Chapter 11. Is this the Divine Sword?
“*sob* I… Poong Chun-Ho… greets the Gunmun Emperor… please forgive my inability… to serve you in your time of need.”
His chicken-poop like tears and trembling shoulders showed the emotion swelling up within him. Pa Chun was amazed at this scene. Although he had expected it to some extent, he didn’t expect the Chief Master of Gae Bang to be a vassal of the first emperor as well.
Pa Chun moved to the Chief Master’s room to talk.
“Are the two Nohs doing well?”
“Yes, they are doing fine.”
“Please, talk freely.”
“No, this is good enough. I’m no longer the emperor so treat me as you would any other.”
“Then I shall abide your majesty’s wishes… the twin Nohs and I are the only powers the Founding Emperor left in Gang Ho Murim. I believe the Nohs have been gathering their forces as they trained in secret. The Founding Emperor has told us something like this would happen… but to think it’d actually come true… I still can’t believe it.”
“It’s all in the past now. Besides, I am more than content with my current lifestyle. There are many ways a man can live his life, and this is certainly one of the best. I can freely wander this open world as I wish… how can this be anything but a great fortune? I just never realized because I lived my whole life in the palace… the world is a vast and mysterious place.”
“The road I walk from now on will be decided by me… this is the true way to live one’s life. My grandfather achieved his ambition and founded a foundation of a great empire. Although his fame is respectable, I have no use for his legacy. I will no longer involve myself in the government. My uncle… is a hero. I do not wish to struggle against him for something I no longer care about. So please do not speak of it again.”
“What will you do from now on? No matter what it may be, I will support you with all that I can do.”
“Then… what if I were to tell you to create a blood bath in the Gang Ho?”
“Then it shall be done with no questions. The reason I had not joined the Nine Jung Alliance was precisely because I did not know our future plans. My job was to make Gae Bang into a force completely under my control. The higher ranking officials have been chosen so that no matter what kind of orders I give, they will follow without questions. Naturally, we are yours to command.”
‘The Founding Emperor had such good vassals. With such a deep loyalty, grandfather must have been thankful. The reason that he was able to achieve his ambitions must have been because of their help.’
“I don’t have any concrete plans for you to follow… but I will definitely be in need of your services one day. When the time comes, please come to my aid.”
“Yes, of course. But from what I hear, your fame has already reached the corners of Gae Bong. What is going on? Also, I heard that you are able to use Shaolin’s martial arts. Is this true?”
“It’s a long story, but you can ask the Nohs about it. I’ll be going now. Oh right, are you participating in the Jung Do Banquet as well?”
“A student of mine will be. Though if you will be there, I’ll have to go.”
“Then I’ll see you then.”
The two of them stood up together.
“Ah, my lord, I have something to give you.”
“Please follow me.”
“Ho, what an amazing place.”
Pa Chun stood amazed the scene in front of him. He was in a secret weapon storage behind the Chief Master’s room. It was filled with weapons giving off bone-chilling aura, as they were all treasures that had once shaken the world.
The entrance was about ten jangs wide, its walls holding hundreds of sparkling weapons. Poong-Gae brought Pa Chun into the inner most area, lifting up a red cloth covering a metal box. The metal box had several Concealment Pearls* imbedded into it.[Author’s note: as the name suggests, it’s a pearl that prevents dust from invading what it’s protecting.]
“Here it is. Try opening it. It is something the Founding Emperor had acquired and handed down to me to preserve it. There are two of them, so choose one of your liking.”
Pa Chun calmed his excited mind and stepped forward to the metal box.
The lid opened with an ear-screeching noise, as Pa Chun’s face grew brighter after seeing the content inside the box.
-Ho, this is?
Chun Ma and Huineng were the first ones to react.
It was a sword. Probably about three jas and five chis (1.35m)? Its sharp double-edges sparkled with a red tint while the blade carried a jet black color. An image of a dragon rising to the heavens was inscribed on its hilt, and its end was embroidered with a golden thread. The sword sheathe was also decorated with an image of an ancient dragon embroidered onto it with a golden thread. The sword and the sheathe lied side by side, and next to it lied another sword. Its blade, however, could not be seen as the blade was inside its sheathe.
“Which of the two would you like?”
-Pick the black one.
=No, shizhu! Pick the white colored sword next to it.
What are these two getting all worked up for? Why do they care what I pick?
Pa Chun reached for the black sword hesitatingly. As King Gae Poong Chun-Ho watched this scene, his forehead was covered with droplets of sweat. Why?
Pa Chun then reached for the white sword. Though its sheath had no patterns on it, the sword still carried a mystical aura. Pa Chun stopped his hand once again! Every time he would do this, Poong Gae’s face changed.
-No, no, yes, yes.
=Yes, shizhu. No, not that…
Both Chun Ma and Huineng were going crazy. Pa Chun moved his hand back and forth in quick succession, just to play around with the two. Their voice continued to rise, and in the end, Pa Chun backed his hands out.
“Poong-Gae… how about I take both of them?”
