Chapter 35: Under the Mountain, Over His Head Part 3

James examined at the three. Without the briefest bit of hesitation, two of the three each handed the middle one a pair of coins. James chuckled. “I bet you’re thinking those are the worst coins you’ve ever made. Well, I guess I might as well tell you that I got roped into this as well. Name’s James. Who are you three?” 

The three looked at one another before the center one moved forward. With a grimace, the Kabali man said, “It is uncustomary for us to introduce ourselves, but since you asked, I am Jerkins; to my left, Kable, and to my right, Kord.” As Jerkins introduced them, the other two then bowed. James noticed a pause after that: they were waiting for instructions. 

Looking around at the vast pile of materials, he genuinely had no idea what to do. He then noticed the set of bunk beds. “I don’t have a full idea about what I want to do yet. I’m only now finding out the conditions of this test. To be honest, I am not sure about what to do with you three; however, I am not a fan of sleeping with another man over or under me. Make one of those into single beds if you can, both if you wish. We will also need a table and some seats so that I can show you diagrams of some of the objects necessary and the construction plans.” The three looked at one another and nodded, relieved to be receiving orders to do something that, at least, made a bit of sense, even if they came from a strange human. 

 

The three finished setting the last bed onto the ground before moving back to the table they had made with the seats nearby. It had taken the three [Apprentice Engineer]s just a few |Quick Build|s to complete and looked rather sturdy. They stood standby, waiting for further orders as James started drawing lines on some parchment. He paused to look up at them. “The first day will be spent planning. I am sorry, but I got nothing else for you to do at this time. Just get familiar with the tools, I guess?” 

Kable and Kord looked at Jerkins, and he shrugged his shoulders, mildly annoyed as the other two followed him to the other side of the warehouse. Pretending to take some form of stock, Kord began with feigned nonchalance, “Word is he is quite brilliant. Did you hear of the lights that work even in the null mana tunnels? He makes those.” 

Jerkins looked at Kord and seemed even more annoyed. “So what. He knows how to make something unique. My wife makes me the best lizard pie. Doesn’t mean she deserves to make food for money. He’s just a human. Besides, he insulted Master Kornar…”

 Kable laughed lightly at that. “But you paid a hefty price to be able to eat my sister’s pies, did you not?” 

Kord laughed as well, making Jerkins even less amused. So much so that he punched Kord hard in the arm. Kord’s response was to ball his own fist and drive it into Jerkins’s midsection, except that Jerkins saw that coming and moved so the attack would hit Kable in the groin. Kord growled, “So, now you think you’re some type of [Warrior]?”

Kable grunted and doubled over as Kord tried to follow up but was instead grabbed by the arm and slung into the open area of the workshop by Jerkins. It quickly became a flurry of blows between the two and then three once Kable, who was out for revenge, was able to stand once more. After a few minutes of brawling, the three no longer had it in them to fight anymore and just lay on the cold floor, surprisingly happy. After all, they had no |Warrior’s Endurance| Skill or even a warrior’s endurance granted by endless training. 

“Oh, by the hells!” The other two looked toward Kable after he made the comment, hoping to not see what they suspected he was seeing. A human watched the three panting figures. To their surprise, James was not angry but amused. “I get a sense that you three are not strangers. Well, let’s hear it.” Jerkins rose to a sitting position, and James offered him a hand to help him up. Jerkins took it, nodding in appreciation. “I married Kable’s sister last year, so I have known him for well over two. Kord is my cousin, and I have known him almost my whole life.”

“Oh, is that so?” James quirked his eyebrow. “Well, then what brings you here?”

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Jester glanced at Kord and Kable, but they only stared at him sheepishly. He said slowly, “Well, Kord and I always dreamed about becoming [Warriors] but lacked the funds to get trained and gear crafted, so we figured we might as well become [Mechanics] and try to fix up some weapons and gain a few of our own. If we got enough cash and practice, we figured we’d try to become [Mech Warriors].”

James looked at Kable who gruffly muttered, “My Ma didn’t want me to go to war, but war’s the only thing in demand in the Kabali job market.” 

Nodding, James paused before deciding to reveal a bit of his own backstory. “Well, I’ve been working at this for a few years. To be honest, this is just an extended pitstop on an adventure I’m going on with some friends until winter passes, and the roads clear up.” 

The two standing men helped the other two [Apprentice]s off the ground. James relented, “Okay, maybe I am at fault this time by not giving you anything to do, but when the time comes to work, I expect y’all to work. Got it?” 

The three nodded at the authoritative tone. “Yes, sir!” 

With a grimace, James straightened up a little upon hearing that, surprising them. “Damn it! I hate being called ‘Sir.’ Reminds me of my old man. Call me boss or the annoying white thing or whatever, just not sir.” James gave off a little shudder. Mandatory military service in his homeworld had been terrible, even if he’d escaped the brunt of it by joining the engineering corps. 

Jerkins looked at the other two who were as confused as he was. “Boss, have you come up with a design?” 

James shook his head. “It is hard coming up with something from scratch. From my understanding, my competitors are not going to make it easy for me, so I came over and watched you three play around.” 

The threes’ jaws dropped. Kord exclaimed, “But don’t you want to win with something marvelous? You’re supposed to do the impossible!” 

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Suddenly, James had an idea. “Something impossible, you say? Well, actually. Look, I’m not at all confident that I’ll win, so let’s have some fun with this.”

 For some reason, the three Kabali men felt a shiver up their spines at James’s playful grin. 

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