“Biiig Caaat! Biiig Caaat!” Ellen happily marched forward.
Just behind the hyped little girl was Talia, Sanya, and Zesty. The group was making their way to Sanya’s house to see Fluffy Paw. For some reasons Zesty was also interested, thus the fact she was tagging along.
They arrived at the entrance of the house and entered inside. Sanya opened her mouth as she removed her shoes. “I’m home!”
A strange sound came from the hallway. It was like a pillow rapidly hitting the floor. Talia narrowed her eyes with a smile as she recalled what happened last week. ‘It’s coming…’
The sound seemed to become closer and closer. Zesty and Ellen were standing still as they didn’t know what was happening.
Suddenly, Fluffy Paw appeared from the corner of the wall. The mass of fur stopped and gave a look at the four girls at the entrance. When its eyes landed on Talia, it began to hop forward and rush toward the girl with a ponytail.
After a few seconds, Fluffy Paw arrived just at Talia’s feet. Its hind legs bent and its tail wagged several times like a fan. The next second, it flew like a (massive) arrow upward. “Meooow!”
Talia let the cat do its things. It landed on her shoulder and began to purr like crazy. The motor was going at full throttle. Talia started to caress it with a blooming smile on her face. However, she noticed someone staring at her. No, at the creature on her shoulder.
“Wooooah....” Ellen had shining eyes open as wide as her gasping mouth.
She extended her arms toward the cat, full of joy and anticipation. Talia bent her knees to make herself at Ellen’s level. Fluffy Paw seemed to have finally noticed the young girl. Its face with its long whiskers looked in her direction, the eyes half closed due the purring.
Ellen timidly touched it, passing her hands through the smooth fur. The sensation at the tips of her fingers was making her feel utter bliss. The cat also moved to allow the girl to pet it more efficiently. Ellen was right now in her own world.
“...They are multiplying. Maybe next week there would be eight girls at the entrance.”Suddenly, a voice was heard a few meters from the group of girls. Apart from Ellen, they turned their head to see Cathia looking at them with a curious expression.
“Mom.” Sanya had a wry smile as she thought about how to explain. In the end, Zesty and Ellen introduced themselves to her mother. It was at this moment that Zesty thought that it might be bad to come without prior notice.
However, Cathia shook her head with a smile. “My daughter bringing home friends? Of course, I’m fine with it.”
The girls were in the living room, a glass of juice in front of each of them. Zesty was nibbling on some fruit while looking at the tiny girl not far from her.
“Mister Meow Meow. Ah, no. Your name is Fluffy Paw, right? Your paws are so comfy!” Ellen had entered into some kind of trance as she was petting the big cat’s belly and legs. Normally, those areas were total no-touch zones. The foul that dared to try to lay a finger on it would have their hand lacerated. But, this was not the case for Fluffy Paw.
This almost-unbelievable creature was actually happy to have its belly rubbed by the little human. The scene would make almost any cat owner gasp in disbelief.
Ellen’s hand was sinking into the sea of fur, making it disappear. she had a smile up to her ears. Zesty was not especially a cat lover herself, but she could not help but smile warmly at the scene.
Meanwhile, Sanya and Talia were sitting next to each other. They were also gazing at the lovely scene in front of them.
Seeing this, Talia dared to ask. “Hey, Ellen. As a renowned researcher, you should be able to afford to take care of a cat, no?”
Ellen continued to pat Fluffy Paw, but she still raised her head. “My guardian is allergic to cats, so I can’t have one at home. If I want to pat a cat generally I go to the refuge not far from where I live. I don’t mind as the kitten are cute there, though.”
“Your guardian, huh? What kind of person is it?” Sanya took a croissant from the table in front of her and gave a bite to Talia.
This time, Ellen used the index and thumb of each hand to squeeze Fluffy Paw’s paws. She pursed her lips for a moment. “Mmh, Zack?... Sometimes he seems like he had not slept for a few nights and the circles under his eyes make him look like a panda. But, he is very nice. He praises me when I make progress in my research and cheer me up when I find that my hypothesis is false.”
'So, the name of her guardian is Zack, huh?' Sanya took a bite herself of the pastry in her hand while listening.
Nothing was heard for a moment, apart from the symphonic purring. Suddenly, Fluffy Paw sat up and stretched its limbs. It then scanned the room and stopped them on Zesty. She noticed it and tilted her head.