“Both? …. Haha, of course, go ahead. They are yours to begin with, my lord.”
-Tsk, what a greedy bastard!
-Amitabul. Just one would be would be hard to handle…
‘Just what are these swords to make these two act like this?”
Pa Chun’s curiosity was at its peak.
“Poong-Gae, do you know anything about these swords?”
“Yes, I do! The black one is… the legendary Heavenly Demon Sword… said to have been used by Chun Ma himself.”
“Yes.”[You were in an uproar because of your old sword?]
“Nothing has been confirmed of course. It is only my speculation. It seemed to exactly match the details of Chun Ma’s sword described in the Murim Biographies…”
“Chun Ma confirmed it’s his…”
“No, no, continue.”
“The other is one of the three legendary holy swords – Yu Chang, Gan Jang, and Mak Sa. This one is the Gan Jang Sword.”
“Gan Jang Sword?*”[Note: Gan Jang can mean soy sauce.]
Why not call it Miso?
“Yes. This sword was forged by the legendary swordsmith, Gan Jang, who lived during the Chaotic Warring States Period. Of his two last pieces – Gan Jang and Mak Sa – this is the former.”
“There are many stories involving this sword, but they’re only stories. It is also known as ‘the sword carried by the emperor.’ Because of this, many emperors have sought out in search of this sword.”
“I’d like to hear some of these stories.”
“I’ve only heard about it from another, so it’s nothing special.”
The story was as such.
During the Warring States Period, there was a blacksmith by the name Gan Jang, who had a wife named Mak Sa. One day, the queen of their country became pregnant and gave birth; yet what she had given birth to was not a child, but raw steel! After many days of contemplating, the king ordered the greatest swordsmith of the era, Gan Jang, to melt the steel and forge the greatest sword he has ever created. Gan Jang separated the steel into two, making two swords – Gan Jang and Mak Sa. He gave one of the two to the king, but was unable to return home. In fear that he would make another sword of its equal, he ordered Gan Jang to be killed. Unfortunately for the king, another sword of equal strength had already been made by Gan Jang. His wife, Mak Sa, who had been pregnant at the time, gave birth to a son. She hid from the king in an isolated mountain house, teaching her son martial arts every day. When the son had come of age, she handed down the sword Mak Sa and ordered him to take revenge for his father. However, whether he had succeeded or not was never recorded.
‘Alright, I’ll be taking them both then.”
‘Ah, to think another one of Founding Emperor’s prophecies would come true. He had once said that someone will appear who will wield both swords and unify the lands under one. In fact, his words suggested that this man would unify the entire world… does this include the authority of the emperor?’
Pa Chun placed the two Divine Swords around his waist. The two swords together with his handsome appearance gave him a divine look.
While talking about all sorts of things, the two of them stepped outside the Shrine. Seeing the Chief Master personally see someone off, the men of Gae Bang watched the two with suspicious gazes.
After arriving back to the inn, Pa Chun did not go to his room, as he found the others having breakfast at the inn’s diner. When Pa Chun walked in, everyone rose up from their seats and asked where he had gone.
“Haha, I got a bit stuffy so I went out for a morning stroll.”
Their gazes had focused on the two swords around Pa Chun’s waist.
“Ah, these are swords I happened to come across… is there a problem?”
“No, just that they don’t seem to be any ordinary swords. In fact, they seem to be treasured swords.”
Nangong Hemi had a look of surprise at this statement.
“Is that so? Hm… then someone like me must be unworthy of such swords, no?”
“Of course not. If there is something Sir Mun cannot possess, who under the heavens woud claim that he could? Don’t embarrass us with such jokes.”
“Haha, let us sit down and finish our breakfast first.”
At his words, everyone sat back down. Ever since the incident last night, the way they treated Pa Chun had changed significantly. Although he was younger, they treated him with respect one would towards his elder.
‘Mm. Why is she staring at me so much. It’s only morning…”
Who was the one staring at Pa Chun? It was Nangong Ah-Yeon. Naturally, she was the one who paid a late-night visit to Pa Chun. She was staring at Pa Chun with eyes full of love and regret. Without caring for it in the slightest, Pa Chun dug down at the food his had just ordered. However, as she did not show any signs of stopping, Pa Chun couldn’t help but to continue noticing her gaze. But he could not show it on the outside. If the others found out, it would lead to troublesome things.
“Cough, have you slept well last night, miss Nangong? You look worried about something. Is something wrong?”
She panicked once everyone had turned their attention towards her. But within a moment, she regained her composure and said with a smile.
“Hoho, what worries? I slept well… it was a satisfying night.”
When she answered with a hint of precociousness, the gazes of the others turned flashed strangely. The three other girls especially gave her a look of questioning, only to be met with no answers. After a bit, the conversation topic had moved to the Jung Do Banquet that was to be held today.
The usually silent Moyong Jung-Geol explained while his eyes twitched as it had done before. Because it seemed like he was trying to seduce him, a man, Pa Chun didn’t feel too comfortable.
“Sir, your fame has already reached the ends of Gae Bong. It looks like you will receive quite a bit of attention at the Banquet.”
