The three of them tied up the remaining bandits, then entrusted one of the girls they rescued to go find the nearest garrison to clean out the bandit hideout.
Lastly, they made arrangements for Chu Yue’s remains, using a tree trunk to fashion a make-do stele.
Jiang Ling stood beside the grave marker, looking at her own hands.
The wound on her hand was not deep and would soon heal, but the pain she felt in her hand was no match for the pain she felt in her heart.
“Does it still hurt?” Yun He grasped Jiang Ling’s hand then asked.
Jiang Ling shook her head then sighed deeply.
If only she had moved a little quicker at that moment.
“You should not blame yourself.”
They had done their best.
The trio made their farewells to Chu Yue, then set off toward the Blue Mountain once again.
Jiang Ling had evidently suffered a blow from this matter.
During their travels, she could not muster up a joyful mood, and she was continuously downcast.
Gu Yun thought up many ways to try and help, but he usually only received an eye roll for his efforts.
Jiangdu Town was located at the base of the Blue Mountain.
Because of the protection offered by the major sects and its position along the Fujiang River, government officials and businessmen operating within Jianghu liked passing through Jiangdu.
The green ware craftsmanship in Jiangdu was well-known, attracting many merchants, so while Jiangdu was a small town, it was quite bustling.
The journey from Jiangdu to the Blue Mountain Sect was only half a day by foot, and going on horseback or using qinggong would shorten the trip to one shichen1.
The trio planned to stay in Jiangdu for a day to adjust before heading up the mountain the following day.
In Jiangdu Town, pedestrians flowed by in endless streams, with lively vendors crying their wares all along the streets.
The bustling atmosphere scrubbed away the lingering shadow over the trio.
They also followed teachings for keeping a peaceful and effervescent heart, so for these young people, they could quickly overcome the blow.
“Shijie, A Ling, they sell forging materials here.” Gu Yun and Yun He’s swords, “Qian Shui” and
“Chu Yun,”2 were casted by the elder of Blue Mountain Sect’s Sword Hall.
Jiang Ling was aware that her natural endowments were not worthy of a precious sword and did not trouble Yun Yangzi about it.
She picked a random sword to carry at her side, and Yun Yangzi did not insist.
Gu Yun looked at the pieces of black iron at a vendor’s stall.
Black iron was a first-class material for forging swords, so in his mind, he thought of forging a sword for his shimei.
The stall’s owner looked at the clothing of the trio, the embroidered bamboo pattern on their belts, and said: “The three of you must be young heroes of the Blue Mountain Sect.
You have a good eye! This piece of black iron was just excavated from the mountain.
Look at the quality, it would surely make a precious sword!”
The Blue Mountain Sect venerates bamboo.
Bamboo was lofty and noble, and so the disciples wore garments adorned with bamboo leaves and grains.
Yun Yangzi was a casual person and only gave the three disciples belts with bamboo patterns.
The trio was also not inclined to expound on their relationship with the Blue Mountain Sect, and strictly speaking, they would only be considered half-disciples of the Blue Mountain Sect.
“How much?” Gu Yun rubbed his chin.
“A flat price of one hundred liang.”3
“I think it’s just a piece of broken metal.” Jiang Ling pulled away Yun He and Gu Yun and quickly left.
“They just can’t see quality.” The stall owner rolled his eyes at them.
“He was just trying to run off with our money.” Once she was far enough away, Jiang Ling expressed her misgivings, “That one hundred liang would be enough to feed the village by Crane Song Mountain for five years!”
Yun He laughed softly and said that Jiang Ling was the sect’s little accountant.
Gu Yun was a little unwilling to leave, but Jiang Ling told him to not take it to heart.
A precious sword was not destined for her in the near future.
Right now, her destined blade was by her side.
“Patrons, I apologize, but this inn is already full.” The innkeeper wore brown robes and a black gauze cap, smiling obsequiously.
“Odd, that’s already the third one.” Jiang Ling was a little disheartened.
They had gone to three inns, but all of them were already fully booked.
“Patrons, there are some things you aren’t aware of.
Recently, there have been many people doing business here, and in a few days, the Blue Mountain Sect will be holding their big Sword Competition, which happens once every four years.
Originally, it was a contest of strength between the young inner disciples of the sect, but a while back, the leaders and elders of the four major sects came together and decided that the outer disciples would join the competition as well.
From then on, the business of one sect became the business of all four of those sects.
The next few days will naturally be a little more busy than normal.” The innkeeper spoke freely and composedly, “So, most of the inns here are full.”
The innkeeper saw that the trio, who should also be from the Blue Mountain Sect, was hesitant, and he thought that since the town below the mountain received the protection of the sect, he should help them out.
“My house has two rooms with some space.
It’s just my wife and servants there.
If you three are willing, you can stay in my home.
Just pay a little rent, how about it? Haha.”
Finally having a place to sit down and rest their feet, the trio relaxed and followed the server to the innkeeper’s home.
The house was not far, about two streets away.
The courtyard was not large, but it was neatly arranged with flowers and finely pruned trees in the center.
In the corner, there was a small vegetable and fruit garden.
The lady of the house most likely had a zest for life.
The innkeeper’s wife was a delicate, pretty woman.
She wore a simple yet elegant ruqun4, and one could see that in her youth, she had been a beauty.
Seeing that the innkeeper had brought guests, she received them enthusiastically and had the servants make arrangements for them.
The trio settled in, and as they ate dinner with the innkeeper’s wife, she mentioned that there was a lantern festival that night that was sure to be lively.
Yun He preferred calm, quiet areas, so she planned to stay in and meditate to circulate her qi.
She told Gu Yun and Jiang Ling to return before it got too late, and as soon as they agreed, the duo left, melding into the night market’s bustle.
With the lantern festival and the upcoming Blue Mountain Sword Competition, the already active Jiangdu Town was even more busy.
Jiang Ling even felt as she had in Luoyang.
Shoulder-to-shoulder, people packed the streets of Jiangdu.
Just as they bought two festive lanterns, the stream of people separated Gu Yun and Jiang Ling when they were unattentive.
“Shixiong, I’ll return by myself in a bit!” Jiang Ling shouted in the direction of Gu Yun and vaguely heard Gu Yun’s acknowledgement in the distance.
Jiang Ling lightly lept out of the crowd, landing on the crest of a nearby roof.
She exhaled, “There’s too many people here.” She held those two festive lanterns in her hands, then sat down on the roof to gaze at the throgs of people, utterly bored.
For a moment, a trace of loneliness rose up within her, and she thought of He Xi and Chu Yue.
Jiang Ling suddenly stood up and carefully inspected the crowd below her.
She had definitely seen people in the dress of the western regions walking past just now, but they had vanished in the blink of an eye.
Could she have just imagined it because she really wanted to see He Xi again?
1 时辰, about two hours
2 Left these untranslated.
Gu Yun’s sword’s name translates to “Heavenly Waters” (unsure about this, tbh, please correct me if I’m wrong), and Yun He’s sword’s name translates to “Emerging Clouds”.
3 两, a currency measurement, equivalent to about 38 grams (1.33 ounces) each.
4 A type of Han dress for men and women, but usually women, during historical times that consist of an upper jacket portion and a lower skirt portion.
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