Chapter 67: A Swordsman Speaks with a Sword; A Blacksmith Speaks with Iron (2)
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TL: FoodieMonster007; ED: TheGreatT20 If you see this, you are at the wrong site!
“So this is the Dujiangyan Irrigation System?” 1
The escorts buzzed with excitement as they admired the engineering marvel known as the Dujiangyan Irrigation System. Right in front of their eyes, the beautiful Min River, with its flashy myriad colors, was split into two by a man-made structure.
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Originally, as winter turned into spring, snowmelt from the nearby mountains would flow into the Min River and flood the nearby areas, causing great suffering to the people living there. To solve the problem, Lee Bing, a local official of Sichuan Province during the Qin Dynasty, together with his son Lee Rang, worked together to design and construct an irrigation system that would redirect the waters of the Min River and prevent flooding. All in all, more than ten thousand workers were mobilized for the construction which took eight whole years to complete.
When the river stream, which was originally one, was divided into an outer river and an inner river, the waterway stabilized and the area became free of flooding.
That was the history of the Dujiangyan Irrigation System, a place where the flow of Nature was altered by human hands. This engineering miracle which saved many lives and livelihoods caused many Sichuanese to consider this structure as sacred.
Gong Jin-Sung said to Yoon Seo-In, “It will take us two days to travel from Dujiangyan2 to Chengdu. We should rest here tonight.”
“That is fine, Finance Head Gong,” Yoon Seo-In replied weakly.
Gong Jin-Sung flashed a look of sympathy at Yoon Seo-In. She had been depressed ever since the incident with the Kongtong Sect, which opened her eyes to the pinnacle of strength and showed her that she was just a frog in the well.
To make things worse, Yoon Seo-In wasn’t the only person affected by the incident. A large chasm had appeared between Jin Mu-Won and the rest of the caravan, including himself and the Iron Brigade. Having to travel together with someone of that caliber was turning out to be far more nerve-racking than he’d thought possible.
By far the most stressful part was Jin Mu-Won’s attitude, which remained wholly unchanged from before. Instead of demanding better treatment, Jin Mu-Won quietly drove his wagon and cooked hotpot for everyone every day. This action of his had renewed his relationship with some of the escorts, but most of them still avoided him.
It’s entirely up to the Young Mistress to decide whether she should let things continue this way or set her pride aside and apologize to him. I can’t do anything.
Gong Jin-Sung sighed. He still needed to get things done, so he couldn’t spend too much time being distracted by Yoon Seo-In. He booked twelve rooms in the Revitalization Inn, the largest inn in Dujiangyan, and ordered the escorts to unpack the luggage. Night hadn’t fallen yet, but the journey to Yunnan was long and he wanted to take this opportunity to let the caravan members get more rest.
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Normally, three or four people would be assigned to one large room, but Gong Jin-Sung gave Jin Mu-Won and Kwak Moon-Jung a small double room of their own. He felt that this was the least he could do for the two who had been alienated by the rest of the group. As for the remaining rooms, half were assigned to the Iron Brigade and the remaining half to the White Dragon Merchant Association.
Gong Jin-Sung left the minimum manpower behind to guard the wagons, then ordered the escorts to take the rest of the day off. When they heard his announcement, the exhausted escorts who had been sleeping outdoors for half a month cheered loudly, split up into small groups, and happily went into the red-light district where the prostitutes who had seen the caravan enter the city earlier were eagerly waiting to welcome them.
Although Jin Mu-Won desperately wanted to continue on to Yunnan, he understood that he couldn’t be selfish and ignore the needs of others. Thus, since he had nothing better to do, he decided to relax and enjoy the rest of the day by touring the city together with Kwak Moon-Jung.
The two young men strolled around the market district of Dujiangyan, basking in the atmosphere of a city they had never been to before. Crowds thronged the streets, and the loud cries of merchants passionately greeting and haggling with their customers could be heard along with the sounds of both laughter and angry shouting. It was like a noisy and chaotic festival.
