Chapter 9: Wooden Treasure
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The black knife slid through the Three-Fires Ironwood leaving no evidence that it had been cut. The old man trimmed the edges off leaving four flat sides then cut two slices from the wood lengthwise, close to the thickness of two fingers and placed the rest into his ring.

Liang asked him what it was for but the old man was concentrating on the wood and did not answer, instead he began to whittle one of the pieces in a slow deliberate manner. Once again, Liang saw beads of sweat covering the old man's forehead. He was unable to tell what was happening, however, whatever it was the old man was exerting himself fully.

Three days went by quickly and though a little unsteady, Liang was able to walk on his own. The old man had not moved from his spot and was concentrating intensely on his work. It took him almost a day to finish whittling an odd shaped sword and a day and a half to carve the intricate symbols with the extremely thin knife.

The symbols were so small he was amazed that the old man could keep his hands so steady while carving them. After examining it for over an hour, he prepared the other piece and whittled out a circle.

Liang grew hungry, so he left as the old man was working on the shield. He had very little money, only a few silver coins which was a pitiful sum. The coins that he did have actually came from the change given to the old man at the shops.

Though he had the medium grade spirit stone the old man gave him, he would not dare to exchange it for gold coins. The old man treated them as if they were of little value but to him it was a fortune that was worth more than all the money in his village.

After walking for approximately an hour, Liang found himself in the poorer section of the city where the vendors sold mostly noodles and sticks of meat. It was more affordable so sitting in front of one of the stands he ordered a large bowl of dumpling soup. It was bland with few spices but it was only one silver coin and it reminded him of home. Spices were a luxury in his small village and food was normally limited to salt and red peppers for flavor.

Liang thought back to the state of his village. The old man looked like he was in no hurry but he wanted to get stronger as quickly as possible. Right now, he felt no stronger than the average noodle maker. It was a painful reminder of how he failed everyone. He wanted to find out who was responsible for their deaths and take revenge.

He thought the further away they traveled from the village the less likely they would be to find the killer. They were already nearly 1,000 Li from his home. However, he wondered what he could do even if he found out. To wipe out their village so quickly they were a foe that could not be underestimated.

It was hard to say if the villagers would be more upset that he did not avenge their deaths or if he ended up dying because he tried. As of right now, he was in no shape to take care of himself so he tried to put those thoughts away. He could think of revenge after he held enough strength.

His master told him he would turn him into a god amongst these mortals, whatever that was supposed to mean. All the old man ever told him was he would understand in time and do not dwell on it so much. It was hard not to though when it was his body that was being cut into.

Sighing to himself, he bought a few steamed buns before leaving the food stand, he was certain his master would be hungry by now. The old man was strange and he could not understand him. He was both skilled and knowledgeable but at the same time acted like this was just a sightseeing trip.

Liang was shocked when the old man acted subservient to Young Master Wang of the Warring Crane Sect. He was certain the old man was much stronger than anyone else was in that room, there was no need to put on a show.

When he asked about it later that evening the old man just responded by saying, "Why bother with such minor characters like them. Soon we'll move on from this little patch of dirt and you'll forget who they are. No point in antagonizing them. His sect elders will look to cause trouble for me and I'll make their sect disappear, who wants to be bothered with that."

It was an attitude that said these people were garbage in his eyes, but if that was the case, he wondered what the old man thought of him. Without even noticing, he had already made it to his room. Taking a moment to decide whether he should enter or walk around a little more, he pushed the door open and saw the old man was pouring two liquids on the odd-looking sword.

Leaning next to the desk was a small blue shield that looked to be made of some exotic metal. The center was silver and there were thin silver spokes extending out to the edge. Liang thought it was probably the most expensive piece of equipment he had ever seen.

The old man did not pay attention to Liang's return; instead, he was concentrating on the sword. Both liquids were extremely thick and as they coated the oddly shaped blade, thousands of symbols lit up. The symbols were absorbing the gold fluid rapidly while the black fluid spread across the rest of the sword.

When both bottles were nearly empty, the sword stopped absorbing the liquids. The golden symbols disappeared and only a line from the tip of the blade to the pommel remained visible. The old man held the sword above his head examining it with a smile on his face. He was clearly happy with the results of his three days of work.

Seeing Liang standing near the door he told him to come closer and handed him a steel sword from his ring. The sword looked exactly like the swords the village blacksmith made. The blades were steel, close to leg length, sharp on both sides, and popular with the merchants whenever they came through. He wondered if maybe the old man had taken a few.

Liang held the sword out for the old man as he instructed and watched as he flicked his wrist, splitting the steel sword in two. He had heard stories from the merchants about legendary swordsman who could cut swords in half, but he did not believe it until now.

A triumphant grin appeared on the old man's face and he asked Liang, "So what do you think? It's not really a good test as that's just some trash iron, but it's not too bad." Liang did not know how to answer him. He just thought that if the odd sword was sold at the auction there would be a huge fight for it.

"Master, was that really made from the wood you bought?" His eyes were wide and he could not believe the Three-Fires Ironwood was capable of such an amazing feat. He wondered how high of a price people would pay if they knew what the wood could be made into.

"Of course it's the wood I bought. Those damn alchemists. Can you believe they were going to burn this to make some worthless pills? It's true that nobody can create these arrays but these people are terrible. I'm telling you those alchemists are nothing but a bunch of scam artists. A simple array can do what they can do, even better with no waste!"

The old man continued badmouthing alchemists for several more minutes before he stopped to catch his breath. Seeing the steamed buns Liang brought he calmed himself and said, "See, this is how a disciple should act towards his master. You've been quite lacking recently. I even had to carry you on my back, what a joke!"

Liang could not tell if he was being serious or not but he learned a while ago that as long as his master had steamed buns he would be in a good mood. Staring at the odd sword, he could not hold his curiosity any longer. "Master, what type of sword is that?"

Picking the sword up the old man twirled it around in his hands before childishly taunting him, "Oh do you like this sword? I bet you do. It sure is an amazing sword isn't it? Bet you'll never see a sword as good as this one in your lifetime."

After a few more statements about how great he was, the old man handed Liang the sword. It was no longer than his arm, and the blade reached from his elbow to his fingertips. The curvature remind him of a sickle and it was close to the same weight. For some reason the sword was extremely pleasing to hold.

The old man watched him before Liang asked again, "Master, you still haven't told me what the sword is." The old man did not reply right away, instead waiting for a few moments before saying, "It is a Khopesh, though it may appear to have disadvantages to other swords, under my guidance it is the first and last sword you will ever need."