Chapter 346 – Alloy
Yuanen Yehui looked up at Xie Xie, who had barged in. He met her scarlet eyes and gulped, then meekly asked, “A-are you okay?”
Xie Xie had been waiting for her the entire time. Just like Yuanen Yehui had suspected, he was the one who cleaned the dormitory. He had drawn the bucket of water outside her door as well, using his Shadow Dragon Dagger to invisibly lurk in the vicinity, waiting for Yuanen Yehui to return. When he saw her dump out the bucket of water, he felt as though he were getting punched in the gut. Just as he was about to leave, however, he heard her pained screams and charged into her room without a second thought. Only as he stared into her crimson eyes did he start to feel awkward.
“Get out!” she screamed.
“Ah!” Xie Xie turned tail and ran off. Fear continued to linger in his heart when it came to her. The memory of her attempting to kill him had been burned into his mind, and even as he ran out, Xie Xie did not forget to close the door behind him.
Yuanen Yehui panted for breath as she wiped tears from her face. She then curled up in her bed, gripping her blanket tightly.
“Do you know what the greatest difference is between blacksmiths who can spirit refine and those who can’t? Feng Wuyu asked Tang Wulin.
“Well… they can spirit refine,” Tang Wulin answered.
“That’s a shit answer. It’s nowhere near as simple as that! Just what has Mu Chen been teaching you?” Feng Wuyu glared at Tang Wulin, the intensity in his gaze forcing the boy to stumble backward a step.
“Teacher Mu said that I shouldn’t bite off more than I can chew… that he’ll teach me what I need to know about spirit refining when I could actually do it,” Tang Wulin answered meekly. “That way, I can focus on improving my skills.”
“Nonsense!” Feng Wuyu shouted. “His way of teaching is half-assed. Only with a comprehensive understanding of your blacksmithing path will you be able to properly prepare and progress on it. Now pay attention. I’ll teach you just what a grandmaster blacksmith is.
“Prior to spirit refining, blacksmiths only need have to work according to routine. In other words, they just have to practice skilled labor. After spirit refining, blacksmiths can finally show their flair and character in their work. This is a major milestone for blacksmiths.” Feng Wuyu paused for a moment, letting the information sink in. “Herein lies the greatest difference between fourth and fifth-rank blacksmiths. From now on, in addition to single, homogenous metals, you’ll be forging alloys.”
“Alloys?” The idea left Tang Wulin dumbstruck, and an inkling of what was to come began forming in his mind.
“To spirit refine is to bestow life upon metals,” Feng Wuyu declared. “You’ve succeeded in doing so once before, so let me ask you this: when you were spirit refining, what was the hardest part of the process?”
“Giving the metal life,” Tang Wulin answered instantly. “The metal gradually gains intelligence while being forged, and after reaching a certain level of intelligence, its very nature transforms. At that moment, we blacksmiths need to imbue it with our vitality to awaken the metal and grant it true life. Only then will the spirit refining succeed. Also, since metal has no life to begin with, the degree to which we can awaken its intelligence is crucial to the chances of successfully spirit refining.”
“Not bad, kid. That’s a pretty good explanation. Now, what does the innate nature of the metal have to do with the difficulty of bestowing it life? The better the metal, the easier it is to spirit refine. The creation of life is one of the universe’s most important matters. In the split-second life is created, there is a burst of unperceivable energy. This energy is what we call life energy, and it’s the basis of all life. While we may not be able to sense this energy, lifeless objects are extremely sensitive to it. If an object manages to absorb that energy, it gains life, but if it doesn’t, it’s ravaged by that energy and reduced to garbage. This is why failed spirit refinings result in metal that can no longer be used.
“Your overwhelming vitality is a large part of why you succeeded in your first spirit refining. Your life force poured into the heavy silver along with your blood essence, strengthening it and ultimately allowing it to gain life. You accidently succeeded at an extremely difficult procedure that we blacksmiths call Fledgling Life Guard. Not all blacksmiths are capable of this, and even Saint Blacksmiths only succeed thirty percent of the time. So, after countless experiments, we came up with another method to increase the success rate of spirit refining. The basis of that method is the improvement of the metal’s strength and its ability to absorb life energy. In order to do that, we forge alloys!
“Alloys are just what you’re thinking of: a combination of multiple metals into one. Although they see extensive use in mechas, they’re different from the kind I’m talking about. Alloys used in mechas are made by simply melting different metals into liquid, mixing them together, fixing the ratios, and shaping the completed product. Some chemicals are even used to help with the process. The alloys I’m referring to, however, are forged by hand and hammer alone.
“Blacksmiths also need to carefully mix metals and make sure that the ratios are correct, but we merge them by forging them together, evenly shaping the resulting alloy to strengthen it and bring out the best of its properties. We then finish off the alloy by spirit refining, and at higher levels, soul refining it. The moment a metal is spirit refined, the future of its growth is decided.
“From today onward, I will be teaching you how to forge alloys. Once you can skillfully forge ten alloys, we’ll move on to spirit refining. This way, your chances of success will be higher.”
Tang Wulin had been listening earnestly the entire time, but Feng Wuyu’s final words made his eyes start sparkling with excitement.
After he managed to reach a one hundred percent success rate with first-grade thousand refinement, Tang Wulin had actually had no idea how to progress further. After years of forging, he was exceptionally familiar with a wide variety of metals, and his thousand refining technique had been polished to perfection. While spirit refining did bestow life to a metal, it did not significantly improve the metal’s properties. Spirit refining was mainly done to allow metal metal to merge with its user. Tang Wulin knew all of this, but he didn’t know what his next step was supposed to be. Even though he knew about soul refining, he didn’t know how to do it or what it did. Beyond that was the fabled heavenly refining, something he only knew the name of.
Tang Wulin had been at a complete loss as to how he should proceed, but hearing Feng Wuyu’s explanation of alloys was like a seeing new door open before him. Learning how to forge alloys would allow him to reach greater heights as a blacksmith, and he had no doubt that higher level battle armors used alloys as a base.
This is probably what Teacher Mu wanted to talk to me about… Everything is different now that I’ve reached the fifth rank. It’s a whole new world.
Feng Wuyu continued to teach Tang Wulin about alloys, how to forge them, and most importantly, their formulas. Countless rounds of trial and error resulted in the creation of formulas that were passed down through the generations from master to disciple. Each and every formula was a precious inheritance.
Alloy formulas were categorized as either common or rare. Rare formulas could be considered secrets that only a few privileged individuals were allowed to know. Common formulas, on the other hand, were basically available to the general public.
The more metals used in forging an alloy, the harder it was to forge it. This happened because the number of transformations that occurred in the mixture went up with each additional metal. This made formulas that included more metals all the more valuable. Common-grade alloy formulas generally used two to three metals. Any formula that listed more than three metals was considered a rare formula, and rarity increased with the number of metals involved.
Unknown to Tang Wulin, inheritance became important once a blacksmith began learning how to forge alloys. The Blacksmith’s Association even restricted the sale of common-grade alloy formulas to talented blacksmiths alone.
Fortunately, Tang Wulin had Feng Wuyu and Mu Chen, two Saint Blacksmiths, as masters. He didn’t need to worry about obtaining alloy formulas.