Chapter 55: Illegal Mine
“Alright,” Old Nect helped Xing Ye test his arm, then patted his shoulder. “It’s strong and durable. Your total comes to five primary ores.”
“What?” The mirror, who was quietly standing in the corner, interrupted, “Didn’t you say it was free?”
Old Nect shrugged, speaking as if it was obvious. “My son’s repair was obviously free, but I was the one who helped you test your arm! I’m the best mechanic in all of Puppet City. We installed a new model’s iron arm on an old style wooden puppet, how could the testing fee be the same as fixing that matchstick puppet’s arm? This is an innovation, an innovation!”
The mirror: “...”
He was about to choke from anger- how were all the puppets in Puppet City like this?! Just when he thought he finally met a good puppet!
But Xing Ye was still very calm. He had long been prepared for something like this to happen. How could opposing fate players as unlucky as them possibly get a free gift falling from the sky?
Xing Ye had already said it before- all free gifts were just traps in disguise. Whether you decide to step into the trap or not all depended on if you could bear the consequences.
For Xing Ye, fixing his arm was the most important thing right now. He needed to use Redrawing Pen, so even if he got tricked, Xing Ye was happy with unlocking his starting skills.
“You know I don’t have any primary ore.” Xing Ye said.
The engine oil shopkeeper knew he had no primary ore and even kept a tab for many years, so it was only natural to assume Old Nect, who he always got scraps from, to also know that.
“Of course I know you don’t have money, you still owe me 29 pieces of primary ore.” Old Nect said, “Before, you could just return it slowly, but today’s different. This is my son’s first job, how could you not pay him immediately?”
Old Nect stuck to his excuse shamelessly, not looking like a respected maintenance master at all.
Cao Qian wanted to step forward to grab Old Nect and the big mirror also raised his little copper fists, but Xing Ye extended his new hand to stop the two. He looked at Old Nect and asked, “Uncle Nect, what do you want me to do?”
Old Nect laughed mischievously, “Young man, with how long you’ve owed me money, don’t you think I was already being very kind by not charging you any interest? You should’ve started going out to find primary ore a long time ago. Even if you want to change your body, you can’t stay unemployed forever, right?”
His words were reasonable. Xing Ye listened quietly.
“My lazy, pig of a son also refuses to mine primary ore. I wanted to make him mine, but he doesn’t have any experience, so how about you go with him?”
Little Nect, who was leaning on his chair bored, suddenly gave a start. “What? Me?”
“Of course, you little brat!” Steam suddenly started rising from a hole under Old Nect’s beard, blowing the beard up and showing how angry he was. “How many years have you loitered around at home now? You should’ve started working a long time ago!”
“Fine, fine, I’ll go, but I don’t know where the primary ore mines are.” Little Nect said.
“I have a map here.” Old Nect’s laugh was unnerving.
Xing Ye turned wary when he took out the map.
Any puppet could mine primary ore, even Cao Qian could try going out with the other puppets to mine. Little Nect was just saying he didn’t know where the mines were as an excuse. Old Nect could just say he would make the indebted puppets guide you there, so what did he bring out a map for?
This meant the place Old Nect wanted them to mine in wasn’t normally somewhere puppets would go to mine.
Danger meant opportunity. Now that his arm was fixed, going to explore somewhere dangerous wasn’t a bad idea.
Old Nect took out the map and pointed it for Xing Ye and Little Nect to look. “If you go outside the city and head southwards, you’ll soon find a river. Follow it for 5-10 hours and you’ll eventually find a mine. The mine’s a bit far, so you won’t be able to return during the day. It’s pretty dangerous at night outside the city, so don’t forget to bring weapons. I have three guns and 30 bullets here that you guys can take.”
The puppet city would open its doors at dawn and close them at night. Almost all the puppets who went out to mine would return the same day. What mine was Old Nect talking about, that required them to go so far out?
Xing Ye looked at the map and shook his head, “That’s not a mine.”
