Chapter 58 - The Greatest Blacksmith in the World
Early next day found Chem Al and the City Lord discussing the finer details of the alliance between Vera City and the Alchemist Association. Eventually, the City Lord mentioned, “Ever since you’ve cured my son of his illness, the other Patriarchs have been asking if you could personally help some of their family and clan members as well.”
But Chem Al shook his head. “I can’t.”
“My cauldron was destroyed, remember? I can’t make medicine without it.”
“This… this….” The City Lord was shocked. Didn’t we just enter into an alliance with you? If you can’t make any of those pills, then what’s the point?
“I’m going to need someone to forge me a new cauldron.”
“It’s possible to make more of that miraculous treasure?!” The City Lord was surprised. That cauldron had left a lasting impression on him, especially with that explosion at the end. To be so powerful, he had assumed that it was some sort of rare treasure that this village boy found. He had been silly to think of it as a mere cooking pot.
“Of course,” Chem Al said.
“Tell me what you need. I’ll have my castle’s personal blacksmith forge this miraculous cauldron for you.”
Again, Chem Al shook his head. “Not just anyone can make such an era changing treasure. I need a specific blacksmith to make it.”
“Who? I’ll go fetch him immediately.”
“His name is Tai Fu.”
Several minutes later in another part of Vera City.
Tai Fu woke up to the sound of someone banging on the door of his smithy.
"Yo, Tai Fu. Open up!"
Ugh.... He recognized that voice. It belonged to Big Nao, a blacksmith that owned the Nao Smithy, one of the wealthiest and most powerful smithys in all of Vera City. A lot of nobles bought weapons at his store.
Tai Fu crawled out of his tiny bed, then went to open the door, revealing a big and burly man. "What are you doing here?" he said with a tired, lackluster voice.
"Hey, Tai Fu. You should think of opening your store earlier. You might be able to get more customers that way."
"What do you want, Big Nao?"
"You've got anymore profound iron ingots? I'm starting to run out because, you know, I got a line of customers going around the block. Apparently, a lot of people's kids got really motivated with cultivation after watching that villager win the tournament. But I'm running out of materials to make weapons for them. So then I thought, I know someone who's sure to have some spare ingots lying around since he hardly has any customers. So... what do you say? Will you sell me some?"
Tai Fu looked annoyed. If you're going to ask for something, be more polite about it. But he didn't retort. Money was money, no matter who he sold to. "How much do you want?"
"Ah, see, before we discuss how much I’m going to buy, how about we talk about how much of a discount you’re going to give me?"
"You...." Tai Fu tried to slam the door on his face.
But Big Nao thrust out a huge hand, holding the door open. "Oh, don't be like that. If no one's buying your stuff, then all you've got are some metal paperweights. Come on, I'll buy the whole lot if you give me a big discount."
Before Tai Fu could explode, they heard a commotion behind them on the street. Looking out, they saw a contingent of guards pushing a crowd of people away as they escorted a carriage towards the smithy area.
Such a fancy carriage.... Which wealthy noble could be riding in it? Just as Big Nao thought that he should run back to his smithy, because he assumed that the carriage was heading there, the carriage stopped in front of the Tai Smithy.
"Umm...." Neither Tai Fu nor Big Nao knew what to say.
The carriage door opened up and out came... the City Lord himself!
Tai Fu and Big Nao quickly bowed with cupped hands. ““We greet the City Lord!””
“No need to be so formal. Especially you….” The City Lord gave a jovial smile as he approached Big Nao and patted his shoulders. “You must be Tai Fu! Such a strong man as yourself, I can see why he thinks so highly of you.”
“Uh….” Big Nao didn’t know how to react.
“Um, sir. I’m Tai Fu.” Tai Fu raised his hand.
The City Lord turned to face the shorter and skinnier blacksmith. His confused face was then replaced by a plastered smile. He patted Tai Fu’s shoulders. “Of course, of course, I could tell from such a strong man as yourself, that you’re the man I was looking for. I can see why he thinks so highly of you.”
“Uh….” Now it was Tai Fu who didn’t know how to react. Was this really the City Lord? Where was his face? Where was his dignity?
“Excuse me, City Lord, but...” Big Nao said. “...what do you want with Tai Fu?”
“For his smithing skills, of course. I’ve been told that Tai Fu here is the greatest blacksmith in the world!”
Both Tai Fu and Big Nao nearly collapsed from shock.
Who the hell has been lying to the City Lord?!
It wasn’t just Big Nao thinking that, it was also Tai Fu. He knew himself best. If he wasn’t the worst blacksmith in Vera City, he was pretty close. There was no way anyone would consider him as the greatest blacksmith in the world.
This same thought went through the minds of every eavesdropping blacksmith here. Because of the City Lord’s rare appearance here in the smithy area, many of them had come over to take a look at what was going on. They too almost fell to the ground because of the City Lord’s words.
“Cough cough…. City Lord, calling me the greatest blacksmith in the world may be a little too much,” Tai Fu said.
“It’s not just a little,” Big Nao jumped in. “Even calling him the greatest blacksmith in Vera City would be a huge, huge, huge stretch. City Lord, who told you this?”
“A friend of mine,” the City Lord said.
