Chapter 10 Weaponsmiths Quarter
The main road of the Huanglong County was built in a flat fashion, thus it wasn’t a bumpy ride even after the horse carriage had briskly galloped for over twenty minutes. From the wharf by the river, it followed the outskirts of the county in a semicircle, before eventually arriving at the Weaponsmiths Quarter of Huanglong County.
On the way to the Weaponsmiths Quarter, Qian Su did not belittle Yan Liqiang by treating him as an ignorant kid. Instead, he had solemnly introduced Yan Liqiang to the current state of affairs of the Huanglong Weaponsmiths Quarter which he currently resided in, so that he would get to know what to expect.
To explain using simple and understandable terms, the Huanglong Weaponsmiths Quarter was a logistics and armaments division. It was a standard military unit operating under the Military Governor's Office, with the one at Pingxi Prefecture being the highest ranking military unit there was. Within Pingxi Prefecture, there were still quite a number of units similar to the Huanglong Weaponsmiths Quarter. While some of their individual duties overlapped and some didn't, the main responsibility of the Huanglong Weaponsmiths Quarter was to forge and repair military equipment. Qian Su was a genuine Feiyang Commandant, and the Quarter Master—a title specific to his official position in his line of duty. If explained in Earth's perspective, the title was a form of rank such as Military Sergeant, Company Commander, or similar. Within Huanglong Weaponsmiths Quarter, Qian Su was the head and possessed absolute authority. As for the title of Feiyang Commandant, it was a military rank equivalent to Second Lieutenant, First Lieutenant, Captain, Lieutenant Commander, or any other sort of similar ranks back on Earth.
Even the County Magistrate of Huanglong County had no authority over Qian Su as he only heeded the orders of the Military Governor’s Office. The Military Governor’s Office had also stationed another barracks at Huanglong County, but this one only consisted of about a bit more than 2000 men. Even the Barrack General of the entire division only had the military rank of a Yingyang Commandant, which was a class higher than Qian Su’s. Even though that was the case, the two of them belonged to different systems under the Military Governor’s Office. So, not only did the Barrack General have no authority over Qian Su, he even required a lot of help and support from Qian Su so they maintained good relations with each other. Thus, all parties would show Qian Su some sort of respect, so he was living a comfortable life in Huanglong County. As for those with the ability of discerning judgements, they would all know that this Uncle Qian was a frequent visitor to all the restaurants and pleasure quarters in Huanglong County.
After having listened to Qian Su’s introduction of these affairs, Yan Liqiang finally realized why Yan Dechang would send him to Huanglong County to avoid trouble. Since he was being protected by Qian Su in Huanglong County, there wouldn’t be much for him to worry about.
The Weaponsmiths Quarter was located at the base of a small mountain within Huanglong County. There was a path on the main road which directly led to the gate of the Weaponsmiths Quarter. Just by judging from the exterior, one could see that the Weaponsmiths Quarter was much larger than the martial arts academy in Qinghe County. Standing from the outside, one could see the numerous courtyards within the Weaponsmiths Quarter; situated right behind the courtyards was a hillside, enveloped by a lush green forest.
The landscape here was pretty decent.
"Catch!" Upon exiting the cart, Qian Su immediately took out a silver coin, tossing it at the cart driver.
"Uncle Qian, how could this humble one accept money from you? And this much too! You’ve already given me face by riding in my cart. And as for the money, you should just keep it. Please keep it..." The cart driver subconsciously caught the silver coin Qian Su that had thrown, before frantically waving his hands, signalling that he wanted to return the money.
"Nonsense! If you don’t earn money from driving carts then won’t your family be living on air with you? Am I the sort of person who doesn’t pay for my ride?!" berated Qian Su as he momentarily laughed while also glaring at the cart driver. "Don’t waste your time here. When you go back, head to Joyous Cloud Inn to send a message for me. Give the Joyous Cloud Inn’s Boss Song my request and tell him to prepare four whole roast lambs, twenty Sichuan pepper chickens and ten pots of Cloudy White Wine for me! Tonight our brothers of the Weaponsmiths Quarter are going to be having a special sumptuous meal!"
"Alright! Alright! Uncle Qian, you can put your mind at ease. I will definitely send word!"
