Nian: A Thousand Years in a Sigh

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Operator Record
A Thousand Years in a Sigh
Nian icon.png

Nian's films have oddball and bizarre stories, but occasionally, she slips something a little more serious in.

Unlock conditions

  • Raise Nian to Elite 2 Level 1.
  • Have at least 50% Trust with Nian.
Shadow Guard icon.png
"Hat of the Ink"
Old Man
Young Swordsman
Yan Indoor A
Shangshu Teahouse
RI Corridor
Painted World Landscape
Yan Indoor B
Nian has some history with the city of Shangshu, and revisiting it has stirred some memories. She opts to reminisce for a spell, in her own way.
<Background black>
Shangshu, Great Cold, Year 507, light snow.
[Amidst a snowstorm, someone knocks the door.]
<Background 1>
[A female swordsmith notices the door opening...]
Swordsmith Yo, there you are.
[ a woman named Yi walks in.]
Yi We have an agreement.
Swordsmith One hundred whole days.
Yi The snow on the way held one up by some nights. I would be here even earlier otherwise.
Swordsmith Must have what I wanted if you're back so soon, then?
Yi It has been brought. The spiciest pepper in all of Shangshu.
Swordsmith Looks like you did a pretty good job. Can't have been easy finding something this fresh through months of snowstorms.
Yi You've crouched hidden, sir, for years on years, and yet you know of blizzards in the human realm?
Swordsmith Oh? Sounds like you're getting at something.
Yi Shangshu's mountains wind long and hard; there's always someplace to shelter from the winds.
One traveled all over the Three Mounts and Eighteen Peaks, visiting every household and inn, sampling one by one...
Swordsmith You know what, save the story. Kitchen's over that way, ingredients and utensils are all there. Get your cook on.
Yi Very well.
<Background fades out and in>
[Yi returns with some food.]
Yi Please have a taste, sir.
Swordsmith Oh? What, just simple shuizhu?
Yi Even so, not many in Shangshu would afford this dish these days.
Swordsmith Neat. I'll give it a try.
Yi What do you... think, sir?
Swordsmith Heh. It's a fundamental truth that the slices of meat in shuizhu all have to be equally thick, but you've even cut them all to identical form—I have to compliment the knifework. But...
Tsk. It's not got much flavor.
Yi What...?
Swordsmith If this is the spiciest pepper you could find in all of Shangshu, then I'm sorry to say the sword can't go to you.
Yi Sir—!
One doesn't seek your sword for her own selfish desires, but in petition for the common folk! I beg you—
Swordsmith It doesn't matter to me why you want the sword. If the chili's not good, then you're not having it.
I've had enough for today. Go on home.
Yi But a moment, please.
The swordsman draws the dagger holstered on her side, and cuts open her wrist with not a pause of hesitation. Fresh, her carmine blood drips into the stew.
Yi Why not see, sir... if the taste satisfies you now?
Swordsmith That's fun.
<Background fades out and in>
Swordsmith Take it.
Yi It's...!
Swordsmith Shangshu's spiciest pepper, in exchange for Shangshu's finest blade. The fairest trade.
Yi My thanks, sir!
Swordsmith Don't thank me, we made an agreement. That's business.
Yi ......
Swordsmith Something else on your mind?
Yi You give me this sword so reassured, and don't even ask what I would use it for?
Swordsmith Doesn't matter to me if you cut firewood, heads or a mean deal at the pawn shop, so long as after a hundred days, you hand it back to me.
Yi If I were to break it, carelessly...
Swordsmith If anything in this world could break that sword, I'd like to see it.
Yi If...
Swordsmith If you've got regrets, you can just give it back to me now.
Yi No... I swear on my soul. In a hundred days, I will return it as it came to me.
Swordsmith Alright, you can get out of my sight now. Down the mountain you go.
Yi My thanks, sir. One has her greatest gratitude.
[Yi leaves.]
Swordsmith Interesting, seriously interesting...
