The Old Man and the Sword (Unedited)
The city was bustling. The streets were filled with vendors who hawked their wares, and buyers who ogled their items and haggled cheaply over their prices. This place was the city market, a bizarre of goods and services. This was also where every inn within the city could be found. Thus, Pangu marched his way into the city market, and made a beeline for the nearest inn.
“Jian Sheng, would you happen to have any gold on you?”
Jian Sheng chuckles wryly in his head. “Ah! Gold! The universal language, yes, I do have a bit of that I suppose.”
Pangu paused in his stride, “Jian Sheng… how much gold do you have?”
Jian Sheng’s voice laughingly called out, “Let’s just say that it would be very odd if we couldn’t afford a room at a good inn for a few days. Or years.”
Pangu’s mouth went dry before a low cackle spilled past his lips. “So we’re rich, huh.”
Instantly Pangu’s mood seemed to take a drastic turn, and with his mood turning, so did his body, now headed straight towards a group of vendors selling clothes.
When he approached those vendors, they stared at him suspiciously, gazing at his tattered clothes and disheveled hair.
When it was apparent that he was browsing to buy something, the vendor nearest to him approached him with a frown.
“Does the young sir wish to buy something?” said the Vendor, his voice tightening as Pangu’s grubby hand drifted a little too close to one of the more expensive cloths.
Pangu looked at the vendor amused, and lightly offended. I suppose I must look particularly wretched, he thought.
Taking back his hand he stared at the vendor with a broad smile. “I do not intend to buy anything, however I was hoping you could direct me to a good tailor. I’ve some clothing that I need taken in.”
The vendor grunted, and then named a small but reliable shop that did decent work.
Thanking him for the information, Pangu hurried away in the direction of the shop.
The shop itself was well hidden amongst the vendor stalls and looked as though nobody had entered or exited the shop in quite some time.
Reaching the door, Pangu knocked once lightly, before the door swung open to reveal a messy but well organized room filled with fabric.
Stepping into the room carefully, Pangu located a small counter, behind which sat an old man sleeping peacefully with light snores bursting out of him at odd intervals.
Pangu smiled at the comical scene, and calmly tapped the old man on the shoulder, waking him.
“What?! Whose there?! What do you want?!” Came the startled shout of the indignant old man before he realized where he was. His eyes finally landed on the grubby figure in front of him, and he frowned deeply.
“What do you want? I don’t give handouts.”
Pangu frowned a little, but then wordlessly placed several gold pieces on the counter, followed by a stack of clothing which Jian Sheng had held for him in his previous life.
“I need these taken in to fit me. They were an inheritance from an ancestor, so I’d prefer it if you didn’t damage them too much.”
The old man sniffed at the clothes, but pocketed the gold.
“If you throw in another gold, you can clean up out back. I’ve got some spare clothes about your size which you can wear in the meantime till I finish taking in your clothes. Wash basin is already out there, just have to light the fire.”
Feeling the necessity of the bath, he agreed immediately.
“Don’t you need to take my measurements, or something?” Said Pan Gu.
“I’ve been tailoring clothes for more years than you’ve been alive. If I needed to measure you with anything other than my eyes, it’d be an insult to my skill. And I’ve already seen more of you than I want to, so the less of you I see up close, the better.”
Pangu’s eyebrows twitched in anger, but he let the comment pass, and followed the old man out to the back of the store where a wash basin was already filled and ready with water. Fresh clothes were left nearby, and a basket in which he could discard his ruined clothing was placed next to it.
The bath itself was short, but thorough. Pangu rubbed and scrubbed his flesh and combed his hair until he was pink, and smooth fleshed like a young lord from a wealthy castle.
Stepping out of the path, Pangu circulated his Qi in order to quickly disperse the remaining water on his body, sending a spray of liquid flying in all directions.
Changing into his clothes, he stretched and moved around, finding them a good fit. Though they were common clothes of wool, and linen, he felt quite good to be wearing something other than his rags.
Entering the shop once more, he thought to approach the old man, but he was bent over the clothing and seemed very focused, so Pangu left him and went out on the streets once more to find an inn.
Finding a fairly elegant looking inn, Pangu entered and was immediately spotted by a young lady who assigned him a room, and gave him a key after obtaining three gold for his lodgings.
“Is there anything else I can help you with today, Young Master?” She said at last.
“I’m rather hungry. Could you show me to a table that’s somewhat removed from your other patrons? I prefer to eat alone.”
Nodding, she led the way to slightly darker but noticeably quieter corner of the inn.
“Would you like me to bring some wine to the table with your meal, Young Master?”
“Yes. I’ll take a single portion of whatever is best here.” Pangu handed her another gold coin, and she left to go procure his order.
