Chapter 24: The Momentous Dawn of a New Era (3)
Jin Mu-Won stopped hammering and sighed. He turned around to face the person who had just spoken.
It was Shim Won-Ui, who was currently leaning against the door and staring at him.
“How long have you been standing there?”
“Not that long. A day or two at most,” joked Shim Won-Ui.
To be honest, Jin Mu-Won was shocked to see Shim Won-Ui personally show up in the smithy. Everyone else who wanted to look for treasure would have searched his room while he wasn’t around, or sent someone to spy on him instead.
“How long are you planning on letting me stand? Aren’t you going to offer me a seat?”
“Ah. You can sit on this chair.”
Jin Mu-Won handed Shim Won-Ui a wooden chair. Shim Won-Ui sat down and observed the interior of the smithy.
The furnace was currently burning at full force. It was so hot inside the room that even those who were used to heat would find it unbearable. Shim Won-Ui had no choice but to protect his body using his chi.
“I heard that you don’t have any chi, but you seem quite at ease in this extreme heat.”
“When I first started smithing, I felt so hot that I wanted to die. After some time, though, I seem to have gotten used to it.”
“Is that so?” A razor-sharp glint flashed through Shim Won-Ui’s eyes.
Jin Mu-Won poured a bucket of water on the furnace, causing a huge burst of steam as the water evaporated instantly. When the room had cooled down somewhat, he skillfully brewed some tea for Shim Won-Ui.
Shim Won-Ui raised a cup of tea to his lips and sniffed it, then remarked, “This tea smells pretty good.”
Ever since he was born, he had only drunk the highest-grade teas, and only ones that suited his tastes, at that. He was surprised to see such good tea in this desolate place in the middle of nowhere.
“Why did you come here?”
“If I said that I came here to see how you were doing, would you believe me?”
“Well, should I?”
“Even I wouldn’t believe me, but it is indeed the truth.”
Shim Won-Ui finished the rest of his tea in one big gulp. As the fragrance of the tea lingered on his tongue, he smiled.
“The tea tastes much better than I thought it would. You are very good at brewing tea.”
“It’s my hobby, after all.”
“Would you mind teaching my chef how to brew tea properly? He’s good at cooking, but his tea tastes terrible.”
“I’m not good enough to teach someone else.”
“Is that so? In that case, I’ll just have to come over to your place more often.”
“I’ll be sure to make tea for you every time you visit, then.”
“Thank you.” Shim Won-Ui’s smile broadened.
Frankly, Shim Won-Ui’s unusual behavior was making Jin Mu-Won nervous. What is a person like him doing, coming all the way over to my place for tea?
“There’s nothing to do in this fortress at all. It’s boring. Time feels like it crawled to a stop in this place. How can you stand living here for so long?”
“Time flies as long as I keep myself busy.”
“When you say ‘busy’, are you referring to blacksmithing? I heard that you basically spend your whole day making swords.”
“There’s nothing else for me to do anyway.”
“I suppose that’s true.” Shim Won-Ui shook his head. He had only been at the Northern Army Fortress for five days, and already he was missing the Central Plains. His time here had been so dull and monotonous, he’d started admiring Jin Mu-Won for being able to live here his whole life.
Suddenly, he turned to look at the sword hung up on the wall. It was the short sword that Jin Mu-Won had completed not long ago.
“Can I take a closer look at that?”
Jin Mu-Won nodded silently and handed the sword to Shim Won-Ui.
“Wow!” exclaimed Shim Won-Ui the instant he touched the short sword. He was a swordsman, and this blade felt extremely well-balanced to him.
He swung the sword a few times in the air, then nodded, saying, “This sword is very well made. I’m sure a swordsmith of your skill would be very welcome in the Central Plains.”
For once, Shim Won-Ui truly meant what he said. The balance and sharpness of the sword were both top-notch. However, that was all there was to it. He had seen many better swords than this one in Judgment Heaven and even owned several treasured blades. Jin Mu-Won’s short sword was good, but it wasn’t quite good enough to trigger his greed.
He smiled. It was a smile that was colder, and eerier than ever before.
Shim Won-Ui raised the sword and pointed it at Jin Mu-Won, who suddenly felt as if his heart was pierced by an invisible, intangible spear.
Jin Mu-Won’s eyes widened in shock. He could clearly feel Shim Won-Ui’s murderous intent, as the young man wasn’t bothering to hide it at all.
“I was just curious.”
Jin Mu-Won’s eyes trembled. Seeing that, the corners of Shim Won-Ui’s lips rose even higher.
“You said that you’ve never learned any martial art before, is that correct?”