He was supposed to know where the mines are, so it would be out of character if he wasn’t skeptical about the location Old Nect pointed out on the map.
“Cough, cough,” Old Nect let out an awkward cough, “I’m a master mechanic, so it’s only natural I know mines that other people wouldn’t know about. There are rules in the mines that everybody knows about, which stipulate each puppet may only take one piece of primary ore a day. If you go there, it’d take you forever to pay back your debt. It’d be much better to go to the mines without rules. You always go out with that big sack of yours, bringing back all sorts of junk, so the officials at the gate all know you already. When they see you come back with your bag full, they won’t suspect you.”
So it was actually like that. No wonder Old Nect wanted to trick him. He wanted to use Xing Ye’s junk collecting identity as a cover.
For the time being, he didn’t know why the city officials were limiting the amount of primary ore puppets could mine or what purpose primary ore served, to be used as a currency.
But right now, he could be sure of one thing. Unofficial mine sites were very dangerous. How many people die in the real world from mining accidents every day?
With his luck, it was impossible to not run into an accident.
But right now, he truly needed primary ore. Furthermore, there might be clues at the mining site.
“Alright.” Xing Ye agreed.
“Then I’ll also go.” The big mirror hastily said.
His body was tall, strong, and made of metal, while Xing Ye’s was frail and small. He could protect Xing Ye.
Xing Ye tacitly accepted. He wasn’t reassured with leaving the mirror alone. If something happened, he was worried he wouldn’t be able to bring the mirror back to the system space.
“I’ll go too.” Cao Qian, who had been silently listening this whole time, suddenly spoke up. “Old Nect, if you help weld metal along my body, I’ll mine ore to pay you back.”
“This…” Old Nect frowned, “It’s not like I’m a philanthropist. Why should I help you?”
“Didn’t you say that welding metal to my body parts would cost 30 primary ores? I’ll pay 50 ores, with the extra twenty serving as interest. Once I can mine, I’ll bring back one ore for you every day. After fifty days, I’ll have cleared my debt. Anything’s better than right now, where I don’t even dare to go out.” Cao Qian said firmly.
Xing Ye was a little surprised with how freely Cao Qian was spending money. What gave her such confidence?
Old Nect hesitated when he heard 50 primary ores. Who didn’t love money?
At this moment, a knock sounded at the door. “Uncle Nect, I’ve come to pick up my little sister and pay. Could I please ask if her arm’s repaired yet?”
Cao Qian’s sister knocked on the door and entered. The mirror instantly turned vigilant- she was a player!
And a following fate player too. Opposing fate players wouldn’t have such ridiculous luck.
“Oh, Miss Linda,” Old Nect narrowed his eyes, rubbing his hands together. “There’s something I need to talk with you about. Your little sister wants…”
He narrated Cao Qian’s request in full detail, skipping over the illegal mine and focusing on how she wanted to take a debt in order to get her body welded with iron. He was worried the matchstick puppet wouldn’t be able to pay him back and wanted a family member to vouch for her.
Old Nect’s words made Xing Ye and Cao Qian’s faces darken… oh, right, they couldn’t move their faces, they just grew unhappy in their hearts.
Cao Qian’s sister, Linda, was a following fate player. This might make her suspect Cao Qian’s identity.
“I won’t casually give my guarantee,” Linda said, “Look at how beautiful and popular I am, what if somebody wants to use this to frame me? If she wants to change her body, you can just sign a contract with her.”
Yep, there was no sisterly love at all.
The mirror looked at Cao Qian’s fragile body and couldn’t bear it. He saw the deal was about to fail and hastily asked, “What about me? Can I vouch for her?”
“Who are you?” Old Nect blinked his wooden eyelids, “Do you have money? What are you using to vouch for her?”
The mirror’s true identity had both wealth and power, but right now, he was just an outsider who borrowed a dead puppet’s body to come back to life. He had nothing at all. Even his body was corroded with rust.
Xing Ye wanted to stop the mirror, but didn’t expect the silly little mirror to say, “My body’s made of metal, can I exchange it for money?”