Leaning back in his seat, Pangu looked around the room with interest, examining the patrons of this inn. It was as you would expect from an inn, with some traveling merchants, soldiers with prostitutes under arm, swaying drunkenly to music played by a person near a fireplace. It was almost picturesque.
The only thing that didn’t fit the image was the presence of two figures. One of the figures was small and apparently dainty, and the other large and hulking.
Pangu didn’t know why, but he felt a strange sort of pressure from those two, and thus he averted his eyes before he drew their attention to himself unnecessarily.
Focusing his hearing, he strained to listen to these two mysterious figures who sat furthest away from him in the room.
To his shock, even with his heightened senses, he could not hear anything from their direction. Not even the sound of breathing, or of their clothes rustling as they moved.
“It’s a sound barrier. These are cultivators, Pangu. Much higher leveled than you, so it’s best to keep your nose out of their business, lest you unintentionally bring about their anger, and wind up dead.” Jian Sheng’s voice called out warningly.
Nodding to himself, Pan Gu busied himself thinking about his plans for the future.
“Old Man Jian Sheng, how do you think we should approach the world of cultivators? If we remain rogue cultivators, it seems the detriments outweigh the benefits. Should we join a sect?”
“I think we should. You mentioned that old man was from the Dragon’s Breath Sect. What do you know of them? It could be that we’d have the greatest advantage if we found and joined them.”
“Dragons breath sect…” Muttered Pan Gu outloud as he stared into space.
Unbeknownst to him, his mutter had been overheard by the dainty hooded figure in the far corner. This figure then proceeded to pretend not to have heard it, but the sudden wariness of the two figures in the room sent a chill down the spines of all those near to them.
Unconsciously they created a wider space between them and the hooded figures.
Pan Gu continued musing silently, lost in his thoughts and plans.
Sighing regretfully, “I don’t know, Jian Sheng. I feel I’ve heard the name somewhere, but I can’t be sure where I’d heard it.”
Just then, a drunken figure stepped into the inn, loudly demanding a room, and brazenly harassing the young lady who had served Pangu previously.
Pangu’s brow furrowed as he listened to the slurring voice. Something about it seemed familiar, but he couldn’t place it.
It wasn’t until the figure barged over to the hooded figures and demanded that they give up their seat for him that Pangu was able to figure out his identity.
There, drunk, and swaying on his feet, was Huang Shi.
Pangu’s face darkened as he recalled the many brutal encounters with Huang Shi, and he felt that now was not too late to give him some of his own medicine.
The owner of the inn was currently tangled with Huang Shi, practically begging him to calm down and find another seat.
Pangu approached from behind them, surreptitiously slipping the owner several gold coins and saying, “For the damage to your inn.”
Understanding flashed on his face, and the owner darted away just as Pangu wrapped his arms around Huang Shi, lifting him high overhead, and slamming back into the ground with so much force that several of the windows in the room blew out.
Immediately the patrons of the inn fled to the exterior of the place leaving the hooded figures who observed the exchange between Huang Shi and Pangu with interest.
Huang Shi groaned heavily, and groggily sat up, staring accusatorily at Pangu. “How dare you-“ He started to say before Pangu abruptly turned to face the two hooded figures.
He cupped his hands, and bowed at the waist towards the two. “My apologies for disturbing your meal.”
Pangu turned back towards Huang Shi who was struggling to stand back up.
Drunken, and at the middle level of Qi Condensation, Huang Shi was a full cultivation stage beneath Pangu, and Pangu’s body had been tempered by Chaos Qi, and trained extensively to practice his martial skill, making him an impossible opponent for Huang Shi.
Still, Huang Shi attacked at Pangu, and Pangu easily silenced him.
Considering what to do with the now unconscious Huang Shi, Pangu decided to have some fun with him. He immediately stripped him of his clothes, and booted his naked body into the streets, leaving a red imprint of his foot on Huang Shi’s bottom.
Feeling satisfied with simply further humiliating Huang Shi, Pangu turned back to his table and sat comfortably.
The owner of the restaurant personally brought him both his wine and his food, and Pangu tucked into it happily.
As the hours of the day wore on, Pangu lazily drank his wine bit by bit, never allowing himself to become drunk.
When the sun had been down for some time, the hooded pair stood and disappeared towards the second floor of the inn, the small one pausing at Pangu’s table to drop off a flyer.
Taking the flyer, and smiling at the small hooded person, he read the details on it. It was a recruitment flyer for a competition. The many sects were looking to recruit new members, and the competition was being hosted by the Dragon’s Breath Sect, one of the more powerful sects on the Yang half of the continent.
