Chapter 70 Master and Apprentice plus Old Dog
Exodus TalesExodus Tales
After ending the call, Xia Fei returned to the workshop.
He worked like what he did that morning.
His face barely betrayed any bit of emotion, showing an expression that was as calm as ever.
Xia Fei was certain that Old Ks men were nearby, watching each move in the factory, so even if he had even the slightest emotion, he knew that he must not show it here.
The universal modification pliers danced in his hands.
Boateng and Xia Fei continued to work hard in the workshop, while Old Porter and Lina remained in the design studio, the fabrication of parts progressing as per normal; none of them even slowed their pace of work.
When working with the team of nine, Xia Fei never felt that repairing spaceships was a tiring task.
In fact, they would even have time to sit together to brag and bluster, bantering, and killing time as they talked about their partners.
Now that it was just Boateng and him, he finally felt that repairing spaceships was actually a very strenuous job.
His arms were beginning to numb, while he could feel his two legs becoming heavy like lead.
He brushed his spatial ring lightly and took out two White Dew, handing Boateng one as he ate the other.
Boateng was an honest man, almost to the point of denseness.
He received the White Dew from him and swallowed it without even asking any question.
He was delighted when he felt his body recovering strength, flashing a thumbs-up at Xia Fei as he continued to bury himself in their work.
Ever since that grueling fight with Chen Dong, Xia Fei would always bring along a good amount of Snake Eye Berries and White Dew with him wherever he went.
Had he not had these items in his possession during the assessment, there was no way Xia Fei would have been able to last for twenty-one days.
Another shuttle appeared in the sky, and it landed on a clearing in the factory compound.
A tall and plump dark-skinned man exited it.
This person was essentially a younger version of Old Porter, looking to be in his forties.
He was over six foot five and had a rather conspicuous distended belly as well.
He even had a slight limp when he walked, but unlike Old Porter, he did not have just one eye.
Xia Fei stopped his work, poured out two glasses of water, and walked toward Boateng.
Nudging Boateng with his elbow, he gestured with his chin in the direction of that large man walking over and asked about the identity of their visitor.
He is masters oldest apprentice, Murray, whispered Boateng.
Xia Fei had already heard about Old Porter actually having four apprentices, but three of them had ultimately chosen to leave for different reasons.
Just what was Murray doing here at this time
Murray waddled to where Xia Fei and Boateng were with his giant beer belly, his two hands rubbing against his hands constantly out of seeming nervousness.
Boateng placed his glass heavily on a steel plate and, with acold snort, buried his head into his work again, completely ignoring Murrays existence.
Murray balked at his unfriendly actions, sweating non-stop as he stood there like a statue.
Many times, he tried to open his mouth but always ended up closing it without saying a word.
In the end, Xia Fei smiled and approached Murray himself, stretching his left hand.
Im new here.
You can call me Xia Fei.
Xia Fei had no clue about the uncomfortable past these fellow apprentices shared, but seeing this portly man in the factory during its most troubled time clearly showed that this fella still deeply valued the bond between master and apprentices.
There was no reason to be overly unkind to the man, so he took the initiative to greet the other.
The new arrivals expression revealed a great degree of gratitude, softly saying, Im Murray h-here to
Xia Fei laughed and patted his beer belly.
Youre almost about to catch up to Uncle Porter.
Hes in the design studio by the way.
Murray hesitated for several minutes before he picked up a pair of universal modification pliers from the ground and joined them in the restoration of the spaceship.
The difference between a skilled mechanic and that of a novice was immediately apparent.
Though Murray had only joined in the repairs of this warship just the one time, he had very quickly found work that he could contribute to.
In the eyes of a veteran, there would always be no end to the work that they could do on a spaceship.
They would be able to very quickly adapt to the task even when taking over someones work halfway, while a novice would find themselves fumbling about on what they should be doing.
Xia Fei worked even as he observed Murrays actions.
His movements were very proficient yet brusque, considered to be the sort that accomplished heavy-duty work.
What would have taken anyone half a day to tighten a long-shafted safety screw, Murray only needed a short time to accomplish.
Boateng and Murray were completely different from each other.
The latter was the kind that worked slowly, doing everything unhurriedly no matter what the task was just like a tai chi expertcalm and elegant, while the former was like Tongbei fist, quick and efficient.
A good mechanic could work the job of two men, and with Murrays aid, Xia Fei and Boateng had a much easier time doing their respective roles.
It was unknown when Old Porter had appeared in the workshop, his eyes staring at Murray while he was hard at work as a reflective sheen visibly accumulated.
Murray noticed Old Porters presence and quickly stopped his work and stiffened, hiding the universal modification pliers in his hands behind his back.
I-I Murray was tongue-tied for the longest time before he finally managed to finish his sentence.
Ive sent my wife and child back to her mothers.
Old Porter was slightly taken aback by this.
He eventually slightly nodded, then turned to go back inside the design studio.
Boateng set his tool aside, sighed, and asked Murray, Hows your wife
The expression on Murrays face went through a series of changes at once; he was abuzz with excitement, glee, and guilt as he nodded deeply.
Yes, were expecting another child soon.
Boateng gave a friendly chuckle before resuming his work.
Murray used his sleeves to wipe his eyes and went back to take on this fight beside Boateng.
It was apparent that Murray had first made arrangements for his familys safety when he heard about the troubles at Old Porters factory before resolutely making his return to his masters side in order to help out.
This was probably what the saying seeing truth in adversity meant.
What Xia Fei found even more unexpected was that, about an hour later, another shuttle landed on the compound, and a middle-aged man wearing a baseball cap emerged from it, a parted pencil mustache hung on his philtrum.
