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The next day, Rowan leads me to the village and introduces me to everybody in the village. It's so many people, I can't remember all their names. Luckily, Mittens is keeping track for me. Everybody seems to know each other here. Usually, they'd spread the news about the feast this evening among themselves, but since I'm staying here for longer, we're telling them as I being introduced.

In the early afternoon, We enter a smithy.

“Hey, Beretta, I've brought company!”

A young, muscular Felinefolk woman with dark hair with amber and red highlights comes to the front and greets us.

“Good afternoon! What can I do for you?”

“This is Aster, he'll be staying at my place for now.”

“It's a pleasure to meet you. I'm Aster.”

“I'm Faberetta. Like everyone here, you can also call be Beretta, I'm the local smith. I specialize in handling blessings grade Banum.”

“Banum?” I ask.

Faberetta hands me a dagger. It's made of a slightly silver blueish metal. I get my knife from my pocket. They're both about the same size, but the Banum knife is much lighter.

“May I see that knife?” Faberetta asks.

I hand her my knife.

“At first glance, it looks like a simple iron knife. But this is steel, and it's unlike any kind of steel I've ever seen before. Just by looking at it, I can tell they should last about as long as my Banum knives, although my Banum knives are much lighter.”

So Banum is a metal about as strong as steel but much lighter… is it Titanium? Or maybe Chromium?

“My knife is made from something I know as stainless steel: as long you don't expose it to rust, the steel protects itself against rusting.”

“I can't tell by looking, but it's possible it's made by adding Banum to the Steel alloy.”

Faberetta looks at my knife for a while and then states: “No, I don't sense any Banum in the knife at all.”

Sense? That's odd… My guess is Banum is most likely Titanium. Stainless steel has Chromium added to it. I try giving Faberetta back the knife, but she refuses.

“Keep it.”

“Are you sure?” I ask.

“If it were just about the normal use, I'm sure your knife will be useful. But Banum tools work a lot better in conjunction with blessings. With that strong blessing of yours, I'm sure you'll find a use for it.”

“But isn't making those tools expensive?”

“Yes, it's a gift celebrating us getting to know each other. I'm sure you'll be back for more.”

She wholeheartedly laughs.

“Thanks a lot, then. I'll use it with care.”

And I'll have Mittens analyze it at some point.

“Before we forget,” Rowan adds, “We're preparing a feast for this evening. There's even Snow Boar.”

“Is that so? Thanks for telling me. I'll make sure to drop by.”

“You're welcome,” Rowan says, “see you later.”

“See you later.”

❄ ❅ ❆ ❄ ❅ ❆ ❄ ❅ ❆ ❄ ❅ ❆

Rowan and I go back to the elder's house to get the meat. I follow Rowan to another house further to the north. Some villagers are preparing a fire.

Inside, Rowan calls for the owner: “Uncle, we're bringing in the meat.”

“Ah, there you are, Rowan, I heard you and your friend hunted something big,” a middle-aged man answers. His hair has red and blue highlights.

“Aster hunted a Snow Boar,” Rowan shows him the meat.

“Hello, my name is Aster.”

“I'm Nell. As you can see, I'm the butcher of the village. During pilgrimage season, I also sell grilled meat to travellers.

I see the boar is already disassembled.”

“Rowan warned me about Snow Boars having poisonous innards,” I answer, “so I let him do it.”

“Yes, that meat looks fine. If only your skills in cooking would improve…”

“Are you really that bad with cooking?” I ask Rowan.

“I fear that's a lost cause,” Rowan answers, “besides, I don't need to be able to cook to become a merchant.”

“So you're still set on becoming a merchant. I guess I'll have to find a different person to succeed me,” Nell turns to me, “how about you?”

“I haven't really cooked before, but I'm willing to at least try to learn it.”

“Alright, help me with preparing this meat!”

“Are you sure? I've never done anything like this before!”

“It's just something simple this time,” Nell shows me some red powder, “this is Red Spice, it's made from fruits that grow in these parts.”