In the report that Shim Won-Ui had received from Jang Pae-San, Jin Mu-Won claimed to have never learned martial arts before.
No, wait, that statement is wrong. To put it precisely, Jin Mu-Won stated that he had never learned any internal arts before, only external arts. 
In order to confirm the truth for himself, Shim Won-Ui had dispatched one of his own Wardens to spy on Jin Mu-Won. In the end though, that person had also arrived at the same conclusion.
According to his spy’s report, Jin Mu-Won followed a strict daily routine. Once a day, he would go for a walk or head to the Grand Library to read, but otherwise, he would just spend the rest of his time swordsmithing in the Tower of Shadows.
It appeared that Jin Mu-Won led the life of a monk despite being only seventeen. However, Shim Won-Ui simply could not bring himself to believe that a seventeen-year-old boy was capable of enduring the monotony of such a simple, modest lifestyle.
After all, Jin Mu-Won’s father had been forced to commit suicide and disband the Northern Army. In addition, he himself had been placed under the highest level of surveillance by Heaven’s Summit and had to endure being scrutinized and spied on a dozen times a day. Shim Won-Ui couldn’t even imagine living a depressing lifestyle like that. A normal person would have gone crazy or fallen into despair a long time ago.
And now, you’re telling me that a seventeen-year-old who went through that kind of trauma, and is under all that mental stress, is living routinely like a monk?
How interesting. Very interesting indeed. It should be impossible for someone without hope for the future to live the way he does.
That is what my gut feeling is telling me, even though I have no evidence to the contrary.
So, what is giving this seventeen-year-old boy hope? He is not a normal person, but the scion of a family of martial artists. Also, the way he uses his hammer during swordsmithing is suspicious.
When smithing, he hammers the steel with a certain rhythm. A rhythm akin to that of martial arts masters. Of course, master craftsmen are like that as well.
The problem is, this sword that he made is of excellent quality. No beginner could produce a sword like this. That makes it difficult to conclude anything just from his hammering technique.
I’ll have to investigate more thoroughly in order to find out whether he truly knows martial arts, or is simply an exceptional craftsman.
Shim Won Ui thrust the short sword at Jin Mu-Won.
“Come, try your hardest to survive!”
Unlike before, where he had only directed intangible killing intent at Jin Mu-Won, Shim Won-Ui now attacked him for real.
Jin Mu-Won’s face paled in an instant. Shim Won-Ui was strong enough to be the successor to Judgment Heaven. He was a martial arts master the likes of which Jin Mu-Won could not hope to match.
In order to confirm his suspicions, Shim Won-Ui was forcing Jin Mu-Won to make a choice. Jin Mu-Won could either fight back and reveal himself, or die by his blade.
Blood flowed out from the corners of Jin Mu-Won’s lips. His internal organs had been damaged by Shim Won-Ui’s chi.
Shim Won-Ui’s blade pierced through the air toward Jin Mu-Won. Like a poisonous snake baring its fangs, his thrust was blindingly fast and accurate. Jin Mu-Won could have dodged it if he tried, but he decided against it.
I have to take a gamble. A gamble that will determine whether I live or die.
Jin Mu-Won grit his teeth.
If I fight back, I’ll die for sure. If I don’t fight back, I’ll probably die. In that case, I should pick the choice with the higher probability of survival.
Shim Won-Ui’s sword plunged through Jin Mu-Won’s left shoulder, just inches from his heart.
“Hmm.” Shim Won-Ui narrowed his eyes, then said, “Have you really never learned martial arts?”
He had deliberately given Jin Mu-Won a chance to dodge. That thrust was one that anyone who knew even a little bit of martial arts would have been able to avoid.
People tend to reveal their true selves when their lives are threatened. As long as you’ve learned some kind of internal martial art before, you will definitely unconsciously use it to save yourself. Because that is human nature. So why do I still feel nothing from you?
Whatever. Third time’s the charm, right?
Shim Won-Ui pulled out the sword from Jin Mu-Won’s shoulder.
Blood spurted out of Jin Mu-Won’s injured shoulder, dyeing Shim Won-Ui’s arms and sword crimson red. Jin Mu-Won grabbed his injured shoulder, his footsteps staggering as he reeled in pain.
Shim Won-Ui swung the blade at Jin Mu-Won again, this time aiming for his neck.
Jin Mu-Won’s eyes widened. He could feel Shim Won-Ui’s murderous intent prickling his skin, as if it had materialized.
This is it. I’m dead. I should have dodged this one.
His instincts were screaming at him to move. However, his mind was detached from his instincts, remaining calm and rational despite his dire situation. Deep down, he felt something stir within him.
