“Heh! Hah! Kill! …’
On the training ground, thousands of armored soldiers armed with sabers and spears, bows and arrows, as well as shields, formed rows under the scorching sun to slash and shoot with all their might.
A mixture of sweat and manly smells filled the air, causing their blood to pump involuntarily.
Not far away from the training ground, at the outermost area of a row of barracks, a half-grown fellow watched the thousands of soldiers training, envious of them.
All of a sudden, a big hand reached for his neck from behind him.
“Ouch! Old man, be gentler. It hurts, it hurts…”
“Hmph, now you know that it hurts? I told you to do ironwork but instead, I find you here watching them do their drills, do you want me to drill you too?”
The young man shivered, then quickly said, “Old man, I was wrong, please don’t!”
While gripping the young man’s neck, the gray-haired elder lifted him and made a few turns to enter one of the barracks.
“Ou Yangming, I know you want to join them, but you can’t do it now!” He put the young man down, and said, “Think about it again only when you grow older!”
Ou Yangming grimaced and rubbed his painful neck. “Old man, I’ve grown older!”
“You?” The elder cast a disdainful look at him, then reached for a broken saber in the corner. It was a military saber, but there was a fracture on the handle, rendering it useless.
After taking a look at the broken saber for some time, the elder placed the broken part on a platform. Subsequently, he rubbed his hand to create a flame around the fracture.
Ou Yangming widened his eyes, then straightened his body carefully while watching quietly, so as to not make any noise.
Although the old man often scolded and beat him, he knew that the unimpressive-looking old man was the only person who treated him sincerely in the military camp.
Roughly 30 minutes later, the elder exhaled deeply as he stopped. Some beads of sweat could be seen on his forehead, but when the flame disappeared, the fractured military saber had been fixed.
Ou Yangming took a step forward to pick it up, then checked it for a while before he commented, “Old man, you’re godly! The connection is seamless! Hehe, in this military camp, you’re definitely this!” He gave a thumbs-up and shook his hand a few times.
The elder smiled proudly, then asked, “Why? Do you want to learn?”
The young man sighed. “Of course, but I don’t have the opportunity…”
The trick used by the elder was the military’s secret art that originated from a Military Fire Smithing Technique gifted by the dynasty, which could not be pursued by normal people.
Ou Yangming was an orphan who grew up being fed by a hundred families in his village. He entered the military camp as a helper by coincidence and caught the eye of the lonely old man, whom he began learning forging from. Unfortunately, while the craftsman could be learned, the Military Fire was beyond reach.
The elder chuckled as he was pleased. “Oh right, take this saber to Zhang Yinfan, he’s looking for you.”
Ou Yangming frowned. “I’m not going! He’s a stingy person, it’s not good if he’s looking for me!”
The elder glared at him, then kicked him. “Aren’t you going?!”
He dodged the kick, and responded, “Yes, yes, yes, I’m going now.” Then, scurried away with the fixed military saber.
The elder shook his head and sighed. “I wonder if his laziness can be changed. Hopefully, he’ll be given a chance this time.”
Ou Yangming hurried to the rear. Zhang Yinfan was part of the force as he was a provisions officer in charge of logistics. While it was not the main position, it was one of the deputy positions where one had real authority.
At the rear, just as Ou Yangming was about to say something after he passed the military saber to be recorded, the officer responsible for accounts said with a smile, “Fella, you’re finally here, Sir Zhang told us to expect your arrival. Quick, go in.”
He entered the rear but was slightly perturbed.
This was because he could not figure out why an important person like Zhang Yinfan was looking for a nobody like him.
In one of the barracks, a middle-aged man looked up upon Ou Yangming’s arrival. He was a gentle white-faced scholar, which made him out of sync with the manly environment in the camp.
“Sir Zhang, were you looking for me?” Ou Yangming bowed and asked respectfully.
Zhang Yinfan nodded. “You’re Ou Yangming, take a seat.” He poured a cup of tea for him.
Ou Yangming was both surprised and happy. Zhang Yinfan had always been regarded as an untouchable figure, yet he was treating him kindly at the moment, which made him feel anxious.
“What’s your relationship with Old Craftsman?” Zhang Yinfan asked abruptly.
The young man was stunned, but he quickly responded, “I’m just a helper who does miscellaneous work for him.”
“Oh? Just a helper?” Zhang Yinfan seemed doubtful.