That's… a simple name. He rubs some powder onto the meat. I take a little powder and try smelling it. It has a slightly cheesy smell to it. The powder tastes salty and slightly sweet. I rub the powder in my hand onto a different piece of meat. Is this enough? Yeah, it's looks about the same as the chunk Nell prepared. He grins.

“Is something amiss?” I ask.

“It's nothing…” he answers.

After we're done with the meat, Rowan tells me to rest for a bit.

❄ ❅ ❆ ❄ ❅ ❆ ❄ ❅ ❆ ❄ ❅ ❆

A few hours later, I hear someone knocking on the door. I get the door. It's Rowan.

“I assume it's time, Rowan?” I ask.

“Yes, everything is ready. We're only waiting for you.”

We go to the plaza. Rowan leads me to a seat next to the elder.

“Since we're all here, let me formally introduce Aster to all of you. He comes from a place far away and is not privy to our customs. Due to circumstances, he'll be staying in our village. Even though his home doesn't have such traditions, he decided to join Rowan on his pilgrimage.”

The villagers cheer.

“Thank you for the warm welcome. Even though it will not be for long, I'm looking forward to staying here in Dewick Village.”

We begin eating. The meat is red outside. Cutting it reveals the colour is just on the outer layer. Inside, it's completely cooked. I put a piece into my mouth. The grilled meat tastes… for lack of better words… great. I expected something like the flavours of the spice and the flavour of the meat. Yet, the taste of the grilled meat is completely different.

“This is so good!” I exclaim.

“Yeah it is, but I should warn you some richer folks don't like the red colour,” Nell answers.

“I see, I will keep that in mind,” I take a sip of wine.

The wine tastes slightly unusual to me. I don't dislike it, but I can't put my finger on what the difference is…

“Is something amiss, Aster?” Rowan asks.

“It's nothing much, the wine just tastes kind of unexpectedly different from what I'm used to. I mean, yes, it obviously tastes different, but this feels like something else. The food as well, it's like everything I've tasted before was just a cheap imitation.”

“I will gladly teach you anything I know about cooking,” Nell answers, “here, have another cup of wine.”

❄ ❅ ❆ ❄ ❅ ❆ ❄ ❅ ❆ ❄ ❅ ❆

I wake up in my bed. Ugh… I have a terrible headache…

“Good Morning, Aster,” Mittens greets me, “I should have warned you about the alcohol.”

“Good Morning… What about the alcohol?”

“Beverages from the replicator commonly have their alcohol content limited to 1%, stronger beverages up to 5%. To preserve the taste, a suitable amount of compounds with similar tastes but without the intoxicating effect are added.”

“So yesterday, when I was drinking as always…”

“… you were drinking quite a lot more alcohol than you are used to. Acute symptoms of alcohol poisoning may include confusion, vomiting, seizures, loss of short-term memory, slow breathing, irregular breathing, pale skin, hypothermia and unconsciousness. Secondary effects up to a day after that are commonly called hangovers. Typical symptoms of a hangover may include headache, drowsiness, concentration problems, dry mouth, dizziness, fatigue, gastrointestinal distress, absence of hunger, light sensitivity, depression, sweating, nausea, hyper-excitability, irritability…”

“I get it,” I interrupt Mittens, “is there something I can do against this headache?”

“Usually I would suggest you taking isotonic beverages. Just drinking water should help a little too.”

“But man, I don't remember anything from yesterday evening. What did I even do?”

“Too much to summarize into one sentence.”

I hear someone knocking on the door.

“Aster, are you awake?” Rowan asks.

“Yes, I am,” I answer, “give be a minute.”

I hurriedly get out of bed, get dressed and open the door.

“Good morning!”

“Good morning, Rowan, I still have a headache, but at least I can move.”

“You don't have to push yourself. I have already explained to everyone you only have diluted wine at your place. Just be careful the next time.”

“Thanks, Rowan. Did I… did I do something yesterday? I don't remember.”

Rowan blushes and looks away, “no, nothing special.”

This doesn't bode well. What on earth did I do?!