It was only after they woke up that they heard about how famous Munyun (the name they knew him as) became. He had even been given the nickname Jade Faced Divine Dragon. Since they had personally witnessed his prowess, they did not think it was an overstatement in the slightest.
“It’s honestly a bit too much for me. I am honored that someone like me is seen with such respect.”
-Hmph, your fame is spreading across Murim at an exponential rate. Who would believe you only just debuted in Murim? You can even announce that you are Chun Ma’s Disciple. No one here would believe you. The world is yours to take.[The world is mine to take, eh? I like it… I’ll remember it.]
After finishing up their breakfast, the group headed outside. The Yun Hyun Road that went across the north to south of Gae Bong Prefecture was packed with people. The group of 10 including Sul Ju-Bong was all riding on horseback. The importance of this group could be clearly seen as the owner of the inn personally came out to see them off. The Jung Do Banquet which would start in the afternoon would continue for three days. Murim-ins who came to participate could be seen everywhere, and people who were acquainted greeted each other. People especially recognized men from the North Swords. Those that recognized Pa Chun also couldn’t help but to start talking about him with the others in crowd.
Following the Huang He that flowed to the north of Gae Bong, one could find the North Swords, one of the 4 Powers of Jung Do.
They were a militant group that unified the northern areas filled with martial art clans. Although they claimed to be part of the Jung Do, their actions could only be described as hostile and evil. Their way of doing things was clearly different from that of the South Blades, located in Hu Guang Province’s* Wu Chang District. It was also vastly different from the Sichuan Province’s Five Clans Union, or the 9 Schools of Jung Do’s Nine Jung Alliance.[Author’s Note: split into Hubei and Hunan Province in 1667 with the Dong Ting Lake as their border]
Of the 4 Powers of Jung Do, the North Swords had the greatest number of people. Their ranking from highest to lowest was as such: the Head, then three Protectors, then the Advisors, Generals, and Inspectors. Under the command of the three Protectors were the Guardian Palace, the Demon Sword Palace, the Blood Sword Palace, and the Heaven Sword palace. The Generals were in charge of the Armored Horse Regiment, and the Inspectors were in charge of the Law Enforcement Corp, the Assassins Corp, and the Information Corp. Besides these groups, the North Swords controlled an additional force of 15,000 men. They were undoubtedly the biggest of the 4 Powers.
What caused many people to raise concerns were the Blood Sword Palace and the Demon Sword Palace, under the command of the Protectors. The two groups consisted of famous Ma Do-ins that the North Swords recruited, and their viciousness was still the same. The South Blades and the Five Clans Union raised questions on several accounts but the North Swords always refused to take action, causing the Five Clans Unions to doubt the North Sword’s motive.
The road leading to the North Swords was filled with Murim-ins. Some rode on horsebacks while some rode on carriages. Some moved in a group of considerable amount of people while some participated alone on their own merit. There were hundreds of minor schools that had not joined the 4 Powers of Jung Do. If a Ma Do’s minor school had not joined the Ma Do Alliance, the people of Jung Do would seek and bully them. However, the Jung Pa did not care if Jung Do’s minor schools did not join the 4 Powers. It was the North Swords that always stood in the front of oppressing Ma Do schools. The other 3 Powers only occasionally helped out.
Pa Chun started to see the North Sword’s gigantic fortress in the distance. Its outer walls were 20 li tall, and another wall inside it separated the fortress into inner and outer parts. Several pagodas were scattered about the fortress, taking up large space around it. One particular one situated in the center of the inner walls invoked admiration of its spectators. This was the 9-layered Divine Sword Pavilion.
“Tsk, look at the money they spent on that.”
The people around Pa Chun’s horse gave a light snort.
“How much money did they spend to build this thing?”
Although the man was only talking to himself, another one had heard and answered.
“I hear they used ten thousand gold coins* just to build the Divine Sword Pavilion. Who could guess what the entire fortress cost?”[Author’s note: About 500 million Wons in present day?]
“Where are they getting all that money from?”
At this question Nangong Hyuk Ryun looked around carefully before giving his answer.
“Their most important source of income is transporting goods. Besides that they own inns and bars, or work in mercenary groups. As they began to expand in these businesses, they found Ma Do-ins to be a hindrance, since these are what Ma Do-ins are usually involved in. It’s also why they’re going so far as to hunt down various Ma Do clans. If these clans fell, the North Swords would be able to monopolize these businesses.”
“Oho… indeed, if they could monopolize these businesses in all the Mid Lands, their profits will be immense.”
Nangong Ah-Yeon asked after suddenly sticking to his side.
What’s up with her all of the sudden? Just leave me alone, will you? Can’t you see how the other girls are looking at us? Or are you purposely trying to show it off? I already hinted her to stop… is she dense? Or is she just tenacious?
“Move over! giddyap.”
The clattering of a horse’s hoofs could be heard. Move over? Does he think anyone will be willing to make space for a horse to move through?
As Pa Chun expected, no one paid attention to this man.