I was finally here; Avery’s home. I would say it was a lot larger than I expected but, by now, I wasn’t really surprised. The scale of everything I saw was larger in all aspects from the Arden Kingdom, as well as the more powerful System Specialisations and the apparent wealth of the people too. I suppose the thing I was most grateful was that there weren't any steps leading up the building.
Its material was unusual to my eyes but the majority of houses that I could see not only all looked very similar but were made of the same thing. For such a sturdy-looking home, it had to have been expensive to build so the similarities between all the houses--not to mention the sheer number of them as well--was very odd.
You see, whenever a nobleman or a wealthy merchant decided to settle down in the city and build themselves a nice, large home and some land they owned, they paid special attention to make sure it not only looked majestic but stood out from all the other houses too. With these houses here, however, it’s like the same person built each one and intentionally made them all look the same.
It was two-storeys tall with a triangular roof and many windows made from the same, crystal-clear material. There was no fence or gate protecting the building but, instead, out in front, was a clear, smooth surface without any weeds or grass or plants. It looked conspicuously empty.
But my comprehension and consuming of the scenery were short-lived as my mother gently ushered me in through the finely-made door.
Compared to the spacious interior I was expecting, it was shocking cramped when I first walked in. Well, not necessarily cramped--it was just smaller than I expected.
The room I was currently in was small and on one side of the wall were hooks, each hanging coats, jackets, and other outwear, like hats. On the other side was a shelf of some kind, containing shoes of various sizes and styles.
Through the door, again, I didn’t see much; half of it was simply a corridor with two doors while the other half was the stairs leading upwards to the first floor.
“Do you need some help going up the stairs?” My mother called out to me.
It was a valid question as even the smallest of incremental elevations were not that easy for me when walking outside so many steps sequentially would surely be difficult. However, I couldn’t just rely on her; I can’t just give in to the affection she’s showing me.
To do this, though, required quite a bit of effort on my part. I could see two ways of going about it; I could walk up the stairs like how one does normally, but with two crutches and one leg, or I could shuffle my way up one step at a time while clinging to the bannister,
Frankly, the first option was a bit terrifying so I chose the latter one. Taking one crutch and placing it next to the other like my mother showed me, I balanced and quickly reached out to the bannister. While the period of instability was only short, it was long enough for my heart to begin racing.
The next step, thankfully, was much easier; as I tightened my grip on the bannister, I placed my crutch on the first step and then pushed upwards to get my foot up, kind of like hoping. Repeating for each one, it must’ve taken me at least a minute to get all the way to the top.
At the top was, once again, another corridor! At one end was a window but at the other, behind the stairs, was what I could recognise as a desk alongside a bookshelf.
However, what stole my attention as I scanned across the landing was a lacquered piece of wood, nailed to a door near where I was standing. It was in the form of a golden, stylised beehive dripping with honey and the word ‘Avery’ written in an elaborate script.
Clearly, this must be my room.
With my hand on the handle, staring at the nameplate, I took one big breath in, and pushed open the door.
The walls were painted yellow and green and were adorned with floral patterns and images. Unlike the paintings I saw when eating, these were much more simplistic and stylised, as if intended for a child who could not appreciate the complexity and artistry of a realistic rendition.
In one corner, hugging the wall opposite the door, sat a purple bed that, from even a glance, looked tremendously comfy--it was all I could do to stop myself from sinking into it and looking at what else was here.
To my right was a large window with a desk right underneath it, and a bookshelf adjacent. What was the most unexpected aspect to this room, however, wasn’t the design or the colours but, rather, the glass-like habitat sat on a set of drawers.
My curiosity was instantly taken and, like a starved dog to some scant bit of food, I crowded around the enclosure, trying to see just what exactly was inside.
They were hard to spot, initially. They’re small and the dense foliage that made up their home inside this room hid them from view well but the unmistakable spiral-shaped shell and the moist, oozing body allowed me to identify exactly what they were:
Why were there snails? More importantly, why snails? I know that some people kept animals as pets--an uncommon practice in the Kingdom but I had heard it was much more popular in the nations without a monarchy--but, generally, those pets were useful. If they weren’t useful, they’re just an extra mouth to feed!
So why snails as pets? At least, I imagine they're pets. That or either livestock but I’ve never heard of anything eating snails not out of desperation and this family sure doesn’t look like it’s desperate for food at all.
Also, with dogs, there was companionship there! They could recognise you and show unconditional love towards you--it was always a shame that Father never agreed to let me keep that injured dog I encountered while hunting, now that I think about it--but snails? They don’t even have eyes!
My confusion was palpable and, looking for an answer, my eyes naturally drifted towards the ‘Snail Diary’ on the table, right by the habitat. I mean, if there was going to be an answer to all my questions, it’d be that, right?
The first page, however, was disappointing. It began with:
“Hello. My name is Shelly and I’ve just been brought to a new home.
“At first, I was scared; I was trapped all of a sudden and my world went dark! But then, the next thing I knew, there was light!
“The area around me both looked similar and didn’t; it was had soil, leaves, and more leaves. It was the perfect home. But I didn’t know where I was.
“I had nothing to fear, though. There was this really kind human had given me food and water.
“That was a day ago. Today, she’s given me more food and more water. She also must’ve given me this home. It seems she’s looking after me...”
The book itself was many pages long and, from a quick inspection, seemed to be only half full, but based off the content at the start, I doubted it would be of much use to ascertaining the mindset of the one who decided to keep snails as pets.
Maybe I was too impatient and judgemental and should’ve kept reading but, frankly, there was a different prize that I was a lot more eager to investigate than that diary.
Making my way over to the bookshelf, I had finally reached the thing that I had been waiting for ever since I had learnt of my System Specialisation. While the number of books was limited compared to the palace library, this repository of knowledge was the first of its kind that I had encountered here.
Firstly, books were cultural items that were not necessarily bounded by national borders; they transcended politics in the sense you could find a Temorial book in the Kingdom, and vice versa. If I could find a book I recognised, no matter how unlikely, it would be at least some information, some modicum of assurance, as to where I was.
Even in in the probable event that didn’t occur and the books were all as unfamiliar and alien to me as literally anything else I had experienced, they would be bountiful directories of knowledge; It’s been clear since the moment that I had woken up that there was much I did not know, did not understand, and that discrepancy in knowledge between what I had and what I should’ve had needed to be fixed and quickly.
There was just something telling me that all I had experienced was just the surface, and the sea below was endlessly deep and infinitely terrifying.
Books were hard to make and produce, requiring educated people months and years to write and transcribe and copy. Their rarity and the effort involved meant they were often commissioned by people of wealth and influence. This all contributed to the overwhelming majority of books written concerning the same general thing; accounts of historical events. Having a famous battle etched in history where the name of the commander would be forever remembered; it was things like this which encouraged so many books to be written. If one read all the books in the Kingdom, I doubt there’d be any major historical event that they would be unaware of.
With this knowledge in mind, imagine my utter shock and confusion when the books I saw were unlike anything I had ever read in the past. There was a mish-mash amalgamation of different genres and topics but they were all equally strange and esoteric.
However, that was just the minority. The majority of books, however, were about botany and entomology--plants and insects.
The floral decor, bee-based nameplate, natural colours, and snail habitat really should’ve prepared for me to realise this.
Well, at least it’s something.