Chapter 29 – Artistic crafting skills
Translated by Sunyancai
At first, Shao Xuan would check on Ke’s reaction every time when he hit the stone. But after some time, he completely ignored Ke’s gaze, and immersed himself into hitting and carving.
The process of hitting was very labour-intensive, both physically and mentally. It was not as easy as a swing of a hand and an arm. For every single strike, he had to calculate a lot regarding the angle and strength. Things like how to swing the hammer and where should the hammer land, needed to be decided in the blink of an eye.
For many people in the tribe, perhaps after they gained enough experience in hitting the stones, they could achieve the best result based on their feelings. However, since Shao Xuan was still merely a novice, it was impossible for him to have the experience that old stoneware crafters gained from hitting for dozens of years. He could only rely on the calculation and estimation he had in mind, and then try his best to better and improve his striking.
Even though he now had a much stronger body with greater strength, the strength he had was not inexhaustible. At the beginning, he did not find it hard to hold the stone hammer. However, with more and more strikes, fatigue piled up, he felt that the hammer in his hand became increasingly heavy. However, at that time, every single strike became essential. At this point, hitting the stone core with the wrong strength or angle, the stone flakes and chips could be more or less than expected, therefore, it could create more wasted materials than before.
Because of this, Shao Xuan did not have the energy and spirit to pay attention to Ke’s reactions.
At first, Shao Xuan would hesitate for a few seconds between each two strikes, because Shao Xuan needed time to think about the disadvantages of his former strike, so that he could better his next strike. However, with more and more practice, Shao Xuan felt something in his mind and he became much more skilled on hitting. therefore, the time between strikes was shortened.
He did not know how many strikes he had made, but Shao Xuan felt that he was on the verge of collapsing. However, Ke did not allow him to stop, instead, he would point out the mistakes that he did during his hitting. It was just like when someone was running the marathon, the runner was about to collapse and wanted to stop for a rest, but someone from the back would urge him on to continue.
Knowing Ke’s temper, Shao Xuan was fully aware that if he stopped now, he will not be able to learn the stone crafting skills from Ke in the future. So, regardless of how tired he was, he had to pull it together and continue.
When he felt that the last trace of strength in his body got pulled out, he suddenly felt relaxed and alleviated as he kept on striking. He thought, perhaps it was the feeling of breaking through your limits?
What Shao Xuan did not know was that when he felt relaxed and refueled with power, totemic patterns had showed up on his face.
Without notice, he had used his totemic power. However, since all his attention was fixed on striking, he did not have extra attention to mind the totem lighting up in his mind.
Traces of surprise showed up in Ke’s eyes as he was sitting aside. Among all those years after he had become a stoneware crafter, many people had come to him to learn stone crafting skills. However, very few of them would use totemic power in the process of crafting. Some people thought that totemic power was sacred, which could only be used in sacred things like hunting missions or when defending the tribe, and other more ‘sacred’ things, even though some people did not have such opinions, it was very difficult for them to control totemic power so precisely. Only experienced warriors were able to do that.
However, for kids at Shao Xuan’s age, or young warriors like Lang Ga, very few of them could control their totemic power at such a level. Once they used their totemic power, it was more likely for them to smash the stone core into pieces, which is more destruction than processing. Some guys who were impatient and hot-tempered would just quit.
That was so fucking strenuous! I could have used that time for practicing hunting skills!
Just because of that, Ke was quite astonished, because Shao Xuan did not only use totemic power and not destroy the stone core directly, the stone flakes he peeled off were even in better shapes and condition! Almost every stone flake he peeled away could be processed further into something else, instead of becoming waste stone materials.
This was quite rare!
However, Shao Xuan was not aware of his “rareness”. Instead, he was immersed into striking, all he had in mind was the experience he gained from each strike, and then he focused on his next move, so that he missed the astonished expression on Ke’s face that lasted for a few minutes.
Normally, Ke had no expressions on his face, even in front of some old friends, he would not express such astonishment when talking with them. It was quite rare for him to show that look.
Shao Xuan only stopped after he had finished hitting the stone core on all the lines.
Glimpsing at the ground around the stone core, Shao Xuan noticed that stone flakes had piled up beside, and some of them were just lying on the ground here and there.
Then he looked at Ke, but Ke still had no expression on his face.
Shao Xuan dropped the stone hammer as he breathed heavily by the side. He waited for Ke’s commend and at the same time, he thought that it was really difficult to be a stoneware crafter!
No wonder that only a small part of wounded totemic warriors would become stoneware crafters, even when they could not go hunting anymore. Others who crafted stoneware were only doing it for their own use, or for their kids’ practice. Aside from that, they would do other things in their daily life. For example, Ge was in charge of food delivery to the orphan cave. So they would not treat stone crafting as a profession that they could earn a living from. Therefore, their crafting skills were absolutely not as good as professional stoneware crafters as Ke.
Ke had already calmed himself down and hid his astonished look. He looked just as he usually does, and he was sitting at the same place where he was from the very beginning. But, he took a long thin wood stick and began to dig into the pile of stone flakes and chips. His hand flicked slightly and the end of the stick picked out a sharp-pointed stone flake. The sharp-pointed stone flake got lifted up and after it drew a parabola in the air, it fell into a wooden box filled with many stone flakes that waited to be further processed. The stone flakes and chips that got peeled away could be made into different kinds of stoneware like scrapers, cones, or arrowheads based on their different shapes.