A friend? All of the blacksmiths here had their minds racing trying to guess who this friend was. To be able to convince the City Lord that the poor Tai Fu was the greatest blacksmith in the world, and to be able to get the City Lord to come here personally to fetch him…. This friend of his must be a powerful expert! Who could it be?
“Might I ask who this prestigious friend of yours is, City Lord?” Tai Fu hesitantly asked.
“I’ll introduce you to him later,” the City Lord said. “But first, I would like to talk about you. I’m in need of a new personal blacksmith, so how would you like to come work for me?”
Everyone listening in nearly jumped out of their shoes. The weakest blacksmith in Vera City becoming the personal blacksmith of the City Lord himself? Heavens, did everyone here hit themselves in the head with their hammers? Surely they must have heard wrong.
Big Nao staggered. It has been his dream to become the City Lord’s personal blacksmith ever since he first picked up a hammer, and now… and now… this weak blacksmith who he has always looked down on was going to achieve this dream?
Is this a nightmare?
“City Lord!” Big Nao shouted. “If you’re in need of a new personal blacksmith, I think I am more qualified than Tai Fu. My smithy produces the finest….”
The City Lord held up a hand, silencing him, before turning back to Tai Fu. “Well, what do you say?”
“I… I….” Tai Fu didn’t understand what was going on. He had just woken up a few minutes ago in the same shanty-like smithy, and now the City Lord was here personally to change his status and give him a better life. This must be a prank of some sort. But would the City Lord have too much time on his hands to joke around?
Assuming that Tai Fu was hesitating, the City Lord said, “Don’t say no just yet. I haven’t even mentioned the benefits you would get.”
He waved his hand at his guards, who then pulled out a trunk from the back of the carriage. Opening it up revealed… glitteringly beautiful high jade stones!
“Five thousand high jade stones,” the City Lord said.
F-F-Five thousand? Tai Fu’s and everyone else’s minds reeled at the sight.
“And that’s just your advance pay. Your yearly pay will be even higher than that! Plus, you’ll also get these….” Waving his hand again, the City Lord motioned for the guards to reveal a second trunk.
Inside were some of the rarest ingots and ores found in their corner of the Continent. They might not mean much in the wider world, but here in Vera City they were certainly extremely rare.
They were definitely precious metals that Tai Fu had heard of but has never actually seen.
“S-Star Reaching Stone…? M-Moonlight Gravel…? Ingots of S-Scarlet Dancing Rocks…?” Tai Fu picked up one smithing material after another.
On the side, Big Nao’s face looked like a gasping fish.
“But that’s not all,” the City Lord said. “You will also get your very own smithy filled with the best equipment that jade can buy. Not only that, you can also have countless blacksmith apprentices at your beck and call.”
“T-The best equipment? B-Blacksmith apprentices?” This… this… if this was a dream, Tai Fu didn’t want to wake up. However, this was all too strange, too sudden. He had been beaten down for far too long to fall for a dream so easily. “What’s the catch?”
“Catch? There is no catch,” the City Lord said.
However, despite his assurances, Tai Fu still felt reluctant. There was something off about all of this.
To the side, Big Nao used his profound energy to compress his voice so that only Tai Fu can hear. “What are you hesitating for? This is the City Lord we’re talking about! Even if there is a catch, you should jump into it! But hey, if you don’t want the position, then tell the City Lord the truth, that I’m a better blacksmith than you and that I’m the one who deserves to become his personal blacksmith!”
But Tai Fu wasn’t listening. He was trying to think this over from every angle. Suddenly, he remembered what the City Lord said. “Please excuse my rude question, City Lord, but can I ask again, who is this prestigious friend of yours? I would like to meet him first, please, before I make my decision.”
For someone to be able to convince the City Lord to come here personally, only a powerful expert would be able to do such a thing. A powerful expert that, for some reason, thinks very highly of his smithing skills.
There’s a chance that becoming the personal blacksmith of the City Lord could actually be the short end of the deal in this situation. If Tai Fu agreed to work for the City Lord before even meeting this powerful expert, he might regret it for the rest of his life.
A frown flickered on the City Lord’s face, but it quickly vanished. Honestly, he was expecting this from the beginning. For this blacksmith to be thought so highly of by that boy, he knew that it would be difficult to get a concrete yes from him.
“Come with me,” the City Lord said, inviting Tai Fu into the carriage.
Tai Fu nodded.
All the blacksmiths looked on with green eyes as the weakest blacksmith in their group went off with the most powerful man in Vera City. Some of them pinched themselves, thinking that this must all be some terrible nightmare.
But no, it wasn’t a dream, no matter how much Big Nao slapped himself in the face trying to wake up.
Along the way to the castle, the City Lord continued trying to convince Tai Fu to become his personal blacksmith, but the more the City Lord negotiated, the more curious Tai Fu became.
Who the hell was this powerful expert that was able to lie so convincingly to the City Lord?
Eventually, they stopped in front of the huge doors of the castle.
Tai Fu got out of the carriage on shaky legs. Okay, he was finally going to meet this powerful expert that thought so highly of him for some reason. So he should definitely, definitely not be nervous. If only he could stop himself from sweating….
Then with a rumbling sound, the large doors opened and a little boy wearing ragged clothes came out.
“Hey, Tai Fu! Long time no see!” Chem Al smiled.