (Zhan Qiuming is astonished by Ming Shuiyuan's words, but he soon recovers his smile and as he goes on dancing, he leads them to the edge of the pool.)
- Zhan Qiuming: I guess we just met for the first time, why calling me so intimately?
- Ming Shuiyuan: Why are you pretending to be Clan Zhan's Master?
- Zhan Qiuming: Haha, now the smart girl is talking silly.
- Ming Shuiyuan: ...So you really are Clan Zhan's Master?
- (Zhan Qiuming draws closer to Ming Shuiyuan with a move.)
- Zhan Qiuming: Shh, not so loud. No one else here knows my secret.
- Ming Shuiyuan: So you did those things on purpose?
- Ming Shuiyuan: Why... Why do you do those things to Clan Ming?
- Zhan Qiuming: There are too many ears here. I'll wait for you in the Ripple Yard at nightfall.
- (As the music stops, Zhan Qiuming lets Ming Shuiyuan go. After making a slight bow, he walks back to the noisy crowd, leaving Ming Shuiyuan alone in the pool.)
- (The ceremony ends in the afternoon. After returning to Ocean Pavilion, Ming Shuiyuan is adjustin a contraption in the room. The desk is scattered with contraptions.)
- (The light of setting sun shines into the room. She stops her work.)
- (The problem has been fixed and the next will be complicated assembly part, but even the most complicated contraption cannot trouble like the most complicated person does.)
- (Ming Shuiyuan puts down the machine and plans to leave. At the doorway, she runs into the maidservant.)
- Ming Shuiyuan: Hmm.
- Servant Girl: It's late.. Where are you going?
- Ming Shuiyuan: I'll... be back soon.
- Servant Girl: Then please add a piece of clothes. The night is cold, be sure to wear warm clothing .
- (A full moon hangs in the sky, and the night wind that blows down leaves feel quite chilly. [sic] On the stone table, a kettle is emitting a faint vapor.)
- (Ming stands alone in the Ripple Yard. The moonlight draws her shadow long.)
- (With a creek, the yard door is pushed open. Ming Shuiyuan looks back and sees a familiar figure.)
- Ming Shuiyuan: You're late..
- Zhu Yuxian: I'm so sorry to let you wait, Master Ming.
- Ming Shuiyuan: ...
- (Zhu Yuxian's voice carries unmindful politeness. For a moment, Ming Shuiyuan is unsure how to reply.)
- (She thought that he would only address her Master Ming when he assumes the mask of Zhan Qiuming. But the fact is he's aloof with or without the mask.)
- Zhu Yuxian: Have a seat. Sorry that the tea gets a bit cold.
- (Then Zhu Yuxian pushes a cup of tea he just poured to Ming Shuiyuan.)
- (It's only lukewarm, but the fragrance is still very strong. Ming Shuiyuan frowns.)
- Zhu Yuxian: Phoenix Dan Cong of top quality. Not to your liking, Master Ming?
- Ming Shuiyuan: ...
- Zhu Yuxian: Master Ming doesn't like it. But it's a bit late to change the tea.
Alternate name: Across the World
- Zhu Yuxian: I heard that Master Ming has created a pretty powerful contraption recently?
- Ming Shuiyuan: Hmm.
- Zhu Yuxian: Is the one in the woods? Such a giant and such distrust.
- (The huge machine Xuan Wu stands in the woods beside the pavilion, only revealing a tail of it.)
- Ming Shuiyuan: Does this have anything to do with what we will discuss?
- Zhu Yuxian: Of course it does. Clan Ming's ability in crafting such ingenuities give you unique value.
- Ming Shuiyuan: Then why did you--
- Zhu Yuxian: (Interrupts) Master Ming, what do you think of the Cloud Empire as it is right now?
- Ming Shuiyuan: ...Cloud Empire?
- Zhu Yuxian: All the power is in the hand of a six-year-old girl and she is nothing but a puppet. If our so-called duties come from such false sovereignty, what's the point of this country?
- Ming Shuiyuan: This is not for us to consider.
