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TL: FoodieMonster007; ED: TheGreatT20 If you see this, you are at the wrong site!
Heaven’s Summit was bustling with two thriving businesses: the inns and the armories. The inns were bustling with eager young martial artists, while the armories had folks queuing up to get their hands on weapons.
This was especially true for the places near Heaven’s Summit, but even those farther away couldn’t escape the frenzy. The inns in nearby towns and villages were practically bursting at the seams with spirited young fighters who couldn’t afford to stay in the city.
Dazhu County was no exception, being a sizable county in Sichuan, a pit stop en route to Hubei. As the name suggested, it was renowned for its expansive bamboo forests.1 Most martial artists from Sichuan would spend a day in Dazhu County before heading to Hubei. Consequently, the county’s inns rejoiced at the sudden influx of guests, and the armories were bursting with customers wanting to upgrade their weapons or buy new ones.
Amidst the hustle and bustle of the Dazhu County armories, many intriguing negotiations took place, but none was more eye-catching than the bartering between an elderly craftsman and a young martial artist in his late twenties.
“I’ve only got one silver. Can you please help me out?” the young martial artist pleaded.
The craftsman sighed, “If you want a decent sword, you’ll need at least three silvers.”
“I beg you, this is all I’ve got.”
“Why are you buying a sword if you can’t afford it? Very well, these are what I can sell you at that price.” The craftsman presented him with a lousy iron sword. It had been forged by an apprentice and was poorly balanced and made of inferior materials.
The young martial artist, Myeong Ryu-San, hesitated, desperation flickering in his eyes. He’d visited countless armories, but no one was willing to part with a sword for his single piece of silver, as the price of swords had skyrocketed to five or six silvers due to the increase in demand. To make matters worse, after this purchase, he wouldn’t even have enough money to reach Heaven’s Summit, his ultimate goal.
…No, I have to buy a sword, even if it means that I have to go without food for a few days. Myeong Ryu-San clenched his teeth and reluctantly handed his money over.
The elderly craftsman, seemingly expecting this outcome, presented him with the crappy iron sword and said happily, “Thank you for your purchase! This sword is now yours. Please take good care of it!”
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Just you wait, damn old man. When I become famous, I’ll come back and find you. We’ll see if you can still talk big when I show you what a real treasured sword is.
Chagrined, Myeong Ryu-San left the armory, clinging tightly to his precious new sword in fear of it being stolen. After three years of training at a small martial arts academy in Chengdu, he dreamed of success, but only now did he realize the harsh reality that awaited him.
The streets teemed with people, not only penniless martial artists like Myeong Ryu-San but also well-dressed ones with fine swords. These martial artists exuded an air of authority, causing others to instinctively make way. They were different from Myeong Ryu-San, who had trained for only a few years.
Annoyance surged within him. If only I had been born into a more privileged family, I would definitely be stronger than them!
Irritated by the sight, Myeong Ryu-San sped up and hurried back to the inn where he was staying, a small establishment on the outskirts of Dazhu County. He had been forced to stay with thirty other people in a room designed for ten, as the single rooms in the inn were either full or too expensive.
Even though it was still daytime, the inn was already crowded with people who shared his dream of seeking their fortunes at Heaven’s Summit. A fellow guest recognized Myeong Ryu-San and beckoned him to join.
The older man, in his forties with a bearded face and innocent eyes, was the first friend Myeong Ryu-San had made at the inn. He couldn’t recall the man’s name, but that was unimportant. It was a fleeting connection; he would forget it once they reached Heaven’s Summit.
Myeong Ryu-San accepted the older man’s offer and took a seat.
“Did you manage to buy a sword?” the man asked.
Myeong Ryu-San nodded.
The man’s eyes immediately fell on the shabby iron sword. When he saw it, he gave a fake smile and praised, “Well done, lad. A martial artist needs a sword. When you succeed in Heaven’s Summit, you’ll be able to get yourself a better one. Have a drink.”
“Thank you,” Myeong Ryu-San said. He could sense the man’s sarcasm, but he hid his displeasure and pretended not to notice it, gratefully accepting the free drink he was offered.
Suddenly, a commotion erupted at the inn’s entrance, capturing everyone’s attention.
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An alluring woman was weaving her way through the crowd. Her face had the delicate beauty of a blooming rose, her figure was slender, and she sported a striking red silk robe contrasted by a well-worn sword at her waist. From the moment she had stepped into the inn, no one could take their eyes off her.
