/p>

“Can you handle it alone?”

“Yes.”

Geum Chul-yong shakes his head.

“It's hard to believe a bluff like that.
Are you sure you don't have a master or have met a secluded eccentric hermit?”

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“Think whatever you want.
Anyway, you will find it difficult to believe what I plan to do in the future.”

“How amusing.
Still in one day, the errand boy of the Zaha Inn suddenly kills the Cho brothers.
It's hard to believe already.
Is there anything I can help with?”

“Yes, but I don't know if Mister Geum can do it.”

Geum Chul-yong replies with a smile.

“We don't trust each other yet.
But at least let me say this.
The guys I used to regard as eyesores are now gone, so I can at least do this much without complaining.”

Thinking about what task I should assign to Geum Chul-yong for the time being, I open my mouth.

“I think the most difficult thing to make in the world is a weapon that is both light and sharp and can be held in one hand.
What do you think, Mister Geum?”

“That's usually the case for Famous Swords (名劍).
It's a bit different for sabers.
You need to have a certain amount of weight to complement the technique.
Experts who combine physical martial arts and inner cultivation prefer a heavier saber.
I did hear that if they get better, they won't even need a weapon.
But that's unrealistic.”

“Have you ever made such famous swords or mystical sabers in the Dragon Head Smithy?”

“Of course not.”

“Is there a reason?”

Geum Chul-yong answers clearly.

“The best reason is that it doesn't make money.
Who would even buy a Famous Sword if it was even made? Only a master that suits the sword will buy it.
What if he's an Unorthodox Faction master? Or one of the Twelve Generals heard a rumor and stopped by? I would be doubtful about even getting paid.
It's already be a good result if the martial master didn't just kill everyone in the smithy and take the weapon.”

“I see.”

It is a reasonable thought.

“But let's say you're lucky enough to get paid.
What happens after that?”

“The rival of the person who bought the sword or another Unorthodox faction master will come and threaten me to make a similar sword.”

“Looks like you understand it well.
Building a reputation by making good weapons is a sure path to being visited by scary people.
The relationships that follow would be more bad than good.
When a Famous Sword appears in Kangho, people will kill and die just to possess it.”

“Is that why you're not interested in making famous swords? That sounds like a cowardly excuse.”

“There are many different ways of life.
Some people want fame, others value survival.
Our Dragon Head Smithy is quite old, but it lasted for a long time because we made and sold solid weapons.
I'm just trying to make ends meet.
What's the point of fame?”

Geum Chul-yong asks Jang Deuk-soo with a smile.

“Deuk-soo, don't you think so?”

Jang Deuk-soo replies with a nod.

“Yes, sir.”

Tapping his finger on the clean bowl of noodles, Geum Chul-yong says.

“Look at Deuk-soo's cooking skills.
The store might be shabby, but his cooking is the best in the Ilyang Prefecture.
Let's say Deuk-soo comes to work as a chef in a famous Murim Clan.
If the clan gets involved in a dispute and gets destroyed, Deuk-soo will also die.
He'll die because of his great cooking skills.
This is also the same for smithies.”

I nod to Geum Chul-yong's words.

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“Thank you for the explanation.
Anyway, the weapon I'm looking for is…”

“As I said, Famous Swords…”

“It's not a sword.
And I'm not asking you to make a Famous Sword or a luxury item.
Hear me out.”

“Alright.”

I take a sip of the soup and continue.

“I don't need a sharp weapon.
It doesn't have to be light.”

Geum Chul-yong answers.

“Then it's not a luxury item.”

“That's right.”

“Then what do you want me to make?”

I reply,

“I give up on sharpness.
The weight doesn't matter.
The weapon I want is something that will not break, bend, or be destroyed by anything.”

Geum Chul-yong folds his arms like he is listening, and I continue.

“For example, I don't care if I have to carry a whole ingot of Thousand Years Iron around.
That's why I'm going to give up sharpness and weight.
This is not a request to make a luxury item.
Even if it's coarse and rough, it just needs to stay solid even if a sword tries to cut it.
What I want is something similar to the Monkey King's iron staff[^n1].”

Geum Chul-yong furrows his brow while listening to me.

“Like the Monkey King's iron staff?”

“That's correct, in a manner of speaking.
I mean, it doesn't matter if it's a staff (棒), a rod (棍), or a spear (槍).
Even the shape doesn't matter.
I just want it to be solid.”

“What are you going to do with it?”

“For training.
Training to become a man of steel.”

I can't bring up the words' Turtle of Steel' in this atmosphere.

Geum Chul-yong, Jang Deuk-soo, and I say nothing for a moment.
Geum Chul-yong is immersed in his thoughts, and Jang Deuk-soo remains silent to avoid disturbing him.

After a long while, Jang Deuk-soo looks outside and says,

“It's raining.”

The three of us watch the pouring rain in silence.

The eyes of the rice soup restaurant owner, the man who used to be an errand boy, and the man who touches iron every day are staring at the rain for a long time.

At this moment, there is no need for words.

I also watch the pouring rain, forgetting about Kangho for a moment.

[^n1] : (Monkey King aka Sun Wukong.
The Journey to the West (1592) describes the Monkey King's iron staff.
It has the magic power to shrink and grow, control the ocean, astral project and entangle with Monkey's spirit, multiply endlessly, pick locks, and transform into various objects.

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