So, this is Qingyang Market, isn't it?
Standing on the street of Qingyang Market and looking at the continuous flow of people, Little Shiba sighed with emotion. It had been a long time since he saw such a scene. Although this Qingyang Market was not even as good as a small town in his past life, he at least felt that he was in a civilized world. Qingyang Market was much better than the small village where he had been staying previously.
Three days ago his uncle came to his family and mentioned again that he would like Boxer and Little Shiba to leave the family and start making their own living. Old Zhou agreed.
Although the family already had been living quite well, he had to agree with what had been proposed since he had four sons after all. Houndie was already at the age of starting his own family, while Boxer and Little Shiba were also getting close to the age where their growing bodies would require more and more food. Boxer was fine, but Little Shiba could be trouble since he could not have meals without eating meat. The Zhou's would definitely have become poor because of Little Shiba's appetite if they were not covered by Wang Tianlei's family.
It was better to take this opportunity to send him away. Although the family would not require him to help support them, he should be able to at least support himself. With Qingyang Market being not far away, namely 20 to 25 km of mountain roads away from the village, no one would worry too much. After a thorough discussion, Old Zhou agreed with uncle to take Little Shiba away for him to start making his own living.
"Haha, this Qingyang Market is probably still under control of the Black Dragon Triad. The Elder just passed away and the Black Dragon Triad's power was weakened greatly, so they probably have no intention to run this place!" Looking toward that stretch of buildings in the dark on the southwest side, Little Shiba flashed a funny smile. Although he only carried some pieces of memories of Li Haoran, he clearly understood Li Haoran's feeling for the Black Dragon Triad and this feeling also influenced him. So, he was very interested in the Black Dragon Triad.
But with his current age and status, the Black Dragon Triad was still unattainable for him. It was also unnecessary for him to be involved in such a Jianghu gang at the moment.
"Little Shiba, that's the ironware shop of the Wu's over there. You'd better behave well and learn a skill after you arrive there. I've asked many influential people to set up the connections to get you in there, so you'd better not disappoint me!"
Little Shiba's head was about to blow up with his uncle's unremitting warnings on the way to the iron shop, but he was still being patient. Listening and nodding his head with modest smiles on his face, he had been well-behaved, which was very satisfactory to his uncle.
"Haha, I almost forgot that you have a real name now, Zhou Bao!" Uncle seemed to recall something and started laughing and touching Little Shiba's head. "Your dad gave you a really nice name. I can't call you Little Shiba anymore. From now on, you'll be Junior Leopard!"
Little Shiba, no, Junior Leopard gave a wry smile. He was fine with whatever name. However, he was not comfortable at all with people touching his head.
The Wu's ironware shop was very famous in Qingyang Market. In fact, the entire Wu's were very famous in Yunzhou, Jin.
The Wu's in Yunzhou were a family well-known for iron making.
A blacksmith was only an artisan, an ordinary handicraftsman who only had greater strength.
However, there were various grades and ranks for handicraftsmen. When a blacksmith was able to forge sharp weapons, he would leave the handicraftsman level and be upgraded as a craftsman to live a decent life. When a craftsman was able to create wizard weapons, he would be called master and would no longer need to sweat with bare shoulders, or fight against others for iron bells, or hit metal alone in a shabby blacksmith shop like before. Those masters would be like Gan Jiang and Mo Ye in the ancient legends, becoming honored guests of high officials and noble lords, making specific weapons for particular groups of people using materials that were unimaginable for common blacksmiths. Maybe throughout their lives, they would only need to produce one or two more pieces that would spread their names to the later generations. Those were the so-called masters.
Families like the Wu's that possessed a unique and secret technique would have one or two masters every several generations. Those families that were able to generate masters in batches surely had a higher status than regular families did.
The Wu's ironware shop in Qingyang Market was only a tiny branch of its family. In Yunzhou, every town had an ironware shop attached to the Wu's. The Wu's monopolized 70% of the ironware business that covered from manufacturing swords, bows, and arrows to producing knives and spatulas. Moreover, it undertook 90% of the share of the military ironware in Yunzhou. Meanwhile, the Wu's ironware was also very popular and accounted for a certain percentage in markets outside of Yunzhou. Therefore, the Wu's were recognized as one of the four big smelting families in Jin.
Although the Wu's were a well-known family, the blacksmiths in it were not entirely its clansmen. Thinking about it, it would be impossible if there were only the Wu's members that were manufacturing mass amounts of ironware and taking care of all those shops, including providing all of the military ironware. Even if the elders of the family over 70 were still working, the whole Wu family would probably be worked to death.
Well-known iron-making families like the Wu's normally recruited disciples widely. For sure, the instructions that these disciples received were just regular smelting techniques. The real sophisticated and secret skills were taken care of by the Wu's core members and would only be received by a few disciples who were the elites of the entire family.
At the moment, Zhou Bao was merely a common apprentice who worked in one of the most regular ironware shops of the Wu's. In Yunzhou, there were countless ironware shops like that where they cultivated regular blacksmiths. Occasionally, those apprentices who had an aptitude for making ironware were discovered and recommended to better ironware shops where they learned more sophisticated ways of making ironware and became real disciples of the Wu's.