“Let's go downstairs for breakfast,” Rowan suggests.

❄ ❅ ❆ ❄ ❅ ❆ ❄ ❅ ❆ ❄ ❅ ❆

Arriving downstairs, we are greeted by Granny Fezzoxa.

“Dewick's newest couple has come for breakfast”, she says with a big grin.

“Grandma!” Rowan protests.

“Couple?” I ask, “who? Rowan and I?”

“Yes, couple,” Granny answers, “Rowan and you. I take it you don't remember?”

“No, I don't remember anything at all.”

“This makes this a little difficult… Yesterday, you proposed to Rowan, in front of everyone in the village. Even though you were drunk, you were so blunt about it, it's hard to imagine you wouldn't have done that even if you had been sober.”

“I… I see. I don't know how it happened. Would you be so kind and tell me what exactly did I do?”

“You caressed Rowan's ears in front of everyone. According to our customs, that's a proposal.”

“That's a proposal?!” I open my eyes wide.

“Yes, so… I take it you didn't know about this?”

“No, I didn't know this. I hope I didn't embarrass you too much, Rowan.”

“I… I don't mind,” Rowan answers, “and… I don't mind accepting your proposal. You are quite a cutie.”

“That's natural… wait, you don't?!”

He thinks I'm cute. I guess given we're betrothed now, I'll accept it. I can feel myself blushing.

“And there's no problem with us being… of the same sex?” I ask. Not that I have a problem with it, I swing both ways.

“No, why would that ever be a problem?” he answers, shaking his head, “we only have to finish the pilgrimage first.”

“I see. I'm not intending to, but just for me to know: what would be the consequences of me taking back that proposal?”

“Taking back your proposal would shame me.”

“I… I see. I have interfered with your life without knowing it. Drunk or not, I will have to answer for my actions. So… I will do my best. I'm counting on you as well, honey.”

“If… if you call me honey, I guess call you cutie,” he answers while blushing.

“That was definitely not what I was prepared for. Please tell me if I'm about to break a spoken or unspoken rule.”

“I'll try my best, cutie.”

❄ ❅ ❆ ❄ ❅ ❆ ❄ ❅ ❆ ❄ ❅ ❆

“Since we're talking about things now”, Granny Fezzoxa continues, “you should know all elderly here know you're what we call ‘a person from beyond the sky’. And Rowan here discovered that when he brought you to bed yesterday.”

From beyond the sky? So they know I'm an alien? Does that mean I'm not the first alien to arrive on this planet?

“I… I see.”

“And we, I mean Rowan, Cyma and I, know about Mittens.”

What? How did that happen?

“It's a spirit that follows you around, isn't? You do talk to it from time to time.”

That seems like a misunderstanding, but then, they are my family now. Should I tell them about the shuttle?

“You don't need to force yourself,” Fezzoxa continues, “just know, no matter what secrets you have, you're one of us now.”

Let's do this.

“It's almost correct. Let's go outside the village, Ro… honey. I'll show you first, I don't think I can properly explain it without showing it to you.”

“Outside the village?” he asks.

“Yes, Mittens is outside the village, to the East.”

❄ ❅ ❆ ❄ ❅ ❆ ❄ ❅ ❆ ❄ ❅ ❆

We walk outside the village. Ten minutes later, the shuttles comes towards us.

“What is that?” Rowan asks, “I've never seen anything like it!”

“That's a ‘flying home’, as Aura calls it,” I answer, “Mittens is inside.”

The shuttle lands near us and opens the door. I enter and gesture Rowan to follow.

“So this is a flying home…”

“Welcome to the Speeding Kitten, Rowan,” Mitten answers, “I am Mittens. I guess congratulations on your engagement are in order.”

“That voice…”, Rowan looks around for the source of the voice.

“Mittens is the voice of this… no, let me rephrase this: you can think of Mittens like something similar to a spirit that inhabits this ‘flying home’.”

“Flying homes are ancient artifacts from the Age of Spirits!!” Rowan exclaims, “nobody is able to use them! I've never seen one… so that's how they look like…”

“An ancient artifact? From your standpoint, I guess it's natural to call it an artifact. I wouldn't call it ancient, though.”