"Then hurry up and go. If the special feast for our brothers of the Weaponsmiths Quarter ends up being delayed, you’d do your best to be on the lookout for my subordinates, as they are the ones who are going to devour you alive…"
The cart driver took the money and left with a beaming smile on his face, driving his cart away to deliver news from Qian Su.
Immediately after, Qian Su walked in the direction of the Weaponsmiths Quarter’s entrance with Yan Liqiang in tow.
The entrance of the Weaponsmiths Quarter truly gave off an impression of being an important military location. Outside of the quarter was the main gate and on that gate was a iron plaque with the words ‘Weaponsmiths Quarter’ embossed in gold on a black surface. There were two lines of spear-wielding soldiers that were positioned on either sides of the main gate, emitting an awe-inspiring aura.
Upon seeing Qian Su approaching the site with Yan Liqiang by his side, the spear-wielding soldiers instantly straightened their bodies. A military officer of around thirty years of age ran out from a small hut to the side of the main gate. He saluted Qian Su, "I’ve come to greet Quarter Master!"
"This is my nephew with the surname of Yan. He’s bored at home these few days, so he wanted to come visit our Weaponsmiths Quarter and spend a couple of days to improve his own knowledge and experience. Whenever he comes and goes from the Weaponsmiths Quarter, make sure our brothers keep alert. Do not ever make the mistake of not recognizing him as one of our own and make a fool out of yourselves!" said Qian Su offhandedly.
"Quarter Master, you can put your mind at ease!" The military officer seriously sized up Yan Liqiang from top to bottom, as if he wanted to memorize every inch of Yan Liqiang’s being. Then, he gave a vigorous nod. The surrounding soldiers who had overheard their conversation also took a serious glance at Yan Liqiang to remember what he looked like.
"Today we will have a special feast to welcome my nephew. Our brothers can let go and drink to their hearts’ content. Please arrange the same treatment for the brothers who’re going to take the night shift. The usual rules apply—brothers who’re going to take the night shift will get an extra pot of wine tomorrow..."
Once they heard this, the military officer as well as each and every one of the surrounding soldiers’ eyes lit up, beaming with happiness.
Qian Su then proceeded to lead Yan Liqiang into the quarter after he was done talking to the soldiers stationed at the entrance of the Weaponsmiths Quarter. They weren’t even able to walk too far before Qian Su grabbed a chieftain standing to the side, who he had caught sight of earlier on. Qian Su pointed at the courtyard with a smoking chimney in the distance and sternly said, "Go and ask Niu Daluan whether a craftsman like him is complaining that the bonus given to him last month was too much or whether he needs a good spanking instead? The fire inside of the furnace isn’t even burning hot enough to reach the required temperature, yet he’s already over there hammering away. Just how much coal is he going to waste in two hours? Is it because the bellows are damaged and he still hasn’t fixed them yet? I won’t let him off easy if the weapons that we’ve forged breaks easily in the battlefield. Tell him to remelt and reforge all the things made today in the Ironware Factory. The extra expenses for coal will be deducted from his salary. If he seriously wants a good spanking, tell him to come find me. Let’s just see if I’ll flay him alive..."
The small chieftain nodded his head, wiping away the cold sweat that had appeared on his forehead. The moment Qian Su finished speaking, the chieftain hurriedly made a beeline towards the Ironware Factory.
Others might not have understood what Qian Su was saying but Yan Liqiang had understood clearly. It was because Yan Liqiang had a blacksmith for a father. Experienced blacksmiths only needed to look at the color of the smoke emitting from a chimney to determine the current state of the furnace as well as the temperature of the flames. Those who were more advanced, were easily able to determine how brittle or soft the iron was, just by listening to the sound of tempering during the forging process.
Within the Weaponsmiths Quarter, Qian Su was akin to a tiger wandering around its territory. Everywhere he went, it was evident that he was highly respected. Seeing such a scene also made Yan Liqiang secretly admire him from deep within.
Each and every single one of these courtyards were manufacturing different types of items or were carrying out different processes. Yan Liqiang realized that great spears were the primary weapon being manufactured within the Weaponsmiths Quarter, which was exactly the kind of weapon he had been training with up until now. However, they were also forging all kinds of weapons, and various defensive equipment.
