Making the Useless Useful
Gin pointed the gun at the tree. He made sure his aim was perfect, his hands steady. He wrapped his fingers around the ins and into the chambers. This time he was going to hit the mark. He slowly pressed the button inside the first chamber. Bang! The sound echoed around the room. Gin looked at the tree once more, only to feel dejected as it remained unscathed.
‘Wow! How bad can you get?!’ exclaimed an amused Wo.
‘For Fudge sake then. I can aim all I like, but the moment I pull the trigger, the gun goes all over the place. The recoil hits too hard.’
‘Or maybe you just suck.’
Wo took the gun INS off Gin and aimed at the tree. He acted like he wasn’t even trying as he activated the mechanism. The shot was perfect as the bullet hit the target right in the centre, piercing the tree.
‘Screw you, Wo.’
‘Ugh. You never cease to annoy me,’ Gin said, as he went to another tree and began making another target with his blades.
‘It’s fun. Anyway, you should stick to blade boxing. The gun's not for you.’
‘But I need to improve my arsenal. Can’t rely on my blades all the time.’
‘What happened to the fire mode you used to have on your old sword?’
‘Ran out of oil. I haven’t been back home in ages to pick up more’
‘So? Just ask one of the fire elementals to give you some of theirs. It’s not like they run out permanently.’
Gin stopped, staring at Wo in surprise. It never occurred that there was an alternative right in front of him. Of course, he needed the right type of oil but, with the amount of fire elemental type mages in the squadron, it shouldn’t be too difficult. The revelation put Gin’s mind into overdrive. He had a sudden realisation that it didn’t have to stop at fire elementals. He could use several different mages to advance his research; to widen his capabilities; to make him stronger.
‘Not a bad idea, Wo. Guess you can be useful every once in a while.’
‘‘Every once in a while’?’ Wo replied, charging Gin and catching him off guard before he put him in a head lock. ‘Go on. Tell me how great I am!’
‘Ow! You’re just a coward who needs his bacteria to fight,’ Gin retorted.
‘Says the xernim user!’
The pair collapsed to the floor and began laughing. Despite the trouble he causes, Wo was a good friend in Gin’s opinion. Maybe it wasn’t so surprising considering how close Wo was with Gin’s father too. Like father like son, Gin mused. The thought of his father made him want to go back to his village someday. But that train of thought got derailed when he heard someone call his name.
‘Looks like you’re needed, Gigi. I’ll stay here while we wait for the nanobots to go back in the INS,’ Wo said.
‘Alright,’ Gin replied.
Waiting for the nanobots to dissipate and return to the INS was always a chore, especially for bullets. He left the gun with Wo and headed out to answer the call. It was a confused Brim. Gin could tell what he wanted.
‘Ah! Gin! There you are,’ he called.
‘What’s wrong, Brim?’ Gin answered.
‘It’s about the new members of our battalions.’
‘Yeah. I had a feeling it was going to be something along those lines. What’s the issue?’
‘They’re F ranks. They’re the worst of the worst and you want them in our battalion!’
‘They have their uses.’
‘They’re useful? Really? You didn’t skip on eating your meat rations again, right?’
‘I get the feeling it’s the prejudice you gained from the MBP that’s telling you this. Remember, we are a battalion. Not a group of individuals. And no, I don’t miss out on my meat rations. Joan makes sure I have them.’
‘I have no idea what you mean.’
‘Maybe it’s best if I show you.’
Gin led Brim outside. It was hot like usual. The sun had just past its zenith and was overbearing. Gin looked at Brim’s expression. It was obvious he wasn’t an outdoor person. He even grunted in annoyance as sand blew into his eyes. Gin heard Brim murmuring, ‘This better be worth it,’ which confirmed the idea
The pair looked up. Hurtling towards was a massive ball of fire. They jumped out of the way but blobs of oil ended up splattered across the ground. The blobs were still burning even after crashing into the ground. Luckily neither of them got hurt. Gin looked over his shoulders to see Brim in utter disbelief. Another easy believer in the regime, Gin thought.
