Chapter 6 - Settling in
Emma carefully set down the bowl of water on a shelf and scanned the long room that was the inn’s pantry. There were two doors facing each other, about a third down the long sides. One went into the kitchen, and the other out into the courtyard. Shelves filled with foodstuffs took up most of the walls, interspersed with a couple of lamps which kept the room well lit. Bushels of herbs hung from the ceiling, adding even more aromas to the already heavy air.
Emma found what she was looking for and went over to a shelf filled with wrapped packages. She put down the empty bowl and reached for the package containing goat. Carefully, she unwrapped the meat, making sure not to rip the conservation paper. Mom had gotten very angry at her last time she did that. After Dad had calmed her down, they had explained that the paper was very expensive, and that she had to be very careful with it.
She removed her knife from its sheath on her belt and started to carefully cut small pieces of meat off, making sure to keep the sharp blade well away from her fingers and the paper. Her parents had given it to her during last Ostara, on her insistence that now that she was 10 springs old she could handle it and that she wanted to be more useful. They had acceded on the condition that if she cut herself she would not get the knife back until the wound had healed on its own.
After filling the bowl and putting back the meat she quickly grabbed the water bowl and went back into the kitchen. She was halfway across to the living room door when her mother called out to her.
“Now remember that you still have to be up early tomorrow. If you’re going to keep insisting you’re not a child anymore, then you will have to earn your stay like the rest of us.”
Turning, Emma widened her eyes and activated her Puppy Eyes Skill, “But Mom, I have to make sure he feels at home, so he’ll come back.” Emma pleaded.
Her mother scoffed, “You know there’s no such Skill as Puppy Eyes right?”
Eyes widening, Emma looked at her mother in awe, how did she know? Then her eyes narrowed suspiciously, her mom’s lips were twitching. “Dad told me there was,” she tested.
Not being able to contain it longer, her mother let out a short laugh, slapping her thighs. “Hahahah, ooh, the both of you are so gullible sometimes. No Emma, there’s no such Skill as Puppy Eyes. But, it is a lower case ‘s’ skill, and those are important too,” She reassured her miffed daughter, “It needs some improvement, but you succeeded well enough this time. You can stay up a little longer,” Holding up a hand to preempt her daughters almost explosive gratitude she added, “but, I want you in bed before half midnight you hear? Can I trust you to keep track yourself?”
Hiding her disappointment, Emma hurriedly let out a quick, “Yes, mom, thank you!” and hurried towards the living room. They had started cleaning up at early night bell as usual and that usually took more than a quarter bell, leaving her with maybe half a quarter bell left. She was not willing to push her mother further though, so she instead set out to make the most of the time she had. She pushed open the door to the living room, brimming with newfound determination and excitement.
I felt my ears twitch, reacting to a soft sound coming from somewhere in front of me. As I slowly drifted back to consciousness, my nose registered something smelling intensely right in front of me. Opening my eyes, I blinked and tried to identify the huge pink-red thing that was floating right in front of me. Wait, what the hell is that!? Feeling the hairs rise on my back, I jumped back, hitting some sort of soft wall.
“Aah!” Someone called out, and something behind the pink-red thing moved.
I jumped again at the sound and replied with my own, “Aaah!” Well, I tried, the sound coming out of my muzzle was more of a low growl.
The thing sitting on the floor exclaimed something in a calming tone and I saw that it was Emma. She was making placating gestures with her hands, one still holding the red-pink thing. Meat, i realized, she’s holding a piece of meat. There were two bowls set down on the floor next to her, one filled with meat and one filled with water.
‘Ah, right, food for the cat,’ I realized, ‘The cat being me, of course,’ I added eagerly, licking my chops. I hadn’t eaten anything since I arrived in this world, and that had been at least half a day ago.
Emma sat back up from where she had tumbled backwards and held up the piece of meat again. Smelling it tentatively, my instincts told me it was meat, raw meat.
‘Hmmm, it does smell delicious, but eating meat raw?’ My human side endeavoured. My stomach decided to add its two cents to the discussion, grumbling softly.
‘Well, it does smell delicious, and I am a cat,’ my logical side concluded.
I carefully snatched the small piece from Emma’s fingers and tried chewing it down a bit.