<Background 2>
[A fight broke out between Yi and a swordsman in black raincoat.]
"Hat of the Ink" 'A fine sword... and fine technique.
Yi ......
[Yi collapses...]
Yi Wrngh... huff... huff...
[ a mysterious Vampire walks in.]
??? Marvelous, marvelous... that was truly beyond belief.
Yi What don't you believe? That a blind woman could outspeed your "Hat of the Ink"s' blade, or that someone out there existed who could forge a sword to fell yours?
Ke Luxi of the Twilight... you've lost...
Ke Luxi Uh-huh. Have I, now?
Yi You said that to anyone who could produce a sword stronger than yours, you would tell how you make the "Divine Meteonite." Now, it's time you made good on your pledge.
Ke Luxi Ha, I did say so... but I'm wondering. With a weapon that exceptional, do you even still need my formula?
Yi The need is not mine, but the people of Shangshu's.
A Catastrophe passed through, and many are displaced. Shangshu is troubled. If they had the "Divine Meteonite," safe shelter from the elements could be built that much faster.
Sir K'o, our mutual contention is but a thing of the past. No further argument, nor hate, supersedes the common folk. A victor in this duel of swords is clear. In mind and heart, you ought to—
Ke Luxi Hahahaha... trust a hero to worry over the nation and her people. Sorry to tell you...
You were too naive. There was never such a thing as "Divine Meteonite".
Yi What did you say?!
Ke Luxi Let me ask you a question now, about that sword. Did it come from Zuanjiang Peak? From a red-horned and red-eyed swordsmith?
Yi How do you know—
Ke Luxi Heh. I figured you'd only find one swordsmith in all of Yan with a fighting chance against me.
Yi Ke Luxi, you did all this just to...
Ke Luxi Correct. I just couldn't understand! My swordsmithing technique is apex, it's peak! So how does it still not beat hers?!
I've been tossing and turning this past decade, dying just to get my hands on a sword of her own making. I'll research it, engineer it, figure out just what kind of art went into making it!
I should really thank you for coming all this way, just to drop her sword off with us.
Now, be nice and give up the goods, and I'll let you go.
Yi So be it...
This complete swindle isn't worth arguing with you over. If there never was any "Divine Meteonite," then I don't want to bother with you for even a second longer.
And yet this sword's time with me is borrowed. I must return it as agreed. I can't let you take it.
Ke Luxi You don't know what's good for you... Forth!
[An archer walks toward Yi but were promptly slashed down.]
Ke Luxi What's a single fine swordswoman's limit? How many does it take? Ready!
[Several warriors surround Yi...]
Yi (Gasp)
[...but she took them out as well before they could even attack Yi.]
Ke Luxi Still not willing to listen to me? Then you asked for it.
[Someone fires at Yi, who slashes the arrow mid-air.]
??? Tsk. That's just embarrassing, Ke Luxi. If you love my swords so much, you could always say it to my face. Why waste all your effort, and this li'l lady's?
Just concede, and I'll give you all you could want. I can even sign the hilts for you.
[The swordsmith from before, who goes by the name "Nian Huihan", joins in.]
Ke Luxi Nian Huihan! What are you doing here?!
Nian Huihan I finally caught a break for ten years. Now I have to find just who cares about me so much, and it turns out it's you after all.
Yi Sir...
Nian Huihan And you, you're honest to a fault. It's one sword, that's all. If they wanted it, you could've just given it to them. Why get yourself hurt in the process?
Yi I told you, I swore on my soul...
Nian Huihan Hah. I'll admit, that's just like you.
Nian Huihan But first. Now that I'm here, no sword or its warrior should be trying any more funny business.
Ke Luxi S... Seize them!
[Several archers show up...]
Nian Huihan Heavenly forge—
[...and Yi strikes them all down.]
Nian Huihan So that's it? Let's pull out any last tricks we've got on the count of three.
Ke Luxi ...I truly do hate your lofty guts. Since the day I lost to you ten years ago, I've vowed in secret to make you pay the price for your arrogance.