Unfazed by the blatant stares, the woman moved through the throng, emanating an extraordinary aura that left even the innkeeper trembling as she approached. “Are there any available rooms?” she asked.
The innkeeper hesitated, “Yes, but…”
“It’s a high-end single-occupancy room, and it costs one silver per night. Will that be acceptable?”
One could buy a bag of rice with a single silver. It was a considerable sum, enough to sustain an average person for months. Yet, the woman did not hesitate, saying, “That’s fine. I’d also like to order some food…”
After arranging her stay, the woman ordered several simple dishes. As the waiter hurried to fulfill her request, she surveyed the inn, her presence casting an intimidating aura. Those who met her gaze quickly averted their eyes, instinctively recognizing her higher status.
Silence reigned until the woman’s food arrived, and the inn gradually resumed its lively chatter as the patrons ate and drank, though they occasionally stole glances at her.
Myeong Ryu-San, entranced by her beauty, was no exception.
The older man noticed and asked with a smirk, “Are you infatuated with her too?”
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“Why wouldn’t I be?” Myeong Ryu-San retorted.
The man advised sternly, “Give up. She’s different from us. It’s unwise to aspire to a tree you can’t climb.”
Myeong Ryu-San grit his teeth. “Just you see. I’ll make her mine someday.”
Suddenly, the crowd stirred once more, this time with greater excitement.
“Who is it now?”
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This time, a tall and rugged young man entered the inn. Clad in a bright blue robe and wielding a broadsword with three rings on the pommel, he immediately became the center of attention.
Murmurs of recognition spread among the crowd.
“Three rings? He’s a disciple of the Three Rings Sword Sect.”
“Could he be the Flying Eagle Swordsman Jwa Moon-Ho?”
The buzz of conversation grew louder. The man smiled confidently, savoring the attention.
Indeed, he was Jwa Moon-Ho, the successor of the prestigious Three Rings Sword Sect in Shandong. As if he already knew where he was going, he made a beeline for the table where the woman sat, prompting her to look up at him.
Their eyes locked and the woman frowned. However, Jwa Moon-Ho remained unperturbed, sitting down at her table and creating a qi barrier to hide their conversation from prying ears. “May I join you, Miss Nam?” he asked after the fact.
Annoyed, the woman replied, “No, you may not. You’re persistent, Mr. Jwa. I thought I already declined your offer.”
“Well, I think you’ll change your mind after hearing me out, haha!”
“Please give me one more chance. If you reject me again, I’ll give up for good this time, okay?”
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Appalled at the man’s shamelessness, the woman relented and nodded.
Jwa Moon-Ho grinned as if he had already won. Hmph, no matter how strong your martial arts are, you’re just an inexperienced gangho newcomer.
In truth, the woman was no ordinary martial artist. She was the “Saintess of Mount Mu” Nam Soo-Ryun, heir to the Mount Mu Sect, one of the gangho’s most esoteric sects, and a master swordswoman in her own right. Even though she was one of the Seven Young Skies, she rarely left her sect, yet here she was in Dazhu County.
Just a day ago, Jwa Moon-Ho had popped up out of the blue, somehow managing to figure out where she was and intercepting her on the road. He invited her to join the Azure Dragon Society, and although she refused at first, he was insistent.
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Through their conversation, she realized that the Azure Dragon Society had more young martial artists than she had expected, and their influence was greater than she had imagined. Still, she had no intention of joining. Her secretive sect rarely allowed disciples to venture beyond its borders, and she had no desire for worldly power. Her master had only permitted her this journey to gain experience.
Jwa Moon-Ho said assuredly, “I understand your concern, Miss Nam. However, the Azure Dragon Society is just a social gathering, and it won’t affect the sanctity of the Mount Mu Sect.”
“Mr. Jwa, let me get one thing straight: I am not going to join the Azure Dragon Society,” Nam Soo-Ryun asserted.
Jwa Moon-Ho leaned in, trying to persuade her. “Come on, Miss Nam, give it a second thought. The Azure Dragon Society doesn’t accept just anyone, and this is a golden opportunity for you.”
Nam Soo-Ryun shook her head resolutely. “I’m really sorry, Mr. Jwa.”
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Her firm refusal did not sit well with Jwa Moon-Ho, and a tense silence hung between them, sending chills throughout the inn.
Translator’s Note: I am off on a business + vacation trip to Fukuoka and Busan. Updates will resume on Oct 25th. Now you know why there have been triple releases lately XD
Dazhu means “big bamboo”. ↩
If you see this, you are at the wrong site!