"It is time" the words echoed through the great hall, filling the old golden columns and the marble floors with a rushed energy that seemed to fizzle in the fresh air, ascending to the high ceilings, decorated with clouds, gods and scenes of times long forgotten.
In the center of the long, empty room, an old man stayed with a pensive expression on his rugged and yet timeless face, his long-sleeved white clothes and deep silver eyes giving an almost god-like aura. All along, his gaze stayed fixed at the floating copper basin in the middle of the room.
Inside it, a watery, silky liquid undulated slowly. Its crystal surface, just like a mirror, reflected ghostly images on the air above.
"Shifu, are you sure it is her?" a young man, with pearly dark eyes and raven hair asked, his back straight and dignified air creating a mesmerizing aura around his otherwise ordinary features.
"Nothing in life is ever right or wrong. Just like the smooth surface of a lake: It doesn't matter how unruffled it is, it still carries inside the capacity for waves and blurriness. All it needs is a single touch".
The youth managed a small nod, his eyebrows furrowing slightly, just enough to outline the deep darkness of his irises. His shifu had always been a complicated men. Few words, long faces and phrases that meant everything and nothing at the same time. He was used to it, as were all others disciples that lived on Heavenly City.
In the last few weeks, however, things had become... Different, somehow. There seemed to be some restless shadow following his master, as if his thoughts were in a turmoil at all times. Even if his figure stayed as still as a tree, the winds on its branches were harder to conceal.
Something big was going to happen. Something that he couldn't yet determine if was good or bad. With the <i> Soul-gathering Flames Sect </i>, it was never as simple as right or wrong anyway.
"Senior Brother" both of them turned to see a willowy woman entering the hall, her hair as white as a moon stone flowing down her light pink and white gown like a water fall.
"Junior Sister" his master acknowledged with a minimal move of his head, after which she roused from her courtesy and approached then both where they stood, near the copper basin.
"Is it confirmed, then?" Madam Ling asked, her voice as soft as the first rays of sun after the rain "Is it really her?".
"There's still one test that needs to be accomplished" the old man agreed with a small nod. Madam Ling acquiesced silently, slowly walking nearer the basin, her dark eyes as sharp as a knife.
"Two weeks ago, the Luan Bird was sighted near the South Mountains." she said in an ominous tone "Now, just days later, the seven mansions of the Zhu Que constellation have aligned on the sky..."
"So you see" the old master commented a bit offhandedly "It is finally here".
The young men felt a chill go down his spine like ice-cold water rolling over his skin.
In Heavenly City, there wasn't anyone that didn't know what that could mean. Even though that had happened almost a thousand years earlier, the story was still too vivid, too terrifying for any of them to forget. As the years went by, the reality lost itself among the legends and songs of gods and heroes from another time, but the manuscripts still existed, and the elders would always remember.
There was glory, and blood and loss and fear. Above all, there was the uncertainty in the hearts of those that, after waiting for hundreds of years, didn't know what to expect when finally seeing their hopes come to fruition. Didn't know what to do with the times that were to come.
"We will have turbulent times ahead of us" his Shifu said, finally looking at his direction "No war is meant to last forever, just as peace is not always as peaceful as it seams." he sighed deeply, an old sadness creeping closer and closer to his eyes. "We've been fighting for so long, resisting in the shadows... Now, it is finally time".
The young man felt his throat go dry like sand paper.
"A war is coming" Madam Ling answered in his stead "One that our <i> Soul-gathering Flames Sect </i> can't afford to lose".
The first disciple of the Eldest Master of Heavenly City felt fear like never before, a terrifying foreboding that chilled him to the bones.
Once again, he looked at the scenes playing out over the basin, his eyes trailing the young and delicate features of the girl running through the crowded market, her long sleeved blue robes swaying with the speed as she tried to put more space between her and the servants on her heels.
There was no mistaking the mischievous, determined look on her beautiful foreign eyes.
He sighed deeply, pursing his lips while remembering his master's words.
It was an ominous sight indeed.
Luan Bird: usually portrayed as a blue bird, similar to the Phoenix. It's sad to serve as mounts to the gods or be their messengers. Some believe they represent the Yang energy, symboling positive values such as life and peace. On the other hand, there are those that say it is a sign of return to the Yin, times of chaos, which explains its association as a "solar simple of death".
Zhu Que: the Vermillion Bird, one of the Divine Beast of the Chinese Mythology. There is not much written about it, aside from it representing the South, Fire and Summer. Ot is sometimes depicted as a red bird made of flames, but it can't be confused with the Phoenix. The seven mansions are actually the seven stars that constitute its constellation.