Ye Chong examined the disc closely, his mind rapidly calculating as he recalled all the knowledge about skeletons passed down by the old man to him, trying to find the best approach based on what he knew. Unlike the old man and Hei Zi, Ye Chong had a solid theoretical foundation, all thanks to the unique teaching methods by the elders at Aurora.
In this fickle and materialistic society, foundational theories in all academic subjects were largely unappreciated. Moreover, since mech foundational theories were cross-disciplinary, they were more complicated and massive, such that there was no single unifying system for them. What Ye Chong had learned were the conclusions of the Aurora’s elderlies from their lifelong work. They had studied mechs all their lives, and found in their later years that those previously ignored foundational theories were the most fundamental of all. Hence, to prevent Ye Chong from repeating their mistakes, everything that they taught Ye Chong began from the most fundamental level.
Ye Chong had unwittingly been nurtured by them to become the most peculiar mech engineer across all fields.
Ye Chong had a rectangular metallic tank placed before him, filled with silver liquid. The calm surface of the liquid was like a flawless mirror, reflecting Ye Chong perfectly. Hei Zi watched anxiously from the side at the disc gripped by the mechanical arm. This was the most important step, immersing the disc into the strengthening chemical. The immersing duration, angle, proportion and so on, all contributed to the final quality of this part.
The disc’s early processing was all done by Ye Chong, and now he faced the final step - immersion. Immersion was the unique process of immersing a part into the strengthening chemical to enhance the skeleton’s various properties.
Ye Chong sat calmly in front of the controls dashboard, which directly manipulated the mechanical arm. The controls were more intricate and complicated than a mech’s controls. The holographic screen projected from the controls’ photon processor clearly reflected from Ye Chong’s pupils.
Ye Chong was feeling serious. After all, up until this step, Ye Chong had done everything perfectly. Once this step was successfully done, that part might be the most perfect skeleton part ever made.
Ye Chong had laboured through repeated considerations and calculations from the very first step of choosing the right materials. He had picked the sternum of a Moonblood bird; he even took this Moonblood’s skeleton to the old man for inspection. The next step was designing, and after carefully analysis of the Moonblood’s skeleton, he finally decided to make it into a mech engine’s padding. After that was crude processing and fine burnishing; Ye Chong partook every step after careful consideration, and his execution was also exact.
All this time, immersing was the most complicated step, and the effects were highly random. Even the old man had carried out immersions based on experience, without any logical theory behind them.
Unlike his sombre expression, Ye Chong was calm inside. No one knew that Ye Chong was actually quite confident with this last step. Ye Chong had discovered early on the randomness of the immersion process, and he had studied it closely, and through repeated experimentation, found a few ways to greatly increase the success rate of the method. He was now finally presented an opportunity to test his conclusions.
Ye Chong entered a series of commands into the photon processor of the controls dashboard. He then set the controls from manual to auto mode, and left the dashboard.
The mildly anxious Hei Zi abruptly noticed Ye Chong coming to his side, and could not help but be startled. "Ye, why are you here?"
"The settings are complete, no need for me to control it!" Ye Chong explained calmly. As he finished, the mechanical arm began to move slowly.
"Ah!" Hei Zi gasped in shock. "Ye, how can you use auto mode? Quick, shut it down!" He rushed towards the controls dashboard, but was held back by Ye Chong.
Seeing Ye Chong’s indifference, Hei Zi panicked. "Ye, quick! That thing’s going to be ruined! Master had never used auto mode for immersions! Ye, stop the machine, quick, or it’ll be too late!" Hei Zi’s hoarse voice was filled with urgency.
Ye Chong’s hands gripped onto Hei Zi tightly like shackles, and no matter how much Hei Zi struggled, he could not free himself. He immediately realized how much stronger his junior brother was compared to him.
Ye Chong understood his concern for himself, and while he was personally moved, he kept his expression flat as he replied, "Hmm, just wait and look!"
Between their exchanges, the mechanical arm had finished its job, and the disc was now lying quietly in the drying oven.
Ye Chong then let go of Hei Zi’s wrist, and Hei Zi rushed immediately to the drying oven. He opened the oven hastily and took out the disc, examining it closely.
"Ah! How is this possible?" Hei Zi gasped again in surprise, staring at the disc in his hand in disbelief.
In the underground workshop.
