Chapter 280 – Fifth Rank for a Full Score
Elder Cai was stunned. “Stop bullshitting! You’re an old hermit without a wife! Where did you get a granddaughter from?”
Zhuo Shi snorted. “This girl is right. I don’t care what you say. Today, I want all four of these children to join Shrek Academy. Don’t forget the final score is decided by the three of us together. You say Gu Yue deserves one point, and I think she’s earned at least four. That should give her enough to enter the outer court.”
“Enough with your nonsense.” Elder Cai’s voice dripped with wrath. “We decided on this earlier. What are you trying to pull now? No, I refuse.”
Tang Wulin lowered his head, a trace of doubt growing in his heart. That grandteacher sure changed his mind quickly!
“Then what will it take for you to accept?” It was obvious Zhuo Shi was not taking her stubbornness well.
Elder Cai eyed him, cold enough to freeze. “Have you forgotten why we’re having Tang Wulin take a makeup trial?”
Eyes shimmering, Zhou Shi came to a startling realization and swerved toward Tang Wulin. “Right! The makeup trial. According to Shrek Academy’s rules, a student can make one request if they score full marks on all the trials. Tang Wulin, you’re on the road to this in the seven trials that you got points. Just one more full score and you can request an extra point for that girl.”
Tang Wulin flicked his gaze from Zhuo Shi to Elder Cai. “But the fourth trial…”
Elder Cai said, “Fine, I’ll give you ten points for the fourth trial. If you manage a perfect score for the fifth in the makeup, then your tenth trial will also have full marks.”
The fifth trial? The second profession test?
Although Tang Wulin felt something was amiss, he nodded immediately anyway. “Alright. I’ll take the makeup trial.”
Gu Yue remained silent throughout the exchange. Tang Wulin had been waving a finger behind his back at her the entire time, warning her to keep calm, and she did so obediently for the time being. She wasn’t a fool. Of course she wished to enter Shrek Academy! Besides, her friends would follow if she was forced to leave, and that would harm their futures!
“What is your second profession? Are you confident?” Zhuo Shi asked.
Tang Wulin answered without any hesitation, “I’m certain I’ll ace this test.”
This prompted a snort from Elder Cai. “Don’t be so confident, brat. Do you even know the requirements to get a full score?”
Tang Wulin said, “Please advise me, Elder Cai.”
“It’s impossible to get a full score unless you have reached the fifth rank in your second profession,” Elder Cai said.
At her words, Zhuo Shi and Shen Yi’s eyes popped wide, almost comically. When did the fifth trial start demanding fifth-rank professionals?
Most outer court graduates don’t reach that level. In fact, isn’t that a requirement to enter the inner court? He’s just an examinee for the outer court though!
Tang Wulin was dumbstruck.
For a blacksmith, reaching the fifth rank meant being capable of Spirit Refinement! Which, unfortunately, he had not accomplished yet. Tang Wulin was at the peak of the fourth rank and had been in the fourth rank for quite some time now, but he lacked the soul power necessary to advance further, even though Mu Chen had taught him the techniques of Spirit Refining.
Spirit Refinement was the great divider for blacksmiths, separating the ordinary grandmasters from the master craftsmen. The chickens from the phoenixes. Bridging the gap was like ascending from the earth to the heavens.
To put this in perspective, thousand-refined metals were required to make one-word battle armors, whereas two-word or higher battle armors had to be forged using metals that were spirit-refined. Not only that, one-word battle armors weren’t much stronger than mechas. So only two-word battle armors and higher were considered real battle armor.
Tang Wulin glanced at Gu Yue, sparks of worry settling in his heart, but she met his gaze with a gentleness like no other.
As he stared into her eyes, Tang Wulin was overcome with courage, turning to Elder Cai and nodding. “I’ll do it.”
“What is your second profession?” Zhuo Shi asked with narrowed eyes.
“Follow me then.”
The three elders led him into a room, instructing staff members to bring out a forging table and rare metals.
Zhuo Shi, Elder Cai, and Elder Li stood to the side while Tang Wulin’s companions watched behind him.
He approached the forging table. Then, he shut his eyes.
After the string of trials, Tang Wulin was both mentally and physically exhausted. Not only did he have to mind himself, he had to keep an eye out for his teammates as well, wracking his brains in order to get each and every one of them inside Shrek Academy’s doors. All this responsibility weighed heavily on him, and he wasn’t even fourteen years old yet! Even if he was more mature than his peers, he was still a boy.
He stood there contemplating in silence.
Spirit Refinement normally required a blacksmith to have four soul rings. However, because of his innate divine strength and talent for forging, Mu Chen said he only needed three rings to attempt it.
Spirit Refinement connected one’s soul power with the metal in question. He needed to imbue the metal with spirit. It was the process of breathing life into metal.
The Thousand Refinements brought out the full potential hidden within a chunk of metal, but Spirit Refinement completely transformed the metal at a fundamental level!
In order to succeed at spirit refining, Tang Wulin’s body and mind had to coexist in harmony and his focus must be absolute. In the moment of completion, he would have to bring the metal to life.
In fact, Mu Chen had mentioned just this: to spirit refine was to create life.
Tang Wulin recalled his teacher’s evaluation of Spirit Refinement and reviewed the techniques needed, countless images flashing through his mind.
He stood there for a full quarter of an hour without moving.
No one hurried him. The three elders watched in silence.
Finally, Zhuo Shi shot Elder Cai a look and whispered, “What’s the matter with you? Why are you acting so crazy? Are you calm yet?”
“Aren’t you the one who taught Zhangkong how to be so stubborn? So what are you then?” Elder Cai retorted.
“What are you trying to accomplish by setting such a high requirement? Really? Fifth rank? Last time I checked, you only needed a third-rank second profession to score full marks. Do you think he’s some sort of child prodigy? When have you ever heard of a thirteen-year-old fifth rank professional?”
A chilling smile formed on Elder Cai’s lips. “You used such a flimsy pretense to create this situation earlier, so why does it matter if I take it another step further? Anyway, you just need to come up with some explanations after this. Wouldn’t it be easy to get them to stay? These children are far more mature than others their age.” She rolled her eyes. “They need to be challenged if we want them to continue growing. The more pressure they experience young, the stronger they will become. That Tang Wulin is the most resilient of the bunch. How else are we going to get him to reach his max potential without putting him a tight spot? I’m sure you know he showed off a golden soul ring in the fourth trial right? You saw it in action in the ninth trial too. He has the soul skill of the Duskgold Dreadclaw Bear, so what can’t he accomplish? If you don’t force him, then will he give it his all?”
Zhuo Shi snorted. “Let’s just wait and see.”
At that moment, Tang Wulin opened his eyes, a purple light twinkling in their depths. He darted to the shelf of metals and picked an ingot he was all too familiar with: heavy silver!
Heavy silver was the very first metal he thousand refined, and he chose to use it this time as well.
He placed it on the forging table and pressed a button, lowering it into the furnace to be calcined.
In a flash, his heavy silver hammers appeared in his hands.
He closed his eyes once more, losing himself to the vein-like patterns spanning throughout his hammers with his fingertips. It was as if his blood was melting into them.