Nian Huihan What can you do? You put up some tepid competition for our line of work. I couldn't even muster much of my own drive.
Ke Luxi Heheh... Nian Huihan, you're too conceited. You thought no one under Heaven could match you in the art of the forge, and so you fossilized.
This is the day you regret laying about for the last ten years! I'll show you the leaps and bounds my metallurgy has taken!
Come forth, Archbeast Mechanica!
[A robot named "Archbeast Mechanica" revealed itself.]
Archbeast Mechanica (Screeching) Diiii—didiiii—
(Furious roaring) Diiiii—
Lava C—Cut!!!
Nian What? C'mon, we're just about to hit the climax.
<Background 3>
[It turns out that, as with the "New Year's movie" before, the events up until the Archbeast Mechanica's appearance was within the script for another movie written by Nian with the now-matured Lava assisting in the scriptwriting.]
Lava Why does every single one of your movies have to end with a giant kaiju?!
Nian Huh? 'Cause it's cooler that way, duh.
Lava But isn't this meant to be Yanese wuxia?!
Nian Don't let genres box in your thinking. Kung fu, suspense, sci-fi... the more marketing elements, the better, yeah?
Lava You should hire Whisperain as a literary consultant before you ever touch another screenplay...
And you're going to drag Closure in to play the villain? Since when does she have the time to humor your nonsense?
And! Also! I've wanted to roast you for this since the beginning! You always say I'm the lead, so why do you keep stealing the spotlight at all the key moments?
Nian Aww, don't be so petty. The big sacrifice scene in the climax is all yours.
Lava I die in this?!
Nian The character, the character dies.
Lava What are you calling this one? "Call of the Deadly Swordswoman" or "Forged in Berserk?"
Nian "Ruthless Sword vs. the Queen of the Machines."
Lava I'm begging you now, don't slap Rhodes Island's name on this movie when you distribute it or all our partner firms are going to question our taste.
Nian Sure, everyone's a critic these days, but do you know how much cash Wrankwood rakes in each year on these kinds of movies?
Lava ......
Nian Convinced now?
Lava I've given up...
I shouldn't be wasting my free time listening to you read these stories.
I have training this afternoon. I'm off.
Nian Remember to come back to hear the ending.
Lava Like hell I will!
Wait a moment, I have one more question...
What parts of this story were true?
Nian Huh? Where's that coming from?
Lava The story sounds stupid to the max overall, but I also feel like—some details didn't feel completely made-up...
Nian Oh? So what do you think? Which parts sound real to you?
Lava Was there really a blind swordswoman?
Nian Caught your interest?
Lava Are you going to tell me or not?
Nian No matter what "the truth" is, it can only be "stories" once you're hearing it. How can asking if "stories" are true not be self-contradictory?
Lava Forget it, I'm sure you made it all up at random. Why should I care...?
[Lava leaves, but...]
Nian Wait, wait, I was gonna let you stay on as director!
Lava Count me out until you come up with a screenplay even slightly more normal!
Nian *Sigh* Maybe I'm too avant garde for modern audiences to understand... I guess they'll catch up, sooner or later.
But I've got all this stuff to prep in advance, and if li'l Lava's not with me, I'm not gonna get it done on my own.
<Background 4>
[Inside a painted world that is Dusk's abode, the aforementioned is having a chat with Nian.]
Dusk I heard people turned dour as they became older. Not that I believed it until now.
Did the trip to Shangshu make you miss someone?
Nian What d'you think? You'd say it's a touching story too, wouldn't you?
Dusk I have no interest in wasting time criticizing your turgid film scripts... Did you grind my entire evening to a halt just to make me read this?
Fine, I've read it all. Now stop bothering me, and get out.
Nian ......
Dusk What else do you want?
Nian I want to invite you to do some storyboarding and concept art.
Dusk Dream on!
I swear, I am going to incinerate every last one of your garbage films while you sleep.