It appeared that the flyer acted as a personal invitation to the event, and thus he safeguarded the flyer in Jian Sheng’s space before picking himself up and making his way towards his room.
Once there, he collapsed onto his bed, closing his eyes and relaxing for the first time in what felt like years to him.
The night passed quickly, and uneventfully, leaving Pangu feeling well rested. His next moments were spent walking towards the old tailors shop, where he tipped the tailor and collected the clothing which the tailor had already finished sometime that night.
Finding his way through the market, Pangu focused on searching for stalls which had food he could store in Jian Sheng’s space while he traveled about, and kept his eyes open for a vendor selling a good map.
After having procured food in earnest, he now felt well prepared for his journey on that front, but he still lacked several things.
First and foremost, he needed a map so that he could more easily gain his bearings. And secondly, he needed a reliable weapon.
The weapons Jian Sheng held were still too high of a level for him to handle, thus he had to find his way to a blacksmith and either have a weapon forged for him, or buy one which they had in stock.
The vendors he visited never seemed to be carrying any quality maps, many disagreed with each other over which landmark was where, and thus he abandoned the idea of buying a map in this city altogether.
Instead, he focused on weapons. His search brought him from stall to stall until he heard about an old weapon smith in the town.
To his surprise, he found that the directions he was given for the home of the weapon smith were the same as the directions for the home of the tailor.
Feeling it odd, he marched his way over to the tailors shop, and once more woke the tailor.
“You again?! What now?” Came his gruff reply.
“I’m looking to buy a weapon. I was told to come here, but I don’t know why. Would you happen to know where a good weapon smith is?”
The old man’s mood seemed to turn even more sour than usual.
“I can tell you honestly, there is only one quality weapon smith in this town, and he only works for large amounts of gold. You can’t afford him.”
Feeling annoyed, Pan Gu dropped a bag heavy with gold on the counter. “Will he work for this much gold?!” he said arrogantly.
The old man was surprised, but swiped the gold under the counter quickly and then stared at the boy with narrowed eyes.
“Fine! Follow me!”
Pan Gu followed behind the old man as he disappeared out the back of his house and entered the courtyard in the back where he had previously bathed.
“I’ll need some supplies from you. What kind of weapon do you want?” Said the old man grumpily.
“Y’You’re the weapon smith?! I thought you were a tailor?!” blurted out Pangu in surprise.
“Just tell me what you want already so I can send you to fetch me supplies.”
“A sword. Full tang, hand and a half hilt, double edged, no more than 4 lbs.” echoed out Jian Sheng’s voice in Pangu’s head.
Trusting him, Pangu repeated the instructions to the old man. The old man frowned, and muttered as he thought.
“I’ll need two iron ores roughly the size of your fist, with a copper ore roughly the same size. I’ll also need salt, and a large amount of oil, some gold wire, and some leather for the hilt grip.”
Nodding his head, Pangu immediately thought of the supplies left behind by Senior Feng, and summoned out all of the ores and the other supplies.
“Will any of these do?” He asked casually.
The old man sifted through the pile, before settling on a few ores. “These are meteor ore. They’ll do, but it’ll be heavier than 4 lbs.”
Pangu smiled after checking with Jian Sheng that it was okay, and told the old man to proceed.
The old man then led him around a corner at the end of the courtyard where a smithy was located, and he changed his clothing into a heavy leather smock with a headband and thick gloves.
Pangu watched with fascination as the old man smelted the ores down and sifted out the impurities. He was mesmerized by the sight of the molten metal flowing out and hardening into an ingot, which was then reheated, and rolled and twisted together in many strange and unfathomable ways.
Observing the process made Pangu feel like the pressure in the back of his skull was increasing. Fearing that sticking around any longer would cause him to once more lose consciousness, he decided to duck away for a while, and distract himself with something else.
But, the pressure wouldn’t go away. Finally, fleeing back to his room at the inn, Pangu sat on the floor with his hands cupped into lotuses, and began meditating. He focused on the sights and sounds of the smithy he was just inside of, and the more he focused while circulating his qi, the more he felt the pressure increase.
When it was beginning to become unbearable, and Pangu wanted to cry out from the pain of it, he felt a distinct “pop” from within his skull, and all of a sudden complex words and concepts began swimming in his mind. He understood completely what the old man had been doing, even feeling some admiration for the flawlessness of his technique when smelting the metal.
Words, and phrases which before had been vague illusory ideas about how swords were forged, suddenly became vivid, clear, step by step guidelines which Pan Gu understood through and through.
A feeling of exhaustion overwhelmed Pangu as his mind finally calmed down from the sudden influx of information.
A happy smile was plastered on his face, and he collapsed once more onto his bed, dead tired.
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