Was that a lucky coincidence? In a way it feels too lucky, even for me, to be a mere coincidence. I can ponder about why that happened later. I walk up to the dead rabbit and remove the arrow from its body. Ugh, it feels yucky. I'm glad to have replicator food at home! But I have to say that slight blue hue is certainly interesting. Blue in one of the rarest natural occurring pigments in the universe. Does that colour give it an advantage at survival?
I take the rabbit to the area below the shuttle and to butcher the rabbit. I have Mittens create me some tools for that.
“Mittens, why did you get me a bucket and a rope?”, I ask.
“Cut open the throat and hang it from its leg over the bucket to drain the blood. Also, throw in the parts you do not need. I have discovered something that warrants testing.”
I take a knife and see in to the eyes of the dead rabbit. Can I really eat something this cute? Get a grip, Aster! It's already dead! You killed it, so you better eat it too! I cut it at its throat. Yuck, I don't like this sensation at all! Then, I take a robe and hang it over the bucket as Mittens suggested.
After the rabbit stops bleeding, I try to dismantle it. I've never done something like this before… In the simulation games, you usually give them to an NPC that takes care of that for you. I work on the rabbit for a while. Eventually, I have managed to separate the skin, bones and innards from the meat. But the meat and everything else are in little chunks. This is much harder than it looks. And it takes a lot of stamina, too.
“Mittens, <huff>, I need cookware. And a fire source for cooking.”
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I'm panting, but I have to force myself to breathe slowly, with this much oxygen in the air, it's easy to hyperventilate.
“It is in the middle of winter, any wood you collect is not going to be dry enough. I will synthesize a gas cooker along with the cookware for you. But can you bring the bucket and its contents inside to the replicator?”
“Of course,” I take the bucket into the shuttle.
“Put it onto the shelf in the replicator.”
I do as Mittens asks. The bucket along with its contents dematerializes. After that, a block of metal with a depression and a dial appears, along with a pot.
“I discovered a possibility to recover energy by using an undocumented feature of the replicator. You can put in raw material for the replicator to process or dematerialize. The theoretical energy is the total Mass Deficit.”
“So I can put in this meat and have the replicator process it to a steak?”
“Technically, yes, but judging from the experiment just now, the efficiency with light materials like most organic matter does not seem to be enough to justify using it. It might work better with heavier materials like heavy metals, preferably with an atomic weight of at least 200 u.”
“In the end, I still have to cook myself.”
“Yes, you do. Since it is your first time, I suggest you make stew. That way, you will be unlikely to burn the meat.”
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I get the gas cooker and put a pot on it. Then, I put the meat and some snow into the pot, and turn the dial of the gas cooker. I hear a hissing noise.
“For this model, you need to turn up the dial further than the maximum setting to activate the ignition crystal.”
I do as Mittens instructs, and a little spark lights up the gas. Soon the snows in the pot melts. That isn't enough water to cover the meat, I continue putting in more snow to get more water. After I have amassed enough water, I stop putting in snow. The water starts steaming lightly. After a while, the water bubbles. The bubbling becomes more violent over time.
“You need to turn the output down a little, so the water still boils but doesn't boil over.”
I turn down the dial a little. After letting it cook for a half an hour, Mitten tells me it should be ready for eating. I switch off the cooker and wait for the pot to cool down. I fish out a chunk of cooked meat and put it into my mouth to eat.
This taste?! Is this the taste of cooked meat? It's so overwhelming!
“This tastes so simple, but it's so good!”
Sure, the other tastes are missing… but still…! If other self-made food is like this, I'm not sure if I can ever enjoy replicator food again… Am I just imagining things? I finish my meal and walk around the temple for a stroll.
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I remember the unusual behaviour of the arrow. Maybe Aura knows something about it. I enter the temple. A gentle breeze greets me when I enter. It feels like walking through an air veil back on Terra. It is me, or is it much warmer in here since before? I take off my coat and clip the microphone and speaker to my shirt. Yes, it's as warm in here as it is in my shuttle!
“I'm back, Aura,” I announce myself.
“Welcome back,” the voice answers.
“Did you make it warmer in here?”
“We offered you sanctuary.”
“Thank you, but doesn't it take a lot of power to heat this place?”
“Don't worry… life is valuable.”
“Life is valuable. I guess this is the reason I was asked not to kill animals in here,” I mutter.
I look at the inscription on the back again.
When the moon and the sun equal in strength, gentle winds announce the departure of Eata and with it, the arrival of Aura. Now the ▢▢ have run their yearly cycle, we celebrate them who bring the ▢▢ and the return of life…
I can't read the symbols mixed into the translation. I guess Mittens hasn't been able to translate them yet… So Aura is a deity or some other transcendent worshipped being… They seem to