Nian You're all grown up now. Why do you still act out like such a kid?
Dusk ......
How many years has it been?
Nian What was that?
Dusk Don't be stupid.
Nian Why does this sound like you've seen straight through my story?
Being too easily understood's kind of its own blow to an author, you know.
Dusk Too bad we've known each other for so long, "big sis."
I did genuinely want to look through the Sui Regulator's criminal records, just to see what kind of mortifying history you left behind.
Nian You and li'l Lava are two peas in a pod with your tempers. Always gotta pretend like you don't care, even when you're so obviously curious.
Dusk Let me be clear. I haven't the slightest interest in your lousy screenplay, but I do want to know what you're dwelling on so miserably that you wrote this entire scenario as a roundabout homage.
Nian Sure. Put on some tea, and we can chat nice and easy.
Dusk You have to tell it as it was... No garnishes allowed.
Nian Haha... really, I couldn't tell you which year or month it was. I only remember nomadic cities didn't exist yet.
And I remember, it was snowing that day.
[After a moment of silence...]
Nian Even without the year, I know I finally had enough of that tomb, and thought I'd head up to the surface to kill my boredom.
But it was ordinary sights everywhere I looked. Came out, and it was all the same as when I went in.
And I thought to myself, y'know, in the end, this is all people are. You make a crowd of a million fight for a moment of glory in the battlesands, but their lives only amount to a couple decades in the end. What are they ever gonna contribute?
I was just passing the time, wandering wherever. But the Sui Regulator sure didn't like me idle, so they dumped an errand on me, had me head to Shangshu just after a Catastrophe hit, help the locals rebuild the city.
Dusk The Sui Regulator has a lot of confidence sending you on these jobs.
Nian It's pretty much where my role lands, right? I'm specialized for it.
Dusk So you worked obediently?
Nian You bet I didn't.
Dusk How brazen of you.
Nian *Sigh* I can't say I totally slacked, but the terrain in Shangshu was vicious stuff at the time. Even if I took it seriously, drumming up a three-story building would be a heck of a lot of effort.
But what the Sui Regulator specified was to "build a city that can withstand a small Catastrophe." They just wanted to weigh me down on purpose, right?
So, I went as I felt, helped with some small stuff sometimes, gave a demo or two.
Shangshu's food really hit the spot for me, so I didn't mind staying for a while.
Until one day...
Some kid found out where I lived, and begged me to make a sword.
I guess I wasn't too low-key living in Shangshu. Made sense I left a legend or two behind. But I didn't expect... Oripathy to take both his eyes.
<Flashback starts here>
<Background 5>
Nian Honestly, you've been here for days. What exactly are you thinking?
Young Swordsman Sir, I only wish for you to grant me a sword. One is ready to pay any price in exchange.
Nian Sounds fine, but what price can you afford? Besides, what do you want a sword for?
Young Swordsman To save. To avenge.
Nian Gah... that's a headache.
<Flashback ends here>
<Background 4>
Nian No matter how I asked, he just answered the same four words, 'to save, to avenge'—but I didn't even care, to be honest.
I got seriously sick of him and just forged him a random sword. And he'd never be able to afford it, in any scenario, so I could only lend it to him. He'd have to give it back in a hundred days.
After about three months, I practically forgot about it when one day, out of nowhere, an old guy came calling.
I knew him. He was the owner of an inn at the edge of the city.
He gave me a bundle, with a broken sword wrapped inside.
<Flashback starts here>
<Background 5>
Nian What's this?
Old Man A child gave me some money, and asked me to deliver this to the swordsmith living on Zuanjiang Peak.
*Sigh*... We've had spring chills for the last few days, and snow. It's a treacherous road up here, I tell you...
Nian He told you to give to me? Why didn't he come himself?
Ohh... he broke it, so he's too shy to see me in person?
Old Man I suppose he's... passed on by now...
<Flashback ends here>
<Background 4>
Dusk Why—did he die?
Nian I've got no idea.