- Zhu Yuxian: Don't you think this is exactly what we have to consider, Master Ming? Where will Clan Ming go if Cloud Empire falls?
- (Ming Shuiyuan doesn't answer. She looks the other way and it's hard to tell what she's thinking of.)
- Zhu Yuxian: So let's consider the problem in a different way, why would you come to me, Master Ming?
- Ming Shuiyuan: To find out why you are against Clan Ming.
- Zhu Yuxian: Just like you say, I'm going against Clan Ming. And I fully account for the fall of Clan Ming.
- Zhu Yuxian: However, just as I can destroy you, I can rebuild you. I can knock down to the dust, and I can raise you high in the sky. And this all depends on you.
- Ming Shuiyuan: ...What are you getting at?
- Zhu Yuxian: Join me, and together the Cloud Empire will be in our hands.
- (Zhu Yuxian looks deeply into her eyes, which are full of confusion and doubt.)
- Zhu Yuxian: You don't believe me?
- Ming Shuiyuan: (It's not that...)
- Ming Shuiyuan: (Whispers) Who...
- Zhu Yuxian: What?
- Ming Shuiyuan: ...Who are you, really? You're not the Zhu Yuxian I once knew.
- (The night wind picks up again. The hair of the two flutters in the wind but the ambiance is still very rigid.)
- (Seemingly baffled by the question, Zhu Yuxian's face turns dim.)
Sword and Xiao
Alternate name: The Sword in Flute
- Zhu Yuxian: ...What do you mean by that, Master Ming?
- Ming Shuiyuan: I disagree.
- Zhu Yuxian: You are giving up your clan?
- Clan Ocean needs no help from the outsiders.
- Ming Shuiyuan: Clan Ocean needs no help from outsiders.
- Zhu Yuxian: Master Ming--
- Ming Shuiyuan: (Interrupts) Enough.
- (Seeing Ming Shuiyuan's weak body leaning against machine Xuan Wu, Zhu Yuxian is sure that the suffocating feeling is not an illusion.)
- (It's not the searing pain of the curse. He can hardly feel the scorching pain in his heart.)
- (Only the suffocating feeling. It wraps Zhu Yuxian's whole body and insulate him from the air.)
- (Ming Shuiyuan struggles to sit up and reaches for the Scale Snake, who moves for a second before falling again. Ming Shuiyuan leans her body on Xuan Wu and looks at Zhu Yuxian.)
- (Her brown locks slightly out of the pain, making Zhu Yuxian want to reach out to caress it.) [sic]
- Ming Shuiyuan: Give it up. Clan Ming will fight to the last man, so will Clan Yue and Clan Bai.
- Zhu Yuxian: Pity that you won't see that day.
- Ming Shuiyuan: ...
- Zhu Yuxian: Farewell, Ming Shuiyuan.
- (Somehow he sounds gentle and Ming Shuiyuan is surprised by his tone. The tall figure approaches and he lowers his body for the sword.)
- (Ming Shuiyuan reaches out for Xuan Wu, but she now has no strength to flip a switch.)
- (As the sword is drawn, hot blood spill onto the ground and Ming Shuiyuan falls on the turtle shell.)
- (Zhu Yuxian raises the sword up high. Ming Shuiyuan looks at the shadow on the ground then closes her eyes.)
- (But the piercing pain doesn't come this time. Ming Shuiyuan hears the harsh sound of a clash.)
- (Ming Shiuyuan opens her eyes slowly and finds a white-haired man under the moonlight.)
- (The sword on his left hand has been drawn. He sways the sword and points it at Zhu Yuxian, but then casually takes a mouthful of wine from the gourd in his right hand.)
- White-Haired Man: The game will be much less fun without her.
- (His voice is deep and coarse, but from the serious words you can feel the playfulness.)
- Zhu Yuxian: Xiao Zong. Out of my way.
- Xiao Zong: I have given the chance to kill her.