This man was Old Porters third apprentice, Collins.
Like Murray, he had also taken off his shirt and immediately dove into the work nervously.
The efficiency of the four men working together was evidently much greater than two.
Besides, Murray and Collins were great examples of what it meant to be good mechanics.
Seeing the two men enjoying themselves greatly as they got their hands dirty, slowly but surely, they were able to make good progress with the repairs until they were almost on par with the parts currently being fabricated.
Before dusk arrived, a frigate landed on the factory company, and a young man with thick eyebrows walked into the workshop, looking to be in his twenties.
This was the same person Xia Fei had met before in the black market, Xiao Tianthe youngest out of all Old Porters apprentices.
Xiao Tian was no longer in the line of spaceship maintenance and repair, but he still had the work overalls from when he had been working there, starched and clean.
Wearing it, Xiao Tian joined the other apprentices and very quickly got involved with the work.
In just a day when a crisis happened at Old Porters factory, all four of his apprentices found their way back here.
No matter what their reasons were for leaving back then, the fact remained that, though they had not been around for a long time, their hearts stayed.
Xia Fei and Boateng were sitting on the ground, a glass of water in their hands; of course, Xia Fei also had his lit cigarette as he watched Murray, Xiao Tian, and Collins work.
A rare smile, coupled with an excited look, appeared on Boatengs face.
Even the old dog, Inert Star, which was only inches away from death, had miraculously found vigor as it ambled to the workshop from its den, lying on the ground immobile as the animal stared at the four comrades with its murky eyes seemingly shining in comprehension.
Many years back, Inert Star had also watched the four men work every day, and now that it was at deaths door, being able to witness such a scene from the past should also be something worth being happy over.
The old cripple, Song San, who oversaw cooking, happily brought out a pot of black beverage.
Xia Fei had once drunk this before, and it was a type of cooling sweet broth that the locals made, a sweet and sour taste similar to sour plum soup from Earth.
He first gave Inert Star a small bowl, placing it right in front of the dog.
The animal had not been eating or drinking anything these past few days, but it was different today.
Using its tongue to lap on that bowl of sweet broth, everyone could see it recover quite a bit of vitality.
Come, everyone; have some sweet broth, called Song San with a face-splitting grin.
Murray and Xiao Tian were both smiling as they greeted the old cook, who happily did the same, and they kept talking about the past.
The four apprentices worked together flawlessly, actually managing to finish the days work a short while after sundown.
If Xia Fei and Boateng had kept working with just the two of them, it was very likely that they would have been unable to catch up even if they continued with it deep into the night.
Old Porter strolled out from the design studio and gazed at these familiar faces, smiling.
Dont go just yet.
Lets all share a round or two tonight.
The four men nodded repeatedly.
That was when Inert Star suddenly stood up and dashed toward the north of the factory, barking all the way.
It was regrettable that it was no longer as lively as before, so it sounded more like a low whine than a bark.
Everyone was puzzled as they stared at Inert Star, unclear on what had aggravated it.
All of a sudden!
*Boom!* A huge explosion came from the north like a raging blaze shot to the sky!
A spaceship, which had been parked due north, suddenly exploded!
The sound that came as a result of the explosion shattered several glasses in the workshop.
Quite a few spaceships on the compound had been knocked over due to the force of the blast.
Everyone hurried over and grabbed fire extinguishers to put out the fire.
Fortunately, the fire was not too large, and it was very quickly extinguished, though the strong burnt smell lingered all around them.
Xiao Tian threw the fire extinguisher in his hands to the ground and ground his teeth while he made a run for his spaceship.
This must be Old Ks doing! Hes too much! Ill go and screw him back!
Collins could not stand it, either.
Rolling up his sleeves, he followed Xiao Tian while yelling, Im coming with you! Worst-case scenario, well put our lives on the line and fight it out with them!
STOP RIGHT THERE! boomed Porter at the top of his lungs, his face emotionless.
Xiao Tian and Collins froze in place when they heard him, their eyes filled with dissatisfaction.
Its been so long since we last saw one another Lets just talk about all this tomorrow morning, said Porter after a short pause.
Xia Fei was not really listening attentively to what they were saying, for he had noticed that Inert Star was lying on the ground, unmoving.
He quickly approached the old dog and touched its snout.
It was cold to the touch, and no longer releasing faint puffs of breath.
Shrapnel from the explosion had pierced its heart, and in the end, this pitiful old hound had died as a result of its loyalty, not getting the peaceful death it deserved.
Giving that almost hairless head of Inert Star a pat, Xia Fei quietly said, Youre already out of strength, so why did you still run over so quickly
Everyone crowded around its body, silent.
Even the introverted Murray quietly wiped away his tears.
Outside the workshop, everyone dug out a grave at where Inert Star usually stayed before, burying it in that spot.
Burying their canine companion, the surrounding atmosphere was stately and solemn.
After the ceremony was over, Old Porter patted Xia Feis shoulder.
Lets go; head back to my office.
Xia Fei looked exhausted, rubbing his shoulder.
Uncle Porter, Im a little tired today.
I think Ill turn in a little earlier.
Thats good, too.
You did a lot of work today, and youve already done well just by holding down the fort.
Returning to his spaceship, Xia Fei took a shower and changed into his Windshade Mark IV combat suit.
He then secured the Chasing Light tightly on his left arm.
There were still two hours left until Xia Feis meet-up scheduled with Sonny.
He folded his hands behind his head as he lay in bed, looking up at the ceiling as he muttered to himself, Old K, why would you not even spare an old hound which was nearing its death
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