Even though there were a lot of stone flakes and chips that got peeled away from the stone core, Ke was pretty fast in picking them out and throwing them into the box. Shao Xuan stared at those stone flakes flying from the ground into the stone box like beads. He was dazzled.
Before Shao Xuan could take a few long breaths, Ke had finished picking.
After dropping the wood stick, Ke said with no facial expression, “Waste.”
Shao Xuan’s eyelid twitched as he heard him, but he soon realized that the “waste” was not referring to him, but the stones on the ground which could not be further processed. Those were considered as waste materials.
Obviously, Ke was not satisfied with the quantity of the waste stone flakes that Shao Xuan created.
“I planned to make a stone ball. But judging from it, now it could only be made into a stone adze.” Ke looked at the stone core that was peeled in despise, and this time he said a long sentence.
Shao Xuan felt relieved. At first he was worried that perhaps Ke would not take him in as an apprentice. But since Ke said that, it meant that Ke did not mind teaching him.
“Bring it over here.” Ke pointed at the stone core that Shao Xuan hit.
Shao Xuan dropped the stone hammer in a hurry, and carried that ugly stone core to Ke and placed it onto the stone chopping block in front of Ke.
Ke grabbed the stone hammer that Shao Xuan used earlier, and picked up the stone core, which was two times wider than his hand, with one single hand. He carried the stone core tightly as he watched it closely.
Shao Xuan heard the screaming of wind and saw the shadows of the hammer.
The hammer created a ringing sound as it landed on the stone core.
At the same time, a stone flake was peeled away from the stone core.
The flying stone flake did not hit the ground directly, instead, it fell into a wooden box hanging on the wall.
The swing was fast, as if the hammer knew exactly where it should land, and which part of the stone should be peeled away. It was not like Shao Xuan’s bracing himself when he was hitting. On the contrary, it felt pretty casual and relaxed, and it handled complicated matters with ease.
That was the real “peeling the stone flakes”, unlike Shao Xuan earlier, who was merely hitting the stone, and most of the stone flakes he created were waste materials.
After one strike, Ke did not provide too much time for Shao Xuan to think about it, the second and third and fourth strike soon followed…
The shadows of the hammer were connected with one another, and the ringing sounds became more and more dense. With quicker strikes, Shao Xuan felt that the sounds had become a whole and he could barely distinguish the different strikes.
At the same time, the stone flakes that were peeled away, flew into the wood box one after another. At first look, it was like a rainbow connecting the stone core and the box.
Shao Xuan was completely stunned; he had known earlier that Ke was a skillful stoneware crafter. However, he did not realize that he still had been underestimating this old stoneware crafter. Who could imagine that he had such artificial crafting skills!
This was no longer peeling away stone flakes anymore. That was making sliced noodles!!
Obviously, when Shao Xuan was watching Ke’s work before, he did not see his real skills. The things that he had seen earlier were barely a small part of it, and it was far from what he was really capable of.
So delicate and so accurate!
When Shao Xuan came back to his senses, Ke was already finished with the peeling and the stone core left in his hand was already in the shape of a stone adze.
After drilling and polishing. The tool was complete by installing a wooden handle.
It was perfect.
“Take it.” Ke passed the completed stone adze to Shao Xuan.
“For me?” Shao Xuan took over the stone adze. When he looked up at Ke again, he found that Ke was already doing something else, so he swung a few times with the stone adze.
He had helped in processing the stone adze, he felt proud even though his technique was rough and unsightly, and he almost ruined the stone core, but after all it was Shao Xuan’s first time in seriously crafting a stone tool. Also, it allowed Shao Xuan a chance to witness the true artificial crafting skills of Ke. Of course it meant a lot to him.
The stonecore that made the adze was fine and smooth in its texture, thick and very hard. Although it was not obvious by just looking, one could easily feel its weight when holding it in the hand. The stone was better than average, Shao Xuan did not expect Ke to give it to him as a gift, just like that.
“Peeling stone flakes is hard. When you want a satisfying result, even the simplest strike could take a lot of time to practice. There’s no shortcut in this. You have to anticipate every stone flake’s peeling, and then think about speed, weight, strength and consequences, and then combine them with the natural quality of the stone. The best strength and angle, along with many things that could turn a rough stone core into fine stoneware were difficult to describe. You can only work on them by yourself. How to use your strength, which angle to use, and how to hit the stone… You may only acquire those skills by numerous times of practicing.”
Yes, stoneware, unlike ironware, could not be restored once the strike was made. You cannot turn back time. With one hammer strike, you could only make it or lose it. You can only set the tune with one beat of the gong.
Shao Xuan took the stone adze and respectfully gave a salute to Ke, “Yes, I get it.”
“However,” Ke switched his tone, and pointed at those few dead fish along with Caesar in the corner, “you also need to know the importance of comprehending. You are allowed to fail, but you have to learn from your mistakes, instead of behaving like those stupid fish!”
“Understood.” Shao Xuan knew what Ke was talking about.
Ke indicated that Shao Xuan should not be as simple-minded as those piranhas with no memory of failures. They kept making the same mistakes and they did not turn back even when they were killed.
“Take one fish with you” Ke said. telling Shao Xuan to go.
Since Ke told Shao Xuan to take a fish home, Shao Xuan would have no space to reject. So he said no more and asked Caesar to leave together, with a fish and a stone adze in his hands.
Taking the fish and walking out from Ke’s house, Shao Xuan recalled Ke’s words as he stared at the fish in his hand. He couldn’t help but poke the fish’s head with his stone adze, “So stupid!”
The fish remained silent, as if saying, “So it’s all my fault, now?”