“So everything you told be about yourself…”

“No, I didn't lie,” I interrupt him, “I just left out a lot of details.”

“I guess you're worried about what others think about you having a flying home.”

“Yes, that's about it.”

“There's shouldn't be any problems with it. People might revere you, but that would be all. If I didn't know you're just a person like any other I would too. As grandma said, you're one of us now, no matter what secrets you have.”

“So there's no danger of people wanting to steal from me? Or worse, killing me to get their hand on it?”

“No, you should be fine. Not many would think to attack someone chosen by both Aura, or an artifact as this. People fear the retaliation of the spirits.”

“Chosen?”

“People that the spirits have been spoken to receive stronger blessings. You can see it by looking at their hair, part of your hair changes colour when receive a blessing. The more intensive the colour is, the stronger your blessing becomes. Also, it's said when you reach a certain level, you can sense how strong people are. So with a hair of such a strong shade of wind as yours, I doubt people will dare to touch you.”

Shade of wind? So, wind is also considered a colour on this planet.

“I see. I haven't checked my hair recently.”

I take out my personal terminal and set it in mirror mode. Looking at my terminal, I see I have bright lime coloured highlights in my dark hair.

“I haven't noticed my hair changed.”

“Anyway, you should decide to bring the shut-el to the village, you can put it on the plot to the left of grandma's house. That place was abandoned.”

“Was?”

“The plan is to fix that place up for the two of us to move there. Originally, we just wanted to eventually fix that place just for you, but we're a couple now. Since I'm to move to your place, it'll happen sooner.”

❄ ❅ ❆ ❄ ❅ ❆ ❄ ❅ ❆ ❄ ❅ ❆

Having parked the shuttle in the village, we go back to the elder's house. The villagers seem to be surprised to see it at first, but as they see Rowan and me leaving the craft, their expressions calm rather quickly.

After consulting Rowans and Mittens, Rowan and I are back at the elder's house. A young Vulpinefolk woman and a Procyoninefolk man of the same age join us in the meeting. The woman, I think she was called Ruby, has bright red hair with green and white highlights. From what I can recall, she's a mason.

The man has brown hair with green and white highlights of slightly different hues. Both the woman's vulpine ears and the man's procyonine ears are pointed upwards. I think his name was Tom They are glaring at each other. I don't think they get along.

“I assume this is about fixing up the house next door?” Ruby asks, “I can't think of another reason why you would have me sit at the same table with this stinking raccoon.”

“I was about to say the same, stinking fox!”

“Please,” Granny reacts, “I know you currently aren't the best of friends. But jobs like these require you to work together. Aster has some special needs for the house.”

“Basically, I want to be able to ‘dock’ the flying home to the house. But the house should be able to function as a house even when the shuttle isn't there. As for the implementation, I just need a gate or door to the outside at the end of the hallway. It needs to be big enough, so I can align the door of the shuttle to it.”

“Why not use the back door?” Ruby asks.

“What? Are you too lazy to do the work?” Tom interject.

Everyone present glares at Tom.

“Sorry,” he mumbles.

“I'd like to have a usable back door, even the flying home is there,” I answer.

“I see, that's not a problem, but wouldn't that let in the cold?” she asks.

“No, I just need to temporarily stuff the seam with something insulating, like wool or hemp,” I answer, “after that, it's just a matter of making a wooden cover for purely aesthetic purposes to hide the seam.”

“Purely aesthetic?” Tom reacts to the mention of some carpeting, “I see, it's so you can just remove it when you need to remove the flying home. It's not how I do my craft, but I can see why you need it. How about we make it you can remove the door and hang that aesthetic frame to hinges?”

“That'd be perfect!”

“Good, do you have any other special needs with the house?”

I glance at Rowan. He shakes his head.

“No, that'd be all for now.”

CC-BY 4.0 quốc Thái “RPGReki” Chung
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RPGReki

Bio: IT Guy getting into writing fiction.

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