Of how sword maker Jian De presented the sword Jian Jingsheng Jiuliang on Mount Kunlun and asked to keep it for himself
Four were the blades that crowned a life of craftsmanship for sword maker Jian De, son of Jian Lu; four weapons of so exquisite design and deadly edge that only one righteous wielder was allowed to use each of them for exactly one battle, after which they were to be returned to the Jade Emptiness Palace under the custody of Heavenly Primogenitor, the Grand Master of Chan Taoism. The four blades were:
Ji Yun Xun, Cloud Seeker, once wielded by Zhong Bao in a duel against Sun Lu.
Dao Yanshi Fenli, Rock Splitter, once wielded by Yun Xue in the beheading of the would-be assassin Li Wu at the Central Palace in Zhaoge.
Qiang Tiao Hu, Jumping Tiger, once wielded by Jing Zan in the battle of the Three Peaks against the hordes of Zhou Jiao.
Jian Jingsheng Jiuliang, Spirit Drinker, never wielded in physical battle.
As soon as the gleaming fourth blade left the forge, Jian De knew it was the finest of them all and quickly became his pride and joy. So enamored was Jian De of the sword that he took it with him wherever he went, bragging about it to everyone that happened to be in his way. When he was not out on errands, he would spend night and day observing its magnificent beauty.
When he finally came around to bring the sword, wrapped in the most delicate of silks, to the feet of the Eight Treasure and Cloud Radiance Throne on Mount Kunlun where the Grand Master would bestow his approval unto the steel and commit it to the servitude of The Way, he knew he could not possibly part with it without having his heart broken. He nevertheless knelt in front of the Throne, hoping that the Grand Master, in his great wisdom and kindness, would allow him to keep it.
“Master, I bring to you Jian Jingsheng Jiuliang,” Jian De said. “Among my creations its edge is the sharpest and its form the most beautiful.”
“News have come to my ears. Tales told far and wide of a fantastic new sword born at the hands of Jian De,” the Grand Master said. “Now, make me wait no longer and allow me to see it.”
Jian De, still kneeling, unwrapped the sword and offered it with his arms extended in front of him.
The Grand Master unsheathed and perused the blade attentively, cradling it first on his open palms to examine weight and sharpness and then taking his time wielding it with both left and right hands in order to assess its potential as a weapon.
“The tales did not lie. I commend you, Jian De, for this is indeed a fine blade,” he said. “Please take it to the Hall of a Thousand Edges and ready it for Heaven’s investiture,” he instructed as he returned the weapon to its scabbard.
“If I may, Master,” Jian De interjected. “Being this the best item my hands have ever crafted, I dare ask for a simple favor.”
“Speak up, then,” the Master said reluctantly.
“I, your lowly apprentice, have always pursued achievement of The Way through my art and my daily comings and goings, and have never cared much for material possessions,“ Jian De said.
“However,” Jian De added, “I humbly request, Master, that you let the sword remain at my side for what little is left of my vulgar life. I am most sure that, without the sight of its beauty and without the feel of its presence next to me, my life of steel-working would have no further meaning.”
The Grand Master pondered this request carefully; it was not in the nature of those pursuing The Way to crave material belongings with such passion and heat.
“Very well,” the Master said at last, placing the sword back on Jian De’s hands. “Spirit Drinker is yours for as long as your life or the sword itself allow you to posses it.”
“I thank you immensely,” Jian De said, overjoyed. He put the sword once again in its silk wrappings, bowed one last time and took his leave.
The Grand Master knew then that Jian De had veered off from The Way, his affection for the sword a sick and untoward feeling. To remediate the situation, for it was proper for him to tend to the spiritual needs of his apprentices, he called a Fox Spirit to his side immediately following Jian De’s departure.
“Why have you summoned me, Heavenly Primogenitor?” the Fox Spirit asked curtly.
“One of my apprentices has showed an unhealthy affection towards a thing material, which will hinder him in his path to attain The Way,” the Grandmaster said. “I have a plan to make him see his mistake, but I will require your assistance.”
The Fox Spirit, always up for a dose of well-meant mischief, grinned widely.
“Tell me of this plan of yours, then, Heavenly Primogenitor.”
The Fox Spirit and the Grand Master conversed until well into the late hours of night, discussing the particulars of a very clever ruse.
If you want to know what happened next, you must read the next chapter.