‘What was that?!’ Brim exclaimed.
‘That, my friend is the power of the mages you called ‘useless’ a while ago.’
‘No way! A fireball of that size? That’s got to be a rank S fire elemental at least!’
‘Can you see a group of people in the distance?’ Gin asked.
Brim squinted. Roughly one kilometre away were four mages, with one being significantly larger than the others. They seemed to be happy and were congratulating each other. Were they the ones that caused the fireball? No, that can’t be right. What low ranked fire elemental had a range like that?
‘The big one’s the fire elemental that threw the fireball, right?’ Brim said, still reluctant to believe the truth.
‘Well, you’re half right. Let’s go over to them.’
As Gin and Brim got closer, the group of people noticed them. They were brimming with excitement, and began running towards their leader. All except the big on, that is. He trudged along slowly. His size and notably large hands weighed him down, limiting his movements.
‘Leader! Leader! Did you see that?’ a woman with rough skin exclaimed excitedly.
‘Yes. You almost hit us as well,’ Gin responded.
‘Oh, er Sorry,’ a timid, man with slimy skin that glistened under the sun, said.
‘yeah. Our bad. We didn’t expect to go that far,’ a different slimy skinned mage said.
‘You see,’ Gin commented, turning to Brim, ‘all four of these mages, including the big guy, are F ranks yet they managed to produce such a powerful fireball. In a battlefield, they would be a great asset.’
‘But they’re F ranks!’
Everyone looked unimpressed at Brim. He saw what they just did. He’s seen Gin’s other methods working. He knows the MBP isn’t always right (Gin’s victory over him in the spar was still fresh in Brim’s memory). Yet, Brim still didn’t trust Gin when he said the F ranks could be useful.
‘Look,’ Gin said at last. ‘One of the slimy skinned can produce oil but can’t light it up. The other one can do both but doesn’t have fire resistant skin. He’d burn up if he lit his hands up. The rough-skinned woman can light a fire without burning herself up. Finally, the big guy with large hands over there, that’s slowly making his way to us, he’s fire resistant and has incredible strength but is extremely slow. All of them are F ranks!’
‘I still don’t get it,’ Brim responded, causing Gin to sigh in disbelief.
‘Alone, they aren’t useful to us but, as a group, they are a strength to our battalion. In short, the men pour oil into the big guy’s hands, the woman lights it up and then the big guy flings it at the enemy. Larger sized and larger ranged fireballs than any individual could manage,’ Gin explained with the group nodding in agreement.
‘uh huh,’ Brim said trying to process the idea. ‘That’s actually amazing. Guess when the MBP taught us that the low ranked were trash, we took it to heart.’
‘That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you! Just like that we gained three-hundred or so more soldiers in our squadron. But anyway, good work you guys. Keep up with the practise.’
‘Yes sir!’ the group shouted in unison.
Brim contemplated for a moment. His views of the world and other mages were slowly being torn apart. Although most of his factual knowledge still holds true, the subjective ideologies were in question. He could see why Alder spoke so highly of Gin. Maybe it was for the best.
‘What’s wrong, Brim?’
‘Mind if my battalion joins yours in training? I get the feeling we could learn a lot from yours.’
‘Finally given up on your prejudice? Sure. The more the merrier. In return you need to give me some oil every now and then.’
'I want to improve my blade boxing. I need some flammable material to do so though.'
'I don't understand what you're planning but ok. I'll prepare a batch soon.'
Suddenly, Gin heard someone calling for them. Brim heard it too, and they both turned to see Emsee riding a massive Lupim, bounding towards them. The canine had brown fur, with streaks of black. Its teeth were razor sharp, its muzzle rough.
‘Didn’t know you’re a utility familiar type mage, Emsee,’ Gin remarked.
‘No time for that,’ she replied. ‘Emergency meeting. All battalion leaders need to attend.’
‘Calm down,’ Brim ordered. ‘What’s going on?’
‘The AAA have started making their move.’