- (The man named 'Xiao Zong' turns back and walks to Ming Shuiyuan. He brushes her long hair behind her ears and examines her face carefully. Ming Shuiyuan has now passed out.)
- Xiao Zong: Your heart still holds doubts, otherwise, your blade would have struck true. Am I right?
- (Zhu Yuxian is stunned, a million thoughts flashing before his mind.)
- Xiao Zong: Hahaha! How interesting!
- (Xiao Zong picks up Ming Shuiyuan's body effortlessly, unbothered by the blood spilling on his clothes. His blade clinks against the gourd at his side.)
- Xiao Zong: The purest person will have the most dazzling ending. She might be a threat, but that's definitely a great show.
- (As though on a divine wind, Xiao Zong disappears into the boundless night with Ming Shuiyuan in his arms.)
- (Zhu Yuxian drives his blade into the ground, its ringing sound penetrating the forest on the night winds.)
- (Leaves sway in the wind and take away the moonlight on his body.)
Passage of Time
- (Cloud Capital, Three Months Later)
- (The new year is coming and the whole country is filled with joyful festivity. Red lanterns hang on every street.)
- (Yue Qianshuang and Zhu Ruosheng just finished levee and walk on a little road in the palace.)
- Zhu Ruosheng: ...Well?
- Yue Qianshuang: The court was full of discussion and concerns. The proposal of apprehending Sister Ming was upheld by many.
- Zhu Ruosheng: Her mech army is stationed in the thirteen cities in the south. Though the rebels have been expelled, she refuses to return the places to Cloud. People are doubting her purpose.
- Yue Qianshuang: I believe in Sister Ming. She must have her reasons!
- Zhu Ruosheng: Qianshuang, I don't believe the situation is that simple. Clan Zhan rises almost at the same time when Clan Ming falls. There must be many things we don't know.
- Yue Qianshuang: I know, I just...
- (Zhu Ruosheng holds Yue Qianshuang's hand and stops.)
- Zhu Ruosheng: I understand. But no matter what, we cannot act rashly on our own.
- Yue Qianshuang: ...You're right. Then let's start with Clan Zhan. Investigate carefully and we can surely find out the truth!
- (The bitter winter winds howl outside the palace. The plants are all withered.)
- (South Cloud)
- (Through the clouds, a dim light shines down on the nonexistent Mansion Voyage Moon.)
- (Ming Shuiyuan paces back and forth in the ruins. Once upon a time, the designs in her hands came alive here, but again became this black debris.)
- (She closes her eyes, every corner of Mansion Voyage Moon and those days in the south still vivid in her memory.)
- (The music she heard countless times in the dream rises again and the Mansion Voyage Moon shimmers faintly. Ming Shuiyuan remembers something and walks to the center of the ruins.)
- (She searches in the ruins based on her memory, her hands and sleeves smudged with black ashes. Finally, a dim red glass appears and it feels warm in the palm.)
- (The warmth that Zhu Yuxian once kept deep in his heart.)
- Ming Shuiyuan: ...I found it.
- (Ming Shuiyuan holds the Heart Beads tightly. Machine Xuan Wu behind her shows its gruesome fangs.)
Moon Mansion in Flames
- (6 months earlier, South Cloud)
- (In the Mansion Voyage Moon, Zhu Yuxian fiddles a glass cup in the hands, but his eyes are fixed on a Ding vessel ahead.)
- Xiao Zong: Fill the vessel with the wine and place it into the magic circle.
- (Xiao Zong thrusts the wine jar into Zhu Yuxian's hand with a mysterious smile.)
- (The Ding vessel is now fully loaded with the lucid liquid and on it, a nonexistent moon that gives off a cold light.)
- Xiao Zong: Cast in an item that carries your memory into the wine... Actually, we don't really have to burn it down.
- Moon Voyage is nothing but an illusion.
- Zhu Yuxian: Moon Voyage is nothing but an illusion.
- (Zhu Yuxian lifts the wine jar. The moon is reflected in water, but not in his eyes.)
- Zhu Yuxian: I have to give it up or it will only be my yoke.