I look down at the bronze piece I’m carving into, nodding in approval. It shows a dragon chasing after the Moon, the Pearl of the Sky. There are varying phases of the Moon, with the crescent, the full, and the new Moons shining slightly. I polish the finished masterpiece before gingerly setting it to the side and moving another piece over. I carve another dragon, but this one is chasing after the Sun.
After what feels like minutes, but is probably hours, I finish polishing the last bronze ring so that it gleams. I smile, knowing that something as ingenious as this is sure to surpass any canal locks or bridges others have created. My master Su Song is a very brilliant man. Before this he had also created a large compass, and was a renowned as an incredible engineer and astronomer.
I stop to admire the bronze rings that were meticulously melted and cast to create the perfect shape for Master’s design. He would take nothing but the absolute best. I had seen the odd, but handy, new invention called a ‘dúlúnchē’ used to transport the metals from the smiths’ shops. It seemed slightly inconvenient, but it worked, and I had been working on my project for many long, hard weeks to get the perfect designs, as well as actually carve into the bronze with heated iron. Master Song called it ‘press printing’.
“Húhuŏ! Come on, Master Song needs the hùntiānyí finished soon! You can’t keep getting distracted!”
I turn to my best friend as she ‘reprimands’ me. She has her hands on her hips, arms bruised from having to lift such heavy metals, and smells strongly of smoke and iron. Then again, so does the entire workshop. I am tasked with the precarious job of creating the hùntiānyí, or Armillary sphere,for the clock-tower Master was constructing. I had looked at Master’s designs, the intricate gears that interlocked with each other, the way it fit together with the existing water powered clock-tower, and many others. But what fascinated me the most was the Armillary sphere, a strange, beautiful invention. Master Song had said it was used to measure celestial spheres, such as the position and phase of the Moon, the Sun, and other stars and planets. It also showed time, as well as the day of the month.
When Master Song had shown me a model of what he envisioned, I was captivated by how the bronze rings twisted around each other like dragons. This is why Master has given me the privilege of building the most defining piece.
“Húhuŏ. You’re just sitting there again. Focus already, I have important stuff too!”
“Uh? Ah! Bàoqiàn, Shuĭlόng. Just thinking.”
I chuckle lightly, and see a soft smile play on her lips.
“Okay, but you better have made progress by the time I’m back!”
I watch her leave, her footsteps soon lost to the sound of crackling fire and hammers on metal. I sigh, wiping some sweat from my brow with my robe’s sleeves and going back to the hùntiānyí. I begin to fit together the complex gears in their appropriate points, fastening each carefully crafted gear made to be locked together exactly. These jobs took immense patience, a virtue I thankfully have lots of.
However, my hands start trembling from the stress and lack of sleep. Lately, I haven’t been sleeping, continuing to work on the hùntiānyí. I worry that I won’t make the deadline, for I’ve already been working on it for 2 whole months. I take a drink of water, and just sit there for a few minutes to avoid falling over. My head is swimming from the heat and malnourishment. I had often skipped meals to get work done in a timely manner.
After many long, sweaty, tedious hours, I find myself wrapping my left hand in cloth. I had accidentally cut myself, and while that was a normal occurrence, this one was deep, and far too much scarlet liquid had welled up from it. But, in the end, it was worth the blood, sweat, and tears, from the smoke (I’m no nuòfū!). I didn’t care, I was done. And I could eat. I quickly follow my nose to the mouthwatering scents that only spices from foreign places could release. Shuĭlόng, Master Song, and I celebrate the almost finished project with Qínglǎng, our kind and exceptional cook.
I then trudge back to my room I share with Fēng Mă. I smirk, thinking about how much the two of us have changed in the span of 3 ½ years. I am greeted by Xīng Hún, who mewls questioningly. I grin, handing him a piece of steamed duck I stole from the table. Tomorrow, Master Song wants to finish the clock-tower. We are all so excited, adrenaline pumping through our veins. When the divine creation of Su Song, my Master, is done, it would be forever remembered by all.