Ou Yangming immediately affirmed, “I’m really just a helper, you can ask around if you don’t believe me. If I lied to you, I’m willing to be killed.”
Zhang Yinfan finally loosened up and smiled. “I see.” He pondered for a while, then continued, “Ou Yangming, I’d like to discuss something with you, would you be willing?”
Ou Yangming stood up, and answered, “Sir, what orders do you have?”
Zhang Yinfan had a friendly smile on his face. “It has been hard for you to work for Old Craftsman, hehe, I wonder if you’d like to come to the Provision Camp? If you’d like to, I’ll guarantee you a way to become an official soldier.”
Ou Yangming looked up right away as he was in disbelief.
Upon seeing him, Zhang Yinfan nodded satisfyingly. “Old Craftsman found a job for you, but in my opinion, it’s not suitable.” He then clapped his hands softly, and a handsome young man who was around Ou Yangming’s age walked out.
“This is Zhang Hanyu, my nephew,” Zhang Yinfan introduced, then mentioned coldly, “We’ll meet a few senior officers in a while. You’ll reject the job in front of them, then recommend Hanyu take over. Do you understand?”
Ou Yangming might be young, but he was not dumb. More than a decade of a lonely and bitter life had taught him well.
‘This isn’t a blessing at all, he’s clearly trying to steal my benefit!’
Seeing that Ou Yangming was murmuring to himself, Zhang Yinfan’s face turned cold. “You received orders from Old Craftsman, which means you’re under my rule. Hehe, you should know what the consequences are if you don’t obey me, right?”
Ou Yangming’s face changed. Needless to say, he could sense the threat coming from those words.
Zhang Yinfan added, “Think carefully. If you listen to me, not only will I guarantee you a place as an official soldier, but I’ll also give you a hundred taels of silver as your reward. If you don’t…” When his voice slowly became softer, it was as though the room temperature lowered too.
Ou Yangming shuddered. He sensed slight pain on his skin and quickly realized that Zhang Yinfan was going to kill him.
Feeling appalled, he fell to the ground and replied, “I understand, I’ll obey your orders!”
It was then when Zhang Yinfan finally showed a gentle face. He helped Ou Yangming up, and even knocked the dust out of his clothes for him. “Good, I admire young men like you. Remember your promise, and come with me.”
Ou Yangming followed him obediently along with Zhang Hanyu.
On their way, he stole a glance at Zhang Hanyu and noticed that he was extremely elated.
He cried to himself. ‘Old Craftsman, is the job you’ve given me a blessing or a curse…’
Before long, they arrived at a courtyard in the rear.
A brocade-clothed elder was seen sitting leisurely in the inner hall, and he stood and laughed as soon as he saw Zhang Yinfan. “Sir Zhang, did you bring him?”
Zhang Yinfan replied respectfully, “Sir, I’ve brought Ou Yangming.” He then reached his hand out in introduction, “Sir, I’ve informed Ou Yangming about the matter, but he knows that he’s not that blessed, so he dares not accept the job. As such, he wants to give the chance to a friend.”
“Give the chance to a friend?” The brocade-clothed elder curled his lips and looked at Zhang Yinfan coldly.
Zhang Yinfan trembled a little, and he quickly explained, “Sir, you and my elder brother are both courtiers. He always says that you’re just, stern, and sharp-eyed, so he told me to learn from you.”
The brocade-clothed man was stunned. He hesitated for a while, then sighed. “I’m here by the order of the imperial court, thus I’m just here to carry out my duty. As long as everything complies with the rules, I’ll act accordingly.”
Zhang Yinfan was delighted. “Yes, sir, you’re very wise!” He then turned to say, “Ou Yangming, this is Sir Hu from the imperial court’s Inspection Division, quick, greet him!”
Ou Yangming responded nervously, “Greetings, Sir Hu.”
The brocade-clothed man smiled. “I’m Hu Yicheng from the Inspection Division, what’s your name?”
Ou Yangming secretly cursed him for asking deliberately, but he answered with respect, “I’m Ou Yangming from the Armament Camp, sir.”
Hu Yicheng nodded lightly. “Alright, let me ask you. Do you refuse to receive the Military Fire, so you’re giving the opportunity to him?” When he asked, he glanced at Zhang Hanyu who was behind Zhang Yinfan.
Zhang Hanyu’s eyes instantly glowed and his muscles were slightly tensed up.
The handsome young man, who maintained a calm look until this moment, had finally revealed his nervousness.