This whole time, he had been observing everything and noticed that puppets completely made of metal were very popular. His whole body was metal and he even had a big mirror. It should be very valuable.
“Hm…” Old Nect inspected the mirror, “Copper mirrors are indeed rare, especially such a big one. The body’s a bit old, but it’s not bad if you get rid of the rust… it’s probably worth around 10 primary ores, but there’s another 40 primary ores to go.”
After saying that, he shot another glance at Miss Linda, an old puppet.
Linda ignored them, her voice bored. “If you don’t have the money, don’t bother. I won’t care about you.”
Xing Ye changed his point of view. If he was Linda and wanted to investigate Cao Qian’s identity, he would definitely vouch for her since there might be a chance to get important clues. In any case, with so many pursuers, getting 50 pieces of primary ore wasn’t that hard, so why not do an easy favor?
This player definitely had a big personality. Xing Ye couldn’t tell her purpose.
In the last world, Ms. Li, Wu Yu, Di Kuang, and the seemingly gentle Mr. Ding all had very obvious goals. They wanted intelligence, wanted to survive, wanted to win, or wanted to blend into the team. They all had their own way of thinking and strong personalities.
However, Linda was like an ordinary girl. While waiting for her little sister to be repaired, she went to the engine oil spa, and now, she very reasonably yet coldly rejected Old Nect’s unreasonable request.
Why was that?
The mirror spoke again, “Then when I go mining, I’ll give it all to you. Just weld on some iron for her, okay?”
Cao Qian looked at the mirror suspiciously. She thought the mirror was just an ordinary puppet, but how could there be such a stupid puppet?
But Xing Ye knew the mirror just wanted to help Cao Qian. The mirror knew Cao Qian was their main attack force, so they needed to help Cao Qian.
“No, no,” Old Nect frantically shook his head, “That’s not worthwhile for me. I’m not running a charity here.”
Xing Ye owed Old Nect too much, so he didn’t have any credibility to vouch for her. Xing Ye didn’t have any ways to help their current poverty. After all, he specialized in using money to make more money, not making money from nothing.
The scene sunk into an impasse. This time, Little Nect suddenly spoke up. “Dad, just give them a hand. I’ll mine the ore properly.”
“Hn…” Hearing his son’s words, Old Nect grumbled unhappily. “We’re doing this for business!”
“But they need to escort me to the mine, don’t they? Doesn’t an extra puppet mean more power?” Little Nect said.
His words were very… Xing Ye looked at Little Nect, suspecting he was also a player.
Little Nect’s words were tempted. He still cared about his son’s safety, so he took out a piece of paper and wrote an IOU with a guarantor before giving it to Cao Qian and the mirror. “Sign here. If you don’t pay back the debt by the deadline, I’ll rip out your only remaining nucleus.”
The mirror believed in Cao Qian and Xing Ye, so he pressed down his handprint.
Cao Qian looked at him strangely, her heart filled with doubts.
It would take three hous for Cao Qian to get her limbs welded with iron. It was a big project, so Old Nect had everyone wait outside while he went to the specialized maintance room to work. He also brought Little Nect inside to watch and learn.
Xing Ye was a bit worried for Cao Qian, but right now, he could only endure.
After Old Nect, Little Nect, and Cao Qian entered the maintenance room, only Xing Ye, Linda, and the mirror were left in the repair shop hall.
Linda casually leaned in her chair and spoke lazily, “We’ll have to wait for another three hours.”
Xing Ye silently observed her.
“You don’t need to watch me,” She waved her hand, “Yes, I’m a following fate player. I know you’re an opposing fate player with how unlucky you are, and also in the same team as my sister, but I have zero interest in you guys.”
Xing Ye didn’t expect Linda to directly poke through the truth like that. Why did she do that? Wasn’t she afraid that they’d directly attack her for points?
Linda was also an intelligent person and spoke directly. “My starting skill protects me from attacks, so I’m not afraid of sneak attacks. The reason why I took the initiative to reveal my identity is to show my position.”