“All right, then, the patronage and protection granted to me by the Temple is something I can’t afford not to repay.”
Lin Mu Yu set down the weapons in his hold. “These are all spirit blades. How much should they be worth in the market?”
Ge Yang looked into the distance. “Trainer Liu, you were a supervisor for the Empire’s Weapon division. Could you come and appraise the rank and value of these blades?”
Trainer Liu was a huge robust man with thick sideburns and a beard outlining his face. He walked up to a sword-- keng-- as his hand touched the sword and his eyes scanned the blade. “Good sword… this is a rank 7 spirit sword made from mysterious metal. The market price for this would probably be around 700 to 1,200 golden yin. A lot of noblemen would want to get their hands on this piece of work.”
Lin Mu Yu turned around and flashed Lei Hong a smile. “Then let’s say, half-price for the Temple. I’ll sell every single sword here for 500 golden yin. What do you think Grandpa Lei Hong?”
Lei Hong nodded gratefully. “It's a deal. Deacon Ge Yang, kindly retrieve 2,500 golden yin from the treasury for Lin Zhi. Remember to put these swords at the topmost strata in the weaponry storage. Only silver-star and golden-star instructors can use these weapons.”
Ge Yang cupped his fist. “Yes, sir, High Deacon!”
Lin Mu Yu left to buy a new sword sheath after receiving the money, his heart practically bursting at the seams with excitement at the thought of his deal with the Sword Master. He had successfully recast the Prairie Fire Sword into a rank 5 mysterious semi-holy weapon. Now the Sword Master would have to accept him as a disciple, right?
At the crack of dawn, the Infinite Victory Weaponry Shop had just opened its doors. When Lin Mu Yu stepped inside, he could spot the Sword Master standing on top of a branch, his body clad in a pure white robe, looking for all to be a celestial being descended from above. Circling him was a long sword as he performed deep-breathing exercises, absorbing the spiritual energy in the morning air. As he inhaled and exhaled, he had the elegant manner of a master scholar.
Heaven knew what deity the Sword Master was or which corner of the earth he hailed from... but Lin Mu Yu could at least ascertain that the Sword Master would not fall under the likes of Lei Hong or Qu Chu, or any of the innumerable powerful warriors in the Empire… it was only that he chose to hide out here where no one could bother him.
Lin Mu Yu did not rush up towards him to interrupt him. He stood there on the rocky bypass, hugging the Prairie Fire Sword to his chest as he observed the Sword Master’s training from afar.
The sun had already ascended to a higher point after an hour or so, and the spiritual essence in the atmosphere slowly began to dissolve in the baking heat. The Sword Master slowly opened his eyes, looking over approvingly at the young man standing some few feet away. “Young hero, you are back? Have you held up your end of the deal?”
Lin Mu Yu strode up to him and genuflecting, presented the Prairie Fire Sword. “Master, kindly receive the sword.”
The Sword Master held out a hand and grasped the sword. Keng-- he inspected the sword, feeling the surge of fire within the blade and even hearing the distant whines of a fire dragon. He admired the slim and elegant arc of the sword’s body, it had the charm of a master refiner. Wiping a finger across the blade, he felt the vigor and energy poured into its creation. “Rank 5 mysterious blade, truly a good sword. You used the 9000 year-old fire dragon, I presume?”
Lin Mu Yu gaped at him. “Master, even this you can tell?”
The Sword Master chuckled. “If I can’t know such a simple thing, how can I rightfully be your master?”
“Ha, I guess so.”
“You may rise. I accept you as my disciple.”
“Thank you Master!”
Lin Mu Yu straightened, his face glowing with a winsome smile.
The Sword Master looked at his new student. “The art of the sword is as boundless and vast as the horizon. If you truly want to learn the genuine art of the imperial sword, you must cultivate a heart for the sword. Without a sword heart, you cannot connect with the sword, understand?”
Lin Mu Yu stared at him blankly, shaking his head.
The Sword Master laughed gently. “That’s not surprising. After all, your sword skills before were barely adequate. To put it in plainer terms, most swordmasters wield the Imperial Sword Skill with their energy, using it to control the movement of the sword. But the skill I have refined uses the heart to wield the technique. Simply put, the swordmaster and the sword become one at heart, connected in spirit. And so, even though the sword may not be in your hand, the sword will still listen to your will.”
“What’s the difference between using energy and using heart to wield the Imperial Sword Skill?” Lin Mu Yu asked.
The Sword Master laughed, answering with a question. “During the heat of battle, which changes faster? Your will or your energy?”
Lin Mu Yu’s face lighted up. “I understand now, Master. Using the heart to wield the sword is the highest form for mastering sword skills.”
The Sword Master gently stroked his beard, his gaze glazed with a proud aloofness. “Indeed. When you have mastered the Heartfelt Mastery of the Imperial Sword, you will wonder why people continue to want to learn the foolish way of wielding the sword by energy.”
“I see. Thank you, Master. When shall we start?”
“Haven’t we already started?”
“A-ha. Forgive your disciple for his ignorance--”
“Oh, that’s right,” the Sword Master interrupted him.
“What’s wrong, Master?”
The Sword Master coughed. “You may learn as my disciple in the art of the Imperial Sword, but nothing comes for free. Before you complete your training under me, you need to supply the Infinite Victory Weaponry Shop with a mysterious-rank sword and two spiritual-rank swords.”
Lin Mu Yu cupped his hands. “One should expect nothing less!”
“Okay. Let’s start then. The first step is that you must enter the domain of the sword’s heart. The sword was initially of common metal, but because the swordmaster has a soul, the sword moves with it. Without a sword in the hand, but with a heart within the sword.”