Becoming the Wu's disciple meant you had a great opportunity to become a craftsman, which was the highest pursuit of every apprentice in the Wu's ironware shop. But that was not what Zhou Bao pursued. He had no interest in making ironware and only cared about the remuneration in the Wu's ironware shop. As they say, those who practice writing are poor while those who practice martial arts are rich. He practiced martial arts and thus he needed lots of meat to supply energy for his practice. That was the reason why he could not have meals without having meat and that caused big trouble for the Zhou's. However, the iron-making job in the Wu's ironware shop also consumed humongous amounts of energy and required strong bodies. Thus, even for the small apprentices, there was meat served for every meal. In this way, his problem was solved.
Most of Qingyang Market's workshops were in the south of the town, but the Wu's ironware shop was different. It was located in the center of the town, which was also the most prosperous part of the town.
This ironware shop consisted of making ironware in the back of the shop and selling it in the front. It was the biggest shop in the entire Qingyang Market.
Although it was the largest shop in the whole Qingyang Market, Qingyang Market was merely a small place and so the shop was still not big enough for the Wu's. Standing outside of the ironware shop, Junior Leopard faintly heard the sound of people hitting iron from the back of the shop, and he even pictured a scene in his brain of those fellows sweating like pigs to hit iron in the back of the shop.
"Hey, Butler Lin, this is my nephew. He may look young but he's as strong as an ox!"
Junior Leopard's uncle was awkwardly smiling in front of a nearly 60-year-old skinny old fellow, dragging Junior Leopard in front of him.
"Well, not bad!" Butler Lin took a long look at Little Shiba. "It's not bad to have such a body at your age, quite rare. Let's go, I think Old Xing will not complain to me anymore!" Butler Lin was talking to himself while dragging Zhou Bao behind him, and then looked up and said to Zhou Bao's uncle, "You go to Xiao Yunzi to get a contract of apprenticeship and you're done here. I'm taking him to meet Old Xing. That old fellow is quite grumpy, especially with strangers, so you'd better not come with us!"
"Right, right!" Zhou Bao's uncle kept nodding his head and turned to Zhou Bao to warn him again. His warning simply was to ask him to behave well in the ironware shop and to study hard to achieve a promising future. Zhou Bao had gotten tired of these.
As for Butler Lin, he could not stop smiling because he had seen many such scenes. Since there was still plenty of time, he had no need to rush and so he waited for Little Shiba's uncle to finish his warning and then walked Little Shiba into the shop.
Although the Wu's were a huge family with endless properties, Qingyang Market was a small place after all. Basically, the customers were the townspeople, who did not have strict requirements on ironware. They mainly needed kitchen knives for cutting ingredients, not to mention that they did not have much money or purchasing power for the Wu's ironware, whose prices were 10 or 20% higher than those of regular blacksmith shops. Therefore, business here was limited.
Yet, its biggest source of business was the fighters who entered the mountains. Those fighters were using a small town like Qingyang Market as their filling station for a rest. The Wu's usually dealt with them.
Of course, the Wu's also dealt with common customers, but not many shops received those common orders since most of those orders were for the apprentices to practice their skills.
Following Butler Lin, Little Shiba entered the shop and walked straight to the back. The further back he went, the louder the hitting sound became. In the end, there were no other sounds in his ears except for the rattling sound of iron being hit.
"Crap, this is just noise!" Zhou Bao was inwardly deeply ashamed. He was a quiet person and the Tai Chi Quan he practiced was also a silent Kung Fu. Nobody would be able to guarantee that he could live in such a rattling environment all day.
Butler Lin did not seem to care about what Zhou Bao was thinking. Seeing Zhou Bao slightly knitting his brows, he could not help laughing and asked, "What, are you scared, young boy? You know what, this job is not going to be easy for you. You have to pay a great effort before you find your place here!"
"Oh, I see!" Zhou Bao was nodding his head seriously with a look of accepting instructions while his mind had traveled to somewhere else.
"This is the apprentice you recruited this year?"
After entering the backyard, a blast of strong alcohol smell rushed into Little Shiba's nose before he started to observe his surroundings. He looked up and happened to see an old fellow with a drunkard's nose who was holding an alcohol gourd in his hands and staring at him with eyes that were bloodshot.
This old fellow was about the same age as Butler Lin but his figure was much larger. Probably because of his age or not forging iron for a while, his muscles were a little loose and his Qi and blood were not vigorous. Especially in his right hand, where there was an extremely clear-cut scar that started from his right wrist and ran down to his elbow.
"Is his hand disabled?" Zhou Bao felt a flicker in his heart by having a look at that scar.
Although it seemed that the wound had already recovered, it could be easy to figure out by the scar that this old fellow's tendons were cut off a long time ago and his strength in his hand had also been lost. He might not know how to make iron, but it was as plain as the nose on his face what it looked like when a blacksmith lost his right hand.
"This is master Xing. He's a craftsman who will be in charge of teaching you. You'd better try your best and don't disappoint your uncle!" Butler Lin softly said, patting Little Shiba's head.