With purrfect elegance, Fluffy Paw skipped until it arrived on top of her laps. It then began to massage them, making the fabric of the skirt go up and down due to the claws. Zesty could not understand the cat’s reasoning behind its actions.
Meanwhile, Ellen gasped as she watched her loved one being stolen by someone else. However, as a being that prefers to think before speaking, she analyzed the reason. It didn’t take long to reach the conclusion that Zesty had a thing that she had not. Softness.
Ellen had already hugged Zesty a few times and she had noticed that Zesty’s body was as comfortable as a pillow. Ellen was simply too young to hold a candle against Zesty. In a way, she understood Fluffy Paw’s thinking.
On the other hand, Zesty didn’t know what to do right now, so she just looked at the cat. Fluffy Paw then lifted its head with half closed eyes. It seemed to want to say something. ‘? Maybe…’
Zesty’s hand reached for the soft fur on the cat head. She began to scratch its chin and the side of the head. The purring increased once more like it had switched gears.
Sanya and Talia were looking at the scene in a big surprise. The golden-haired girl explained. “Our lazy cat likes to be pet, but it generally will not waste energy for it. When it does, it means that Fluffy Paw really appreciates the person. Apart from me, my mother, and Talia, I don’t think I saw this before.”
Upon hearing this, Ellen pouted as she hugged her own legs. She looked at Zesty with the corners of her eyes. The next moment, she simultaneously teleported herself on top of Zesty’s thighs and Fluffy Paw on her own laps. Ellen then leaned back. She looked comfy snuggling against the bigger girl.
Zesty opened her eyes wide open as she didn’t expect that. But when she saw the smile on the little girl’s face alongside the happy cat, her lips naturally gently curled up. Her right hand went to caress Ellen’s hair while the other supported her body.
“...They look like a mother and her child.” Sanya gave her views on the cute scene. She then timidly looked at Talia next to her. More specifically at her shoulder.
“Hmh?” Talia suddenly felt something leaning against her. She immediately turned her head to see Sanya with her head resting on her shoulder. The blond-haired girl had her cheeks lightly flushed red.
Talia also had her face reddening in response. She gently whispered something inside Sanya’s ear. Upon hearing it, Sanya became even more scarlet. Her hands were fidgeting around in anticipation.
After a moment, Ellen and Zesty returned home. The short girl had difficulties to part from the fluffy cat, though.
...Inside Sanya’s room.
“Mmh, w-wait, Tal-!” Sanya was leaning back against the wall of her room. Both of her wrists were restrained by Talia’s hands, making her unable to escape. Just in front of her was Talia, an excited smile decorating her lips. However, the already small gap between the two girls become null as their lips connected.
Sanya closed her eyes with bliss. After what happened yesterday, Talia’s actions escalated. Once more.
It was only after a few seconds that Talia finally freed her captive. Sanya was taking deep breaths with flushed red cheeks. She gave a side glance at Talia. The blue-haired girl looked a bit away obviously embarrassed by what she just had done. Still, she went to touch Sanya's hair the next second. Talia's mouth approached her scarlet ear. With a sweet voice, she whispered. "I can wait your birthday for crossing the line...But, this doesn't mean that I plan to hold back."
Sanya's heart skipped a bit upon hearing those words. Talia was so proactive in their relationship that she could barely make her own move anymore.
The two lovebirds' flirting lasted for a dozen minutes afterward. Sanya saw her lover off at the door of her house. While watching her back, she dreamed of the day when she would not only be on the receiving end.
This evening, Sanya closed her door silently with a blank face. She then leaned her back against it and sighed deeply. She had hoped that the events of the day would have made the matter on her mind to disperse. However, this was not the case.
“...I will have to face it one day. Better soon than too late.”
She slowly walked up to the center of the room with heavy steps. She closed her eyes and expended her mind inside the silver bell attached to her neck. The next seconds, golden particles began to float around her. The bell was also shining with a subtle light.
Sanya opened her eyes, giving her surrounding a quick look. Her line of sight stopped on one of the particles. All of sudden, this particular small shining mass approached her. With her right hand she poked it without hesitation with a troubled expression. ‘...Just what is this? I can touch it, so it should be more or less physical...Right?’
So many questions clouded her mind right now. The irony was that she knew that all the answers were inside the bell around her neck. Having the key at arm’s reach while still being unable to grab it was horrible by itself.
Sanya scratched her head a few time before letting out a sigh in resignation. “It can’t be helped. Just have to do the same as before. Experiment, fail and repeat until I understand really what is going on.”