The old man studied the half-disc in his hands closely, his expression one of satisfaction. The padding was flawless no matter how he looked at it! What impressed him more was that Ye Chong could produce this masterpiece in such a short time. As the old man imagined the day that his apprentice could inherit and the spread this craftsmanship, how could he not feel thankful?
"Ye, Hei Zi said you used auto mode during immersion for this padding?" The old man asked with half-lidded eyes.
"Yes. I stumbled upon a few ways to increase the success rate of immersion, and I’ve recorded them in a chip and gave it to Senior Brother !" Ye Chong did not show any signs of showing off, as he attributed his findings as a result of "stumbling upon" them.
Hei Zi nodded at the side, complimenting him, "Yes, Master, Junior Brother’s methods are effective, I’ve tried a few times and they all worked!" Hei Zi grinned widely.
The old man nodded in approval and said, "Hmm, not bad, not bad! Ye, your fundamentals are strong, and you’re a quick study, with excellent memory. While you may have begun later than your Senior Brother, you have understood more and at a deeper level. Your future is limitless. Your Senior Brother is an honest man, you must take care of him!"
"Yes!" Ye Chong’s reply was short and determined, and came sincerely from him.
"What you lack now is experience, and that is something I cannot teach you. Only through practice can you accumulate experience. Your task from now on is to practice every day. You may choose your own tasks, and the skeletons there are yours to use." The old man pointed at a huge pile of skeletons.
"Yes!" Ye Chong nodded.
The old man pondered for a while before speaking again, "Ye, you’re smart, and have learnt just about everything there is here. If you’re willing, go learn alchemy from Guan Leng. After all, if you don’t know alchemy, you’ll have to depend on others for the strengthening chemical, that makes it easy for you to be dependent! However, your Aunt Guan is ill tempered, and you'll be in for a hard time if you go. Hmm, I’ll leave this decision to you!"
Guan Leng was an alchemist living nearby, and all the strengthening chemicals here came from her. She behaved oddly, and was often mad as a hatter. However, her skills in chemical synthesis were extraordinary - she prepared almost all the strengthening chemicals based on the old man’s requirements.
For some reason, she always granted the old man’s wishes. For other people, it would depend on her mood.
Periodically, when the strengthening chemicals were running out, Ye Chong and Hei Zi would visit her to obtain more. Hei Zi disliked visiting, and upon noticing Ye Chong’s indifference to the crazy lady, he had assigned the drudging task to Ye Chong.
For such an excellent alchemist, she remained largely unknown in the entirety of the Orbits. That was a small surprise to Ye Chong.
Ye Chong already knew the formula for the strengthening chemical. After Mu and Shang did their scanning, all the components of the strengthening chemical were recorded. Ye Chong was afraid of running out of the strengthening chemical in the future, since he would ultimately leave this place.
"What a good idea! Ye, you should go learn from her! She’s definitely capable. All these types of strengthening chemicals were from her original formulae, that’s awesome! Ye, best if you can learn some ways to grow Do Kun stone! Wah, then we’ll be rich!" Shang could not help but come out, very much enthusiastic.
Ye Chong tried very hard to stop himself from rolling his eyes, as he did not want to appear disrespectful to the old man. However, Shang’s words had indeed made him feel helpless - what a money-grubber!
However, the mech had also reminded Ye Chong of his earlier days in Blue Ocean Academy. For some reason, he missed those times, although he cannot quite figure out why.
The old man’s words interrupted his reverie. "Hmm, Ye, I did not forget your strange illness! Don’t worry, once you’re skillful enough, you’ll definitely pass the Sanctuary’s tests. Then, you’ll be able to leave the Orbits and search for doctors elsewhere! Beside, with the Sanctuary’s powerful influence, gathering all sorts of talents, they might know what to do with you."
Ye’s strange illness had resulted in two episodes in his time here, frightening both Hei Zi and Nan Nan. When the old man heard of it and came to him, Ye Chong had already recovered.
For Ye Chong, asking for help from the Sanctuary was one big joke! Ye Chong could barely hide from them; if he were to present himself to the Sanctuary, was that not asking for death? This solution was immediately rejected by Ye Chong!
"Hmm, alchemist … Do Kun stone … The Sanctuary’s tests …"
A flash of realization flickered in Ye Chong’s eyes.