Yan Liqiang couldn’t help his hands from itching when he saw the many poles of great spears forged from ashwood. But thinking about how his weakened body hadn’t completely healed yet, he could only afford to look on for now.
Qian Su finally brought him over to a courtyard, situated next to the blanket of forest behind the Weaponsmiths Quarter.
Within that courtyard, there was an elm tree and under the elm tree was an old well. A pond could also be seen within the vicinity as well. Divided into multiple layers, a wooden canopy was set up in a place next to the pond near the house, it bore some resemblance to the drawers used to keep medicine in a pharmacy. Beneath the wooden canopy, there were bundles of ashwood which were left to dry in the shade. There were two rooms located at the bottom of the building. The door to the rooms were open and inside the rooms were also filled with bundles and bundles of ashwood, each roughly the size of a duck’s egg. The ashwood were so abundant here, so much so that they could be even be found below the eaves. Between the rooms, there was a flight of stairs which directly led to the loft above.
Qian Su handed over two keys to Yan Liqiang and said, "For the coming days, you’ll stay in this courtyard and sleep upstairs. I have already requested someone to prepare your room."
After taking the pair of keys, Yan Liqiang once again surveyed his surroundings. "I’m the only one staying in such a big place?"
"Yes. This is where we stack up the spear poles and you will be the sole person staying here at this time. The ashwood you see here are all spear poles and they are required to be dried naturally before we can proceed to the next step in smithing. There’s three more months before this batch of ashwood can be used. During this time, nobody’ll come here to bother you so you can stay here at ease. The soldiers of the Weaponsmiths Quarter are staying in a row of barracks not too far from here. You should’ve already seen it just now on your way here. I live in another courtyard not far from here as well. If there’s any trouble here, just yell and everyone can hear you!"
Yan Liqiang nodded his head in satisfaction. "Okay! Thank you, Uncle Qian!"
"It’s alright if you stay here so long as you don’t use any fires within the premises. We cannot allow any fires to be seen here. Everyday I will request for someone to send your meals over. You won’t need to worry about your three daily meals and changes of clothes, there’ll be someone to do that for you. This entire mountain area is the Weaponsmiths Quarter’s territory. It’s an important military location and the people of Huanglong County know of this, and outsiders wouldn’t usually dare to enter this area. If you’re bored, you can take a casual stroll around the Weaponsmiths Quarter. You can go whenever you want, however, if you’re leaving the quarter, you need to inform me first!"
"Alright! I’ll keep that in mind!"
"I’ve heard from your father that you’ve been hit by the Iron Palm skill. So let me take a look at the medicines you’ve been taking!"
Yan Liqiang unwrapped the baggage that he’d been carrying on his back this whole time and took out two bottles of medicine from it, handing them over to Qian Su.
Upon receiving them, Qian Su unscrewed the bottle caps to take a couple of whiffs. He then shook his head before handing back the bottles to Yan Liqiang. "This medicine must have been given by the county’s medical hall. It’s just average. It’s not that good, but not that bad either. Wait until nighttime, I will send over two bottles of good medicine. It will definitely make your wounds heal faster. Go and get some rest in your room. I’ll get someone to fetch you when it’s time for dinner, and get you acquainted with the rest of the men here..."
Yan Liqiang nodded his head. After Qian Su was done explaining, he left.
As he looked across the courtyard that temporarily belonged to him, Yan Liqiang was feeling very satisfied. He glanced at the two keys in his hand before climbing up the stairs, arriving at his loft on the second floor.
The room was enormous, around thirty-four square meters. He cleaned and tidied every bit of the room. A set of military blankets was spread out atop the wooden bed. Apart from this, there was also a table and a closet.
Yan Liqiang put down the load on his back in the room. Only after he had settled in, did he take notice of the light yellow powder on the floor. It was scattered into various corners of the room but not only that, his nose had also caught a whiff of an odd odor...
He crouched down at one of the corners of the room, pinched up some powder with two fingers from the floor and took a sniff. He guessed that this yellow powder was most likely... sulfur…
This was being used as an insect repellent.
While Yan Liqiang was staring at the sulfur in his hands, a sudden realization dawned on him as he thought of something...