Just then, he heard a scream.
Shim Won-Ui’s sword brushed across Jin Mu-Won’s neck. A moment later, blood came pouring out of the wound like a fountain. Jin Mu-Won came back to his senses and fell to his knees. The skin on his neck had been ripped open, revealing the flesh beneath it.
“GYAAAAAA!” Jin Mu-Won shrieked like an injured animal.
Fuck, he’s still alive. Shim Won-Ui sheathed the short sword with a dissatisfied expression on his face. He looked toward the entrance of the smithy, only to see Seo-Moon Hye-Ryung standing there, panting.
“You’re not allowed to kill him, Mister Shim.”
“Ah, so it was you who cried out, Miss Seo-Moon.”
“You should understand what you have done wrong. Things shouldn’t have turned out this way.”
“I haven’t actually crossed the line yet, though.” Shim Won-Ui grinned maliciously.
He’s still alive, so I haven’t crossed the line.
Seo-Moon Hye-Ryung observed Jin Mu-Won closely. “Fortunately, his injuries aren’t too severe,” she said.
She swiftly rubbed a hemostatic agent on his wounds. She then tore off her sleeve and used it to bandage the wounds.
Seo-Moon Hye-Ryung reached into her bosom, took out a pill wrapped in paper, then fed the pill to Jin Mu-Won. The pill, known as the Soul Fusion Life Preserving Pill (掫魂保全丸), was one of the secret medicines of the Seo-Moon Clan. As long as one still had a single breath left, the pill would be able to save them from the brink of death. Thus, unless there was an emergency which would implicate the Seo-Moon Clan, Seo-Moon Hye-Ryung would never use such a valuable pill.
After swallowing the pill, some color returned to Jin Mu-Won’s pale face. Seo-Moon Hye-Ryung heaved a sigh of relief.
“If Heaven’s Summit finds out what you’ve done, you’ll be in deep trouble.”
“No one will know anything as long as you keep your mouth shut.”
“That’s enough, Mister Shim.”
Shim Won-Ui didn’t look the least bit remorseful at all. Seo-Moon Hye-Ryung scowled, feeling extremely disappointed by his behavior.
Jin Mu-Won’s continued existence was a subject of controversy in Heaven’s Summit. Some people wanted to get rid of him as quickly as possible and eliminate this potential seed of dissent, while others wanted to keep him alive and monitor him out of respect and nostalgia for the Northern Army.
Unfortunately, the people who wanted Jin Mu-Won kept alive did not have much influence within Heaven’s Summit. Most of them were freshly-minted experts who had admired the Northern Army and pitied Jin Mu-Won as a result.
Above all, they were worried that they would end up in the same situation as the Northern Army. As long as Jin Mu-Won was alive, Heaven’s Summit would not be able to make up an excuse to get rid of them. They may not hold much sway over Heaven’s Summit individually, but not even Heaven’s Summit could afford to ignore their combined pleas.
Shim Won-Ui knew about the delicate situation surrounding Jin Mu-Won, but he didn’t care what others thought. He had been a selfish person ever since he was born.
He looked down at Jin Mu-Won, saying, “Anyway, I’ve at least achieved my first objective, so I’ll leave it at that. Take good care of yourself, okay?”
Shim Won-Ui threw the short sword down in front of Jin Mu-Won, then turned and left. Seo-Moon Hye-Ryung watched him go, her frustration clearly written on her face.
Suddenly, she looked at Jin Mu-Won, who was lying down in her lap. She had felt a slight tremble from one of his arms, and his teeth were clenched tightly. She didn’t know if he was doing that because of pain from the wound, or out of anger at Shim Won-Ui’s actions.
It’s probably both…
 Internal and External Martial Arts: Internal Martial Arts are occupied with the spiritual, mental or chi-related aspects of martial arts, whereas External Martial Arts are focused on the physiological aspects. External Martial Arts are generally considered inferior to Internal Martial Arts, as anyone can train their bodies and exercise. Most outlaws/bandits practice only External Martial Arts because the murim sects keep the secrets of Internal Martial Arts to themselves. Therefore, it is common for the disciples of murim sects to look down on random warriors. Examples from what we’ve seen so far:
- Internal Martial Arts: Art of Ten Thousand Shadows, Blue Cloud Meditation Technique.
- External Martial Arts: Regular bodybuilding and exercise, Three Foundations of Swordsmanship, Blue Cloud Sword Style.
- Both Internal and External: Shadow Blade of Destruction, Blue Cloud Sword Style (Seo Mu-Sang only).