Interestingly, there were many people dressed in Taoist robes walking on the streets. Kwak Moon-Jung, who had studied some geography due to his job, pointed to a mountain range south of the city and introduced it to Jin Mu-Won as Mount Qingcheng, one of the birthplaces of Taoism and the location of the Qingcheng Sect.
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Mount Qingcheng consisted of thirty-six peaks, and there were more than eighty monasteries built on those peaks. All those monasteries put together formed the Qingcheng Sect. The individual monasteries alternated between cooperating and antagonizing each other, but they all nonetheless took pride in the name of their sect.
The people of Dujiangyan treated the Taoists of the Qingcheng Sect with great respect, and the Taoists in turn took their hospitality for granted as the protectors of the area.
I remember Uncle Hwang telling me Dujiangyan was the territory of the Qingcheng Sect, but hearing someone talk about it is not the same as seeing it for myself.
There were three large murim factions in Sichuan, namely, the Qingcheng Sect, the Emei Sect, and the Tang Clan. Both the Qingcheng Sect and the Emei Sect were powerful sects, while the Tang Clan was one of the Five Great Clans. The strengths of these three sects were quite balanced, and together they split up and ruled the lands of the Sichuan Province.
Still, the three factions may be the undisputed kings of Sichuan, but because of the existence of Heaven’s Summit, their influence over the entire Central Plains was limited. They could only boss over their own territories.
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I recall Uncle Hwang also telling me that the Qingcheng Sect was the most neutral and reasonable of the three factions. There’s even a famous saying in the murim that goes “The violent Tang Clan; The aggressive Emei Sect; and the moderate Qingcheng Sect”.
On the surface, that saying seems to be correct. The Taoists of the Qingcheng Sect, with their faint smiles and gentle expressions, fit the “moderate” description perfectly.
Suddenly, Kwak Moon-Jung tugged at Jin Mu-Won’s sleeve, pointed in a certain direction, and asked, “Hyung, can we go over there?”
From the direction where Kwak Moon-Jung was pointing, Jin Mu-Won could hear the sounds of hammers striking steel. He then glanced to his side and saw the boy eagerly staring at the street filled with weapons shops and smithies.
It was obvious what he wanted. Jin Mu-Won grinned and said, “Do you want to buy a new sword?”
“…Hyung, weren’t you the one who told me to get a heavier sword?”
Jin Mu-Won nodded, replying, “Yeah, I did, didn’t I? Okay then, let’s take this opportunity to get you a new weapon.”
“Alright! Let’s go!” shouted Kwak Moon-Jung, skipping ahead excitedly.
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As Jin Mu-Won entered the arms street, the nostalgic smell of burning metal tickled his nose. Not only that, heat from the furnaces in the warm smithies poured out onto the cold streets as white smoke. All these familiar sights and smells immediately reminded him of the years he spent hard at work forging swords.
The only differences between back then and now were the colorful signboards hanging above every door.
Heavenly Arms Workshop, Divine Weapons and Armor Shop… Just what is up with these names? Pfft hahaha…
Flashy names were one thing, but these were too garish. As a swordsmith himself, Jin Mu-Won understood all too well that no decent blacksmith would be able to put up such a signboard without feeling embarrassed. However, Kwak Moon-Jung was unaware of this fact and browsed the wares in every shop.
“Hyung, how does this sword look?”
Jin Mu-Won shook his head.
“Then what about this one?”
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Jin Mu-Won shook his head again.
Undeterred, Kwak Moon-Jung went from shop to shop tirelessly, picking out swords he liked and asking Jin Mu-Won for his opinion.
Although there were many shops with flashy names, Jin Mu-Won felt that few of the weapons they sold were forged by real smithies. The swords on display appeared sleek and shiny, but they were more ornamental than practical.
The shops on this part of the street target normal people looking for self-defense weapons rather than true martial artists.
The two young men slowly moved toward the other end of the street. As they walked, they noticed that the shops were getting smaller and shabbier. Few had signboards up front, and no one tried to advertise goods to them.