‘Mm, yeah, my sense of taste is definitely different, this is really tasty! Though not having any proper teeth to chew with will definitely take a while to get used to,’ I thought, as I realized that while small, the piece of meat was still too big for me to easily swallow.
‘Hm, lets try something different,’ I thought, and jumped down onto the floor.
I put the piece down on the floor and held it down with my paw. Like this I could then easily tear off smaller pieces with my teeth like I had seen cats do in my previous life.
After finishing my morsel, I turned back to Emma, who must have noticed my struggles as she was industriously cutting down the rest of the meat into smaller pieces with a small knife.
‘Ok, I know I said before that being a pet would come with benefits, but this is getting a bit ridiculous…’ I thought and padded over to where she was working.
I buffed my head against her side to get her attention, and tried to look reproachful as she turned towards me. I looked back to the bowl of meat, letting out a soft meow. She looked confused for a while, but then she seemed to realize what I was trying to tell her. She sat back on the fluffy pelt and sheathed her knife, looking slightly disappointed. Sighing, I buffed her on the knee again, doing my best to look grateful. That seemed to liven her up again, as she let out a small laugh and said something in a cheerful tone.
After that I managed to eat my meal in relative peace. Emma was telling me a riveting tale filled with excitement, overcoming of obstacles, and general badassery. Or so I imagined at least, I couldn’t understand a word except the occasional “Milo”. I really needed to figure out this language.
Once I had finished eating, I licked my chops contentedly and opened my status to check my conditions. It seemed the meal and water had been enough to get rid of the hunger and thirst conditions I had before. I noted that my Stamina had been changed to “Full” as well.
Looking over to Emma, I saw that she had sat herself down by the wall next to the fire, head resting against it. Her eyes were closed, and her breathing had slowed. I sighed and went over, waking her up with a slight bump of my head against her side. She let out a complaining mumble, though she did open her eyes.
“Meow,” I said sternly.
She seemed to agree, as she stood up and started tiredly walking towards the stairs. I followed her up the stairs and to the right. I almost ran into her as she came back towards the stairs just as I rounded the corner. She had opened the door that sat in the wall just right to the stairs, and was now facing the lamp which was mounted on the short bit of wall between the stairs and the door.
She grabbed a small stick from a tray which was mounted next to the lamp and then opened a small hinged cover on the lamp, allowing her to hold the stick in the flames. After a short moment, the stick lit on fire as well. After carefully closing the cover, Emma gingerly held the stick in one hand and headed into the room.
I followed her into the room curiously, studying it as I entered. The room was dark save for the tiny flame on the stick as well as the moonlight streaming in from a small window set in the opposite wall of the door. There was more than enough light for me though, as my eyes quickly adjusted to the darkness, revealing the entire room in monochrome.
The room was square and large enough to house a bed that seemed much too large for Emma, a sizable wardrobe, and a large ironbound chest. Next to the bed was a small table with a standing lamp and a small thin book. The floor was clear of stuff save for another fluffy pelt, feeling nice against my pads as I followed Emma towards the bed. The room smelled strongly of Emma, that odd specific mixture of body odours and general smells that made up the unique signature of someone’s scent.
Emma arrived at the lamp standing on the small table and opened a similar little cover on it. She reached in with the tiny flame on the stick, lighting the lamp. After putting out the small stick and putting it on a tray, she went over to the window and opened it.
At seeing this, I excitedly ran over to below the window. I could finally get out to explore! I quickly jumped up on the windowsill and started looking for a way down to the courtyard. I was interrupted by a soft word from Emma. I looked up at her and saw her pensive expression, she was reaching out slightly as if to stop me from heading out. Sighing, I turned around and buffed my head against her belly. Looking back up at her I let out a firm meow.
Suddenly I was enveloped in two giant arms, brown hair cascading around me. “Oh Milo, <something something something>”.
‘I know, I am the best.’
After letting me back down on the windowsill, she went over to the bed and prepared herself to go to sleep. She changed into some sort of pyjamas and turned down the lamp as far as it would go without actually extinguishing it.
“<something>, Milo,“ she murmured as she was pulling up the covers, eyes already closing.
“Meow,” I replied softly.