Dusk What? Did that old man not tell you?
Nian He told me he did what the youngster said, went to a specific place at a specific time to pick up the sword. He got there, and he saw nothing but burnt-out ruins.
Who knows how long it was burning, but nothing in there was recognizable anymore. Just that broken sword lying in the middle, nothing else.
Dusk I'm beginning to feel as if you're spinning a tale again.
Nian Aw, that's just uncalled for. Can't you even have the most basic trust in your sister here?
Dusk What happened next?
Nian Nothing to speak of. I didn't ask much more, and frankly, I wasn't the least bit interested.
I cast that broken sword back into a new billet, and had the old guy take it down for the city craftsmen to use.
If that material could teach them a thing or two, I was sure it'd improve their tech, so I considered myself even with the Sui Regulator.
You get bored staying too long in one place, so after that, I left Shangshu.
And there I thought to myself, I gave them some pointers, helped them improve their art; they ought to realize Shangshu's not suitable for long-term habitation, and go find another home. Acceptable ending, by and large.
Until fifty years later, I went back to Shangshu again.
And in those towering mountains, I found a city.
The Three Mounts and Eighteen Peaks of Shangshu. Rugged place to put passes through, and the plank walkways people set up were just one death road after another; the peaks were steep, yet they'd have a tower built at the crowning summits.
I obviously could've taken the credit, thought how if I didn't give them any tips, it'd be anyone's guess, the years they'd polish their tech to reach that level of understanding.
But the sight of those vast walls in the sunlight, I was honestly just stunned. Not a thought like that ever came to me.
Dusk I never expected to hear you say anything like that.
Nian Maybe that was the moment my thinking changed.
People. They really are neat after all.
Dusk Is that the end?
Nian I guess so.
If you have to be technical, there's still a tiny little epilogue...
<Flashback starts here>
<Background 2>
Nian Anybody home?
Innkeeper Come in, come right in! Sit anywhere you like!
Nian "Xingcheng Inn"... Was that always this place's name?
Innkeeper You may not know, but they say that fifty years ago, Shangshu went through a Catastrophe.
My grandpa brought in divine metal from a god, and that was the metal our craftsmen built the modern Shangshu with.
My grandpa wanted to commemorate it, so he changed the name of the shop to "Xingcheng", just like our new city rising.
Nian That's neat. Then did your grandpa ever tell you the prequel to that story?
Like, about a blind swordsman, maybe a broken blade?
Innkeeper You're a funny one, ma'am. The god's metal's just a legend, no more. Where's a swordsman breaking anything come from?
If you want to hear about fifty years ago, you'll have to find the storyteller in the teahouse. It'll cost you a pretty penny to listen to his nonsense, too.
Nian Yeah, you're right. It was fifty years ago.
Whatever, I'm just rambling... hey, boss, I'll have some shuizhu, extra spicy!
Innkeeper Coming up! Just one moment.
Nian Seriously...
It was just a sword...
<Flashback ends here>
<Background 4>
Dusk By the sound of it, you regret it?
Nian I kind of do.
Dusk Do you regret not giving that boy a better sword, or that you didn't go see for yourself just what ended him?
Nian I regret not coming out a few years earlier.
All those years buried in that pitch-black tomb. Really was a waste of time.
And who knows how much time we have left, still.
Dusk No matter what... you always come back to this topic.
Nian Don't just shrug it off like that. Isn't this the biggest household argument our whole family's got?
Dusk I'm tired. I'm going to bed. Hurry up and leave.
Nian And since when did you start being able to sleep again?
Dusk ......
Nian Admit it, li'l sis. We're all still in a dream. It's so crammed with interesting stuff, it's got us forgetting just how fragile the dream really is.
But we'll have to wake up at some point.
Dusk Suit yourself. How do you plan to take a dream out with you?
Nian First, find a way to make it carry on a little longer. If we're going to wake up no matter what, then I'd like to ready up a giant firecracker, and blow this dream apart with my own hands.