It was not a simple kitchen knife. It was obviously a lethal weapon. If he were to try to chop vegetables with it, he feared he would not only chop the vegetables but cut the table in half as well!
He put the kitchen knife aside, and asked, "Did you make it?!"
"That's right!" Junior Leopard nodded, with a self-satisfied smile on his face. Using materials designed to make kitchen knives to forge a high-quality weapon that was even sharper than a kitchen knife, was sufficient evidence to prove his natural talent for metal smelting.
The Wu's ironware shop traded in all kinds of metal goods, from hammers and pickaxes for farmers, to scissors and kitchen knives for city folk, and finally to weaponry and armor for the military. It provided civil as well as military service, bringing every metal utensil in the world together under one roof.
Because of this, the blacksmiths working for the Wu Family were categorized into three groups. One group specialized in the production of military hardware, and another group produced metal utensils for civilian use. The distinction between these two groups was clear, and the status of the military hardware group was much higher than that of the other group.
After all, smelting military hardware was much more demanding than smelting household utensils, and each item of weaponry or armor that they made was responsible for the life of a soldier. Because of this, the Wu's ironware shop had to be prudent. The blacksmiths who specialized in military hardware needed to have at least 10 years of related experience, even if they were not fully qualified craftsmen.
Weaponry was not only needed by the military, but also by people of the Jianghu; and so, the third category of blacksmiths crafted weapons for the Jianghu people. This group was different from the other two groups. Jianghu people were usually non-conformists who lived roaming lives and were not so particular about their weapons. Just so long as they were sharp and durable, this was enough. This type of weapon did not require an expert craftsman to smelt, just a regular blacksmith with sufficient skillful technique, and the Wu's had no shortage of such persons. There were also some famous people, who had high standards for their weaponry and wanted customized weapons with many demands. These demands were difficult for a regular blacksmith to fulfill, but luckily customers like this were few in number and the Wu's had enough craftsmen to satisfy their requirements.
The ironware shop at Qingyang Market was small, one of the Wu's lowest-ranked outlets. It had just one craftsman who also served as the instructor and often had little work to do. The ironware shop generally sold only ironware of two types: common household utensils and common Jianghu weaponry.
Correspondingly, there were also two types of iron-forging masters here. The requirements of forging weapons were much greater than those for kitchen knives, and because of this, their salaries were different. One who made weapons was paid almost twice as much as one who made household utensils.
Apprentices like Junior Leopard were not paid wages at first because the ironware shop provided food, clothing, and education — was this not enough?
However, while there were no wages, there were prizes available. If you produced an exceptional piece of work, the ironware shop would reward you, and the amount of the reward corresponded to the value of what you had made. Of course, this also had the purpose of motivating apprentices to study diligently, and forge quality goods. These "quality goods" they aimed to produce were normally household utensils for civilian use. As for weapons, these were made by apprentices who had already qualified. Weapons were only for true blacksmiths. There was a rule in the Wu's ironware shop: an apprentice could only graduate once he had been able to make a weapon which was fully up to standard, and only then could he become a blacksmith and receive wages.
Generally speaking, it took an ordinary person at least five years of training to go from being an apprentice to being a blacksmith, yet Junior Leopard had reached this level in just half a year. Qin Xuanlong was amazed. Looking at the kitchen knife in his hand, he could see that Junior Leopard's metal forging skill was already at the level of crafting weapons. He could also see that Junior Leopard's prospects were much brighter than his own. If he did a favor to him now, perhaps he would benefit from it in the future.
As one of the supervisors of the Wu's ironware shop, he was naturally familiar with Junior Leopard's experience. He knew that this young lad came from a mountain village, and had come to the Wu's to serve as an apprentice because his family had too many boys and were not able to raise all of them — this was their reason for sending him here to act as an apprentice. At the time, nobody would have thought that this lad was blessed with genius.
However, even if he was a genius, he was still just a child right now, and the achievements he would make were still ahead of him. For now, he was still a poor young boy. This was the opportune time for Qin Xuanlong to lend him a hand. He made his decision. In Qin Xuanlong's mind, the boy would certainly feel grateful to him. After all, he was only a child of eight.
Junior Leopard was indeed grateful to him; however, the tears of gratitude that Qin Xuanlong had been imagining did not make an appearance. Naturally, Junior Leopard could have guessed what Qin Xuanlong's intention was. However, this was a situation in which everyone benefited, and he would have been crazy not to accept.
The days flew by quickly, and it had been more than half a year since Junior Leopard had broken free of his apprentice status and become a fully qualified blacksmith.
Junior Leopard had lived a comfortable life this past half year. The monthly wage of a blacksmith was amongst the best at Qingyang Market, and even though he used a large part of it for household essentials, the remainder was still enough for him to live comfortably, and on top of that he could also win prizes at the Wu's ironware shop.
After half a year of settling into the career of metal forging, Junior Leopard had already integrated theory with practice in the art of crafting weaponry and was probably the best or second best among the whole Wu's ironware shop.
Qin Xuanlong was startled to see Junior Leopard's great progress, and so he made a decision similar to that of Old Xing. After Junior Leopard reached 10 years of age, he would be sent to take part in the first stage of the Wu's selection process. He believed, based on Junior Leopard's current level, taking part in the selection process would give him a chance to shine. And together with his young age, he was sure to attract the respect of the Wu's and became one of their core members.
Junior Leopard understood why his performance had been outstanding. There were two main factors, and the most important one was the state of insight that he had reached while hammering the pieces of wood in the backyard. That moment of insight had helped him gain a perfect understanding of rhythm and force — and he had made countless attempts to enter that state since then, but each time he was unsuccessful. If it were not for him being able to maintain his eyes in that strange state, he would not even have been able to understand the knowledge he had gained from it completely.
"It's a good thing that my eyes are so extraordinary!" Junior Leopard walked along the avenue, breathing in the fresh air, feeling the warm sunlight. The corners of his lips curled into a self-satisfied smile.
Another factor was the Ignis Skill. This mental cultivation was a skill derived from the fire. Although Junior Leopard's mastery of it was still at a low level, it had given him a good instinct for judging the temperature of the fire. Compared to a blacksmith who had a good understanding of fire through lengthy experience, Junior Leopard had an advantage — he could use his Ignis Internal Qi at any time to gauge the fire's temperature, which was a much more direct method than relying on experience.
So, he was delighted with his present life.
How could he not be satisfied? He had enough money to spend, a low workload, and he could study his favorite martial arts. Was there anything greater in this world?
No, there was not!
At least, that's what Junior Leopard believed at the time.