The Sword Master rolled out a set of sword teachings for Lin Mu Yu to commit to memory, after which he imparted a set of methods to mobilize true energy. After he finished saying everything, he brushed at his sleeve. “I’m heading inside to train. You should train out here in the courtyard. Within three days, you must already be able to feel the sword heart, otherwise, you have no right to continue your training.”
Lin Mu Yu nodded, looking as if he understood and was confused at the same time. He sat down on the rock steps of the courtyard, silently absorbing the wisdom of the sword skill teachings.
The Sword Master turned around and headed within. The butler, who was already of some 60 years, hugging a fragrance pot to his chest, witnessed this and chuckled softly, “Sword Master, wouldn’t it be too harsh to expect this child to learn the sword skill teachings within three days? After all, even you yourself took five days and five nights to learn it!”
The Sword Master laughed without really laughing. “Mother Nature determines all. I’m used to enjoying nature and being at peace. I do not really want a disciple. This child seems to have some wits about him, we’ll see if he’s able to embody the teachings of the sword heart secrets. You only have to give him three meals, is all.”
He had been sitting there for two days. Within two days, he had only eaten three meals, but he didn’t feel completely famished.
The Sword Master’s single utterance: “A sword of common metal, imbued with spirit by the wielder” was enough to preoccupy his thoughts for two whole days and nights. What does it mean for a sword to have heart?
With the Prairie Fire Sword across his legs, silently trying to feel the sword’s thoughts, he remained silent with closed eyes as the deep autumnal night breeze blew breaths of cold air that caressed his skin. His body was surrounded by azure columns of true energy, transforming into incorporeal shapes of sword blades, entering and exiting his body at a slow rhythmic pace-- and leaving the butler with his jaw on the floor.
Slowly, without opening his eyes, he began to see in the chaos of his mind a red light shining through… a long double-edged sword shining its vermillion aura-- it was indeed the image of the Prairie Fire Sword!
“Wha--” His eyes flew open. Why was the Prairie Fire Sword able to enter his thoughts? Could this be what the Sword Master was referring to when he said that there was a sword within the heart?
Weng, weng, weng...
The sword began emitting a low whining noise. Lin Mu Yu jumped upright, newly holding the Prairie Fire Sword, suddenly feeling a sense of connectedness flowing from the sword’s center to his own.
The door leading to the rear court flew open and the Sword Master strolled out, his face with a smile of approval. “Lin Mu Yu, you do not disappoint. It only took you two days and two nights to master the sword heart, very impressive.”
Lin Mu Yu blanched. “I’ve realized the domain of the sword heart? Wait, Master… how do you know my real name?”
“Would I accept someone without knowing who he really was?”
“Now you must learn the skill of communicating with spirits. You must send your consciousness within the sword to connect with the sword’s spirit. But be careful, this training process is a hazard. Should you not be on your guard, you could be swallowed by the sword spirit… after all, sword spirits are vicious creatures. Truly taming them is no easy task.”
The Sword Master returned to his room and hugging the sword close to him, Lin Mu Yu resumed his seat and closed his eyes, slowly extending his consciousness, and at a trickling pace, permeated the inside of the sword.
The inner realm of the sword was a different world altogether. It was pitch black, nothing beyond darkness. Lin Mu Yu’s consciousness took on the form of a human body as it looked around wildly, floating in mid-air.
A vermillion creature jumped in front of it, jaws and sharp teeth aimed at the consciousness as it lunged to kill. The sword spirit: fire dragon!
Lin Mu Yu held out his arms and used his bare strength to hold up the fire dragon’s jaws from devouring him, but the dragon’s strength exceeded his, and with a ferocious snap--pu-chi!--, bit off Lin Mu Yu’s left arm. Reeling from the pain, Lin Mu Yu could only look on as the fire dragon chewed on this satisfying meal. It swallowed, and with another roar, brandished its sharp talons and got ready for a second lunging attack.
Lin Mu Yu’s consciousness was ripped apart at the chest, condensing his form into stardust that floated off. The fire dragon’s roars were unceasing, and with another big bite, it chomped off Lin Mu Yu’s other arm.
With a low roar, Lin Mu Yu glared at the dragon with an indescribable fury bubbling forth from within. Before he knew what was happening, a ray of golden light shone through his person, illuminating the darkness. A true dragon surrounded by flames emerged from his consciousness and encircled him protectively. Rearing its head and lunging forward, the true dragon snapped at the fire dragon--pu-chi!--clamping on to his forehead. With a vicious shaking, it attempted to wrench off the fire dragon’s head.
With a swipe of its long talons, the true dragon encircled the fire dragon’s throat. It opened its mouth and with a fiery surge, looked like the fire was about to swallow the fire dragon whole.
The fire dragon actually sounded like it was crying… with a lowered head and emitting sounds of whining.
Was he begging for mercy?
In front of a true dragon, a mere fire dragon could of course not act as savage as it pleased.
Lin Mu Yu laughed, his energy slowly dissolving. The true dragon form encircling his consciousness slowly disappeared, leaving the fire dragon lying submissively by Lin Mu Yu’s foot, as if a loyal pet.
“That’s more like it.”
He laughed softly, slowly regaining his consciousness. Fluttering his eyes open, he looked down at the sword, feeling waves of joy from the sword. Indeed, the sword heart was connected with the sword spirit. Truly, there are such wonders on this world!
Translated by: korezmi, lxnuy
Edited by: patrick_father_of_dragons