At the same time, Jin Mu-Won noticed that the quality of the weapons and armor had improved by leaps and bounds. Additionally, he could now clearly hear the sounds of hammering and feel the heat from the furnaces. These were the real smithies.
He identified the smithy where the hammering sounds resonated most pleasantly in his ears and entered.
“Hmm? Hyung?” asked Kwak Moon-Jung, bewildered by Jin Mu-Won’s sudden change in behavior.
Inside the smithy, two rotund blacksmiths were engrossed in taking turns hammering a piece of red-hot steel into its final shape. Kwak Moon-Jung, who was seeing this for the first time, couldn’t close his mouth in awe.
Jin Mu-Won nodded in acknowledgment and unconsciously tapped his thigh with his finger to the rhythm of the hammering.
When the older one of the two blacksmiths saw Jin Mu-Won’s actions, his eyes lit up with interest for a moment, but he quickly returned to focusing on his work.
A while later, when the hammering and shaping process was complete, the two blacksmiths doused the metal into a tub of oil.
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The metal quickly cooled in the oil, causing steam to rise and fill the room.
“Phew!” Only then did the old blacksmith heave a sigh of relief, unwind the towel wrapped around his head, and wipe off the sweat on his upper body.
“I have a pretty good feeling about this one. I’ll leave it to you to finish the quenching.”
“Sure thing, Father.”
The old blacksmith finally approached Jin Mu-Won and Kwak Moon-Jung, asking, “What kind of weapons or armor are you looking for?”
“I’m buying a sword for this kid here.”
“What about yourself?”
“I have this guy.” Jin Mu-Won raised the hand holding Snow Flower and showed it to the old blacksmith.
The old blacksmith’s eyes glittered as he asked, “Did you make that yourself?”
“How did you know?”
“I saw you tapping your finger on your leg earlier. Only a fellow craftsman would be able to follow that rhythm.”
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Jin Mu-Won was taken aback. The fact that the old blacksmith could notice such a subtle movement while hammering meant that he was a master of his craft.
“Mind letting me take a look at your sword?”
Jin Mu-Won hesitated for a moment, then handed Snow Flower over to the old blacksmith. The old blacksmith summoned all of his strength to draw Snow Flower from its scabbard, but regardless of how hard he tried, it was futile.
“Ugh! Hey, is this sword sealed?” exclaimed the old blacksmith. He tried drawing Snow Flower a few more times, but eventually gave up and returned it to Jin Mu-Won.
Jin Mu-Won smiled, took back Snow Flower, and drew it in one smooth movement.
Unlike when the old blacksmith was trying to draw it, Snow Flower slid out of its scabbard easily. However, the instant the old blacksmith saw the blade as dark as night, his face paled.
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Translator’s Notes: Sorry for the late update, I was sick. Also, this chapter is basically a tourist guidebook and I had to do some research to figure out what all the locations and sect names were.
Dujiangyan Irrigation System: The Dujiangyan (Chinese: 都江堰; pinyin: Dūjiāngyàn) is an ancient irrigation system in Dujiangyan City, Sichuan, China. Originally constructed around 256 BC by the State of Qin as an irrigation and flood control project, it is still in use today. The system’s infrastructure develops on the Min River, the longest tributary of the Yangtze River. The area is in the west part of the Chengdu Plain, between the Sichuan Basin and the Tibetan Plateau. Originally, the Min River would rush down from the Min Mountains and slow down abruptly after reaching the Chengdu Plain, filling the watercourse with silt, thus making the nearby areas extremely prone to floods. King Zhao of Qin commissioned the project and assigned it to Li Bing, a Sichuan local official, and the construction of the Dujiangyan harnessed the river using a new method of channeling and dividing the water rather than simply damming it. The water management scheme is still in use today to irrigate over 5,300 km2 (2,000 sq mi) of land in the region. The Dujiangyan, the Zhengguo Canal in Shaanxi and the Lingqu Canal in Guangxi are collectively known as the “three great hydraulic engineering projects of the Qin Dynasty.” ↩
Dujiangyan: Referring to Dujiangyan City. ↩
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