Chapter Fifteen: Many Hands, Light Work

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Kai had no trouble sleeping that night. The room, while quaint and aged, was comfortable and far better than Selene's makeshift tent. As soon as the sun shone through the window and burrowed through his eyelids, he was up and awake.

He wasted no time getting ready and getting his things together. He opted to switch back into his own clothing today. He'd leave the antiquated vest and breeches for the next formal occasion.

Kai met Miriam, Meredith, and Dani in the common space between the inn and the main house. After some initial morning greetings, Ms. Lydia made her way out to meet them.

He didn't wait long after exchanging pleasantries to get down to business. "It's really been great Ms. Lydia, but we'd love to pay our way forward. What can we do to help out around here?"

Lydia clapped her hands together. "Oh, I love the enthusiasm. Yes, there's plenty of work to be done. My friend Kai, I think you'd be well suited to work in the fields today. My girls, Lord knows there's plenty of work to be done in the house. Any experience making preservatives?"

"What can I do?" Meredith spoke up.

She fell quiet, touching her clasped hands to her lips. "That is an excellent question, dearie. I believe some of my youngins are working in the field today. Would you like to join them?"

They nodded vigorously. "Sure!"

Miriam spoke up. "Uh, I would really prefer—"

"It's okay," Kai said. "I'll keep an eye on them." He nudged Meredith, giving them a wink.

Ms. Lydia exhaled, satisfied. "Excellent. Looks like we all have it sorted. Alright, come now. Let's get to work."

Kai and Meredith were led to the fields. They weren't too far away, maybe only a hundred yards from Lydia's property. It was an impressively large field, rows of greenery reaching across longer than Kai could make out with his naked eye. He couldn't recognize the crops offhand, but judging by the size and shapes, there were easily a handful of different kinds.

Lydia's husband, Joshua, was already there along with a handful of other men with worn out faces. Meredith split off to join a handful of other kids, two who had been at dinner last night and three who must've belonged to other parents in the community.

They were given separate sets of instructions, the adult version being noticeably more laborious. It was simple busywork, which he was more than thankful for, having never worked on a farm before. And judging from the looks he got from the other men here, he was doing an entirely okay job.

Time flew as they worked. As the day went on, Kai's back hurt and he felt himself drenched in sweat under his poncho. He always had an appreciation for agriculturists, but that respect skyrocketed by the time he had finished his work for the day.

As time passed, he felt himself slowing more and more. Halfway through, a kindly young girl of about fourteen—who he thought was at dinner last night, but he didn't remember completely—stopped by to deliver refreshments on a large tray. It was enough to power him through the rest of his tasks.

The time of day didn't hit him until the sun began descending from its apex and Kai had to take his goggles off to see his surroundings clearly.

The work day must have been over by then, because the men working in the field were already heading back toward town without so much as a word to him. He scanned the horizon. The kids were already well on their way back to Ms. Lydia's house. Not wanting to lose sight of Meredith, he rushed to keep up with them.

When the group of men reached Lydia and Joshua's house, they dispersed, probably back into town toward their own homes. Joshua entered his house first, two of his boys following inside behind him. By the time Kai was able to catch up, Miriam and Dani had already emerged from the house to greet Meredith.

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