Unlike in the Five Galaxies, Ye Chong saw no one idling. All the villagers walked around purposefully.
Sang Fan pointed to a cavern in the mountain ahead and introduced to him, "Right in front is where the bone dumping site is, there’s plenty of bones there. Maybe they’ll suit your purpose, sir?"
The cavern entrance was not large, probably allowing only two of three mechs to enter side by side. However, for Sang Fan and Ye Chong, it was wide enough.
Once he entered the cavern, Ye Chong stared in shock!
There were mountains of them! Here were truly mountains of skeletons. They reminded Ye Chong of the trash mountains on the trash planet, only now they were mountains of bones.
Sang Fan explained, "The animals we hunted, we eat their meat and take their hide, but the bones are useless. They’re too many of them, though, and it’s not good to just throw them anywhere we wished, so we chose a place to dump them. Usually, no one comes here, except for the youngsters."
Ye Chong recovered himself by then, and asked, "What for?"
"The bones are strong, and sometimes colorful, making good and lasting ornaments or jewelry. It’s been long since people used them to make love tokens, and it has since become tradition. We call them skeleton love tokens. Every young person, man or woman, has to learn how to make them to propose for marriage. The skeleton love token must be made by hand, or it’ll not be convincing." Sang Fan quickly added, "Making skeleton love tokens is tough work, relying only on water to shape the bones. The stronger the skeleton used, the better. We didn’t have lavagold before, so we’d use rocks to shape the skeletons. A complicated design could take months, and the chances of success in your first try is very low. So, generally speaking, if you don’t really love your partner, you wouldn’t even try making this skeleton love token."
As Ye Chong listened to Sang Fan, he could almost hear Shang sighing in his head, "These days, no matter where you are, girls are so hard to get!"
Ye Chong suddenly turned to Sang Fan and asked, "Have you ever tried making one?"
Sang Fan immediately blushed, and answered awkwardly, "Ye - Yes."
Ye Chong was amused by his reaction, and asked again, "For whom?"
Sang Fan blushed into an even darker red, and replied very quietly, "Sang Ling."
Ah, no wonder Sang Ling had looked at him apprehensively that time when Sang Fan was injured. She was probably mad that he did not interfere earlier. They were actually a pair. Ye Chong was no longer as obtuse in these matters as he was before.
However, understanding their relationship did not mean approving her reaction. Everyone had their preferred style of doing things. Given the chance, Ye Chong would not change what he did back then.
Ye Chong looked back at the mountains of skeletons, his eyes that were usually calm as ice were now burning fervently. There was probably no skeleton artisan who could stay looking at so many skeletons. Ye Chong certainly could not.
What excited him was not the volume, but the quality of these skeletons. Ye Chong had seen plenty of skeletons himself, and he tell just by looking the properties of these skeletons. Here, in the mountains of skeletons, their quality was enough to blow his mind!
Heavens! What was this place? Ye Chong felt like sighing out loud. There was lavagold, then nonlinear cobalite, and other rare ores. Even the skeletons were all top class. It seemed like the Heavens was trying to compensate for the Sang family’s suffering by offering these rarities during their long centuries of suffering.
With strong gravity, skeletons of the native animals were denser than normal, and that was why they had excellent quality. Ye Chong realized this some time later.
After selecting a few suitable skeletons, Ye Chong and Sang Fan returned to the laboratory. Sang Fan was vexed. What would the man need skeletons for? Could it be to make a skeleton love token? The thought was rejected immediately. With his cold temperance, how would he? Besides, based on the size of the skeletons, it seemed even more unlikely.
Back in the lab, Ye Chong first built a few odd-looking tools, all made from lavagold.
What he did next left Sang Fan and the rest of his helpers stunned.
Ye Chong used his handmade tools and began to work on the skeletons. The skeletons began to take on different shapes as Ye Chong worked, all looking odd and unusual. The helpers discussed among themselves, trying to guess what he was up to, but to no avail. However, they all agreed on one thing, which was that he was not making any jewelry at all.
Even so, the man’s craftsmanship was enough to make them jealous. The skeletons may look odd after shaping, but they were all intricate and well crafted. They were so interesting that even the village head stopped to have a good look at the incomplete project components when he was visiting. If someone had the master’s skills, the skeleton love token he made would definitely …
The youngsters who had not made their own skeleton love tokens decided then that, when the man was finished with his project, they would ask for him to teach them how to carve skeletons. With this skill, the skeleton love tokens they make would be lovely, and the perfect gift to win the hearts of their love interests. For now, however, they dared not interrupt Ye Chong. They waited, interested and expectant of the project that he was working on.
With Ye Chong himself doing the actual work, his impeccable skills were fully displayed. The young men all watched with great reverence and respect.
Ye Chong finally stopped working. Before him were all the skeletal parts he had made, neatly arranged on the workbench.
The moment everyone was waiting for had finally arrived. Knowing that Ye Chong would complete his project today, even the usually indifferent village head, Old Sang De came to have a look himself. Together with him were Sang Pu, Sang Ling and the others. They all watched Ye Chong quietly from the side.
Ye Chong had gone through the designs at least a dozen times, and he checked the skeleton parts until he was finally satisfied. He breathed in deeply a few times, his expression solemn, and began to put the parts together. He picked up the parts quickly, and assembled them easily and accurately. He moved confidently with a sense of familiarity, as though he had practiced more than a few times, in a stunning rhythm of motion.
Everyone in the lab was surprised to no end. They did not know what Ye Chong as up to, but that did not stop them from appreciating the significance of this assembling work. Ye Chong’s hands moved gracefully like a magician’s, the natural flow touching the hearts of his audience. He was like the perfect image of proficiency and accuracy.
Everyone watched Ye Chong’s hands as they moved here and there on the workbench. In the silent room, one could only hear the soft clink of skeleton parts being fitted together. No one blinked. They were all curious - what was the flawless final product that would be born from his pair of hands?
Ding! The final part was assembled in place. Ye Chong looked at his work, satisfied. Considering the lack of more precise instruments, he was at least satisfied with this level of work. While he was already aware of it, the toughness of the skeletons still surprised him. He had worn out at least a few lavagold tools.
Unlike Ye Chong, the other people in the room seemed disappointed. That was because the final product looked terrible. It was made up of skeletons in various colors, shaped like a huge egg. With the exception of a few see-through holes, the surface of the egg was dull and uninteresting.
"Sir, what is this?" Sang Fan voiced out the question in everyone’s mind.
"Engine," Ye Chong succinctly.
Confusion showed on everyone’s face. The term was too unfamiliar to them.
"It’s the core of a mech," said Ye Chong.
His audience realized then. All their confusion was thrown out the window, replaced with great respect. To them, mechs had always represented power, a most formidable and mysterious power! One of the helpers who had wanted to touch the engine quickly pulled his hand back.
Could it be, that the man wanted to build a mech? Some of the smarter ones realized this. If that was the case, then …
Their faces lit up with uncontained joy.
Ye Chong ignored them, however, deep in his own thoughts. The engine was designed based on the Destiny engine model. It was powered by the mildstone, which he recently had a breakthrough with.
Now, it was time for the final test.
Ye Chong opened a flap, and slipped in a square mildstone that he had shaped earlier into an indentation inside the engine. He closed the flap and pressed on the ignition button. The engine began to hiss on the workbench. The holes in the engine blew a steady airstream. Sang Fan and the rest stared in awe.
The engine was running steadily.
Ye Chong’s face was calm as ever, but his hands were gripping tightly - success!