Chapter 478 - Tang Wulin's Plan
Although Shrek Academy had asked Heaven Dou City to keep quiet about Tang Wulin's heroic deeds, Mo Wu still granted him the title of Honored Citizen, and along with it, a badge. With that badge, Tang Wulin could buy anything in Heaven Dou City with a twenty percent discount, auction house included.
The title of Honored Citizen was the highest honor that could be awarded in Heaven Dou City. It was non-hereditary, given only to the most outstanding of people. Even as the city's administrator, Mo Wu had to apply in order to grant two of them. One for Tang Wulin, and the other for his daughter. Both deserved it.
"Uncle Liu, isn't it hard to operate the mecha in such a cramped space?" Tang Wulin asked, his eyes shining with curiosity as he looked around.
A typical mecha contained a human-shaped groove for the pilot within the center of the cockpit, located at its belly region. Here, the pilot controlled the mecha's every movement, mecha operation relying mainly on the pilot's own movements, supplemented by their thoughts. Due to the method of operation, strong bodies was a must for pilots. Partial control of the mecha could be given over to the mecha's operating system during combat, but high-grade mechas had minimal such programs and operation relied mainly on the pilot.
Liu An explained some of the unique traits of his cherished mecha, one of the few black-grades on the continent.
Black-grades had astronomical production costs. Furthermore, since the Federation only supplied the circuit cores, the rest of the materials and labor had to be provided by the pilot. But the mecha belonged solely to the pilot who put forth the resources to produce it. As long as they earned enough achievements, they would be able to take their mecha with them whenever they chose to leave the military.
The circumstances were similar for purple-grade mechas. Lower-grade mechas, while built upon mass-produced chassis, were customized by their pilots. As such, mecha pilots treated their mecha as their second life, an extension of themselves.
Both strength and money were needed to become a mecha pilot. If the pilot didn't come from a wealthy clan, then they would have to earn the money necessary to advance, be it via their salary, bonuses, or sponsorships.
During his lecture, Liu An touched upon all sorts of troubles and issues faced by mecha pilots. In the end, however, they all revolved around one thing: the metals necessary to build and upgrade mechas were expensive!
"Ugh. I think you get it by now, but being a mecha pilot isn't as glamorous as it seems. It might be a prestigious job, but life grows harder by the day! Pilots can never stop working hard, competing in competitions for the prize money, and working for bonuses if they want to have a mecha they can truly call their own. Really, the Federation's treatment of us high-level pilots is inhuman. We don't have any time to think about anything but making money and growing stronger." Liu An sighed, shaking his head. "Still, I have to say I'm doing pretty well for myself actually. My mecha is a solid black-grade, so I'm just focusing on upgrading all of its parts with spirit refined metal. I think I'll be able to accomplish that in my lifetime."
"Wow! It's tough being a mecha pilot!" Tang Wulin said.
Liu An let out another long sigh. "Yeah. You still need to temper the iron after forging it. Anyone can become a mecha pilot as long as they're strong enough for the training. But a good one? That's a different story. It's hard to advance from there, so that's where the real value of pilots emerges."
Tang Wulin's heart thumped, an idea forming in his mind. "Uncle Liu, do pilots buy their metals directly from the Blacksmith's Association?"
Liu An nodded. "That's right. We generally make requests for what we want, then pay the price. It's pretty straightforward and the Blacksmith's Association fees aren't too bad. But things get troublesome when it comes to spirit refined metal. There aren't enough blacksmiths capable of spirit refining! The demand far outstrips the supply, so the price is skyhigh to match. And even with money, a blacksmith still needs to take on the request. With the low odds of success for spirit refining, they're cautious when it comes to taking on requests and we clients have to bear the burdens of failure for them. It's just a tough situation all around."
"Huh. So it's like that," Tang Wulin murmured. The metals required by mechas were lower quality than those of battle armors, but their demand far oustripped the supply. His eyes flashed with a calculating glint. A golden opportunity!
"Uncle Liu, I'm a member of Shrek Academy's Blacksmith's Association. If you need some metals forged in the future, feel free to come find me. Our prices over there might be a bit cheaper and we'll definitely finish on time." Tang Wulin beamed.
Tang Wulin had no intentions of scamming Liu An. Rather, he wanted to tap into the market of mecha pilots. After all, he could undercut the market as much as he wanted, but he needed access to the buyers to actually move his products. There was no need to conduct business under the table anyway.
During the ten days he spent with Zhen Hua, Tang Wulin learned just how costly it was for the higher levels of blacksmithing. This translated into battle armors being expensive to make as well. With the growing speed of Tang Wulin's seal breaks, he would need more and more money to keep up with the rarer and rarer spirit items needed. Even if his uncle-master treated him well, he couldn't expect the man to buy him items with astronomical prices. In the end, it all came down to making more money!
"Sounds great!" Liu An said immediately, his eyes shining.
Tang Wulin had taken care not to explicitly reveal who would be taking on the requests. Namely, him. He was aware how hard it was to trust a young blacksmith, especially one who declared himself a genius. On the other hand, Shrek Academy's name demanded trust and was very effective for his purpose.
Nearly an hour later, they finally arrived at the outskirts of Shrek City. As a mecha pilot from Heaven Dou City, Liu An didn't have permission to enter Shrek City with his mecha. After exchanging numbers, Liu An flew off in his mecha, leaving a streak of flame in the sky.
Tang Wulin hailed a taxi for the local Tang Sect headquarters. He wanted to get the remaining two spirit items as soon as possible, and return to campus afterward.
Fraught with danger and challenge his trip to Heaven Dou City had been, Tang Wulin was quick to remember he had gained more than his troubles. The path ahead now sprawled neat and clear before him. With his newly-secured Honored Citizen discount, he could purchase things cheaply from Heaven Dou City, forge items for himself and his friends, and sell the rest. A grin slid its way across his lips. The fact that he had secured Liu An as a potential buyer brought all sorts of tickling in his belly. And perhaps best of all, he could take advantage of the discount to acquire any spirit items he needed in the future. His uncle-master backing him and the title of Honored Citizen attaching to his chest like a badge, he was sure to get the best price.
It would all result in a positive feedback loop.
Of course, Tang Wulin still needed to earn contribution points with both the Tang Sect and Shrek Academy. He decided to sell any spirit alloys with a less than eighty percent harmony rate, and with this plan, his bank account would continue to grow.