Sanya gathered all the particles of light around her right hand. From an outsider's point of view, it was a sight to behold.
Sanya recalled the sensation that she had yesterday. Her mind searched inside the bell. ‘I’m certain that those particles were used to fuel the barrier or at least the part of the bell responsible to create the barrier and control it. If my hypothesis is right, then those particles have to be the energy powering the bell.’
She felt a bit stupid to have failed to notice this. No matter how strange or extraordinary the bell is, it can’t create some ultimate barrier out of thin air. After a full week with Talia the Protector of Worlds, she understood that no matter the power, it still followed one simple rule. It can’t create more energy than used. For example, magic used mana as its source of energy. Mana was stored inside Talia’s body and was regenerated after some rest.
Following this principle, she might have discovered one of the key elements behind how the bell was functioning.
Despite being able to feel that other parts of the bell were usable, she decided to do her tests with something that she already familiar with: The barrier. Her hand moved, spreading the particles in front of her like a curved plate of light.
‘What if I do this?’ She channeled energy to the module creating the barrier.
‘...I see’ Sanya looked at the result in front of her. As she expected, the particles transformed into a partial barrier, only protecting her front.
Her eyes focused on it while her mind’s attention was on a certain part of the bell. Suddenly, the barrier moved slowly in a circular motion with Sanya as its center. “...This is quite fun actually.”
The reason that the partial barrier, which could be called a shield at this stage, was moving is that Sanya was manipulating the zone responsible for the shape of the barrier. It looked like she might be able to remotely move this shield.
Sanya crossed her arms and nodded with her lips pursed. She seemed to be brimming with excitement. ‘Let's see how far I can go now.’
Roughly half an hour later, Sanya was standing still. A drop of sweat was sticking on her temple. She then lifted her right foot in a slow manner while moving a bit forward. The foot which should have touched the floor of her room was in fact on top of something that looked like an almost-transparent plate.
Sanya exhaled upon feeling something hard under her the sole of her foot. She nodded and finally climbed on top of the flat floating surface. ‘...This can be considerate as floating, right?’
Her eyes glanced at the flat piece of shield beneath her feet. ‘I succeeded in shaping the particles in different forms and moving them around. As I thought, the barrier stays stationary, so there must be something that makes its position fix. Otherwise, it would just fell...It might use the bell as a reference point in space.’
Sanya touched the bell around her neck. It was giving off a light shine. ‘I should also decide of a name for those particles. It will make it easier for me to make hypotheses if I put names on things.’
She extended the flat surface and sat on it cross-legged. She used both of her hands to play around with the shining particles while thinking. After a moment, she muttered. “Let’s go with Radiant Energy. It sounds a bit embarrassing, but that’s what it is. The energy coming from the Radiant Bell.’
The particles, now known as Radiant Energy, coagulated behind Sanya to extend the surface. She laid down and looked at the ceiling. ‘What can I do after this?’
She scanned the room in search of an idea to train more this power. When her eyes landed on the fantasy book that she had bought the previous week, she shrugged her shoulders. ‘Reading might give ideas...Wait.’
When she was about to stand to get the book placed on her desk, a bulb lighted up in her head. She reached out with her hand toward the book. Radiant Energy appeared out of thin air and enveloped the piece of literature. It then transformed to form a miniature version of the cube-shape barrier. However, inside was not Sanya, but the book.
“Oh, it worked.” Sanya was genuinely surprised this worked. Nevertheless, she didn’t stop here. The miniature barrier, or more like a cage now, lifted up and arrived next to Sanya. It then dissipated and the book gently landed in her hands.
Still, Sanya didn’t immediately open it. In fact, her hands were clenching it tight close. Her eyebrows furrowed. ‘There is so much of the bell that I have yet to discover...Now is not the time to take a break.’
She held the book in front of her and closed her eyes. Once again, particles of Radiant Energy enveloped it. But, this time she didn’t create a cage.
Her eyelids twitched as she brought all her focus on the feedback coming from the particles. seconds felt like hours inside this extraordinary universe that was the Radiant Bell.
It was only after a few minutes that Sanya finally opened her eyes. Her hand was no longer holding the book, nor did it hit the floor. It was floating in the air just like gravity had suddenly stopped working on it. If one had good eyes, they could see something like an almost-transparent membrane around it.
Sanya nearly collapsed from fatigue after seeing the promising result. However, she still held strong and moved the book back to its original position. Striking the iron should be done while it was still red.
She took a deep intake of air to calm her beating heart. The concentration needed for this was really taking a toll on her. Still, after a moment she was good to go again. Her eyes swept over her room. She took out a band from her pocket and tied up her hair into a ponytail. With a hairstyle similar to her lover's one, she set her first true step to use the Radiant Bell to its full potential.
“If I want to obtain the two roots of this polynomial, I have to use this formula… thinking while remotely moving the pen is hard.”
Only after a mere hour, quite an extraordinary scene was taking place inside Sanya’s room. The blond-haired girl was leaning back like she was lying on a recliner. However, the only thing supporting her body was a curved partial barrier. The overall shape was made so that it would somehow be comfortable for the young girl to lay on it.
Still, this was not the only strange thing here. With her face pointing upward, Sanya was looking at an opened notebook in the air a few dozens of centimeters away from her. Scribbling on the sheet of paper was a flying mechanical pen. It was almost invisible, but there seemed to have a membrane around them. The equation of a second-degree polynomial was written just underneath some words indicating that it was a maths problem. The goal was to find the roots of the equation using a method seen in class.
Under Sanya’s control, the pen continued to write some pretty strangely formed letters and numbers. Right now, Sanya didn’t know if she should feel happy or not. ‘My control is quite good now. It became a lot easier to shape the partial barrier and to bend it to cover a specific object. By also making the right amount of Radiant Energy appear directly around the object, the speed greatly increased.’
While thinking this, Sanya grabbed the levitating book and pen. She then sat up. Under her, the partial barrier became just a flat surface. Sanya put down the book and pen next to her and looked at the nearly empty water bottle on her desk. She wiped the few droplets of sweat on her forehead while pointing her hand in the bottle direction.
Radiant Energy quickly appeared around the bottle before forming a thin membrane around. It was then drawn to Sanya like a magnet. She grabbed it midair and took the lid. As she began to drink, she could not help but think. ‘I can manipulate it without my hands, but I get a better precision by doing so….Might note this as well.’
She put down the now empty bottle and bent to reach for a notebook on the ground. It was a spare notebook that she had lying around. On the cover, curvy letters were written to form the words ‘Bell Experiment Notes’.
Sanya had decided that if she wanted to understand the thing around her neck, she might as well record all the information that she could collect. This would allow her to not forget essential or small details and to make different hypotheses. At the moment, the notebook was mostly full of blank sheets, but Sanya hoped that the time would come when she would need another one.
After noting down some important points, She stood up and made the flat partial barrier vanish. This resulted in her falling from a few centimeters above floor level. Normally this would be nothing for a healthy girl like her. But…
‘W-Woah! I nearly tripped down…’ Sanya stumbled around as she tried to maintain her balance. However her legs, no the whole body was too tired for this. She felt like she had just finished a long marathon. Fatigue hit her all of sudden.
In the end, she managed to reach her bed in order to lay down, the notebook against her chest. With a slow hand, she removed the band attached to her hair, making clear that she was done for today.
The notebook was put on the stool next to her. She slipped inside her bed sheets with difficulty. Before closing her eyes she recalled something. She checked her phone and saw a message coming from Talia saying her to have a good night.
A soft smile naturally spread across Sanya’s face as she thought of her lover. Then, an idea came up to her. ‘Should I tell about the change with the bell?’
Talia was the one that gave it to her, so it was technically now Sanya’s property. Still, Talia was a lot more experienced and knowledgeable than Sanya concerning things from outside this dimension.
After thinking for a while, Sanya finally shook her head. ‘No, not now. I still have found only a portion. What I can do with it is nothing compared to Talia herself. At least not before I find something too dangerous.’
The Radiant Bell was an artifact from an unknown place. Lord himself was unaware of its origin or what it was capable of. Talia had given it to her lover so that she could always be safe no matter the circumstances. Though, Sanya’s decision was perhaps borderline foolish from an outsider’s point of view.
But as this still innocent, frail little girl would learn in the future, this had the best decision that she could have ever made.
Sanya replied to her girlfriend and closed her phone. Her eyes closed as she was wondering if she would not be too tired to wake.
...The moment she entered the lands of dreams, the bell around her neck was pulsing with a light almost invisible to normal eyes.
The morning after, she succeeded in waking up in great conditions. It was almost like the training of the previous day was just a dream.
The only proof was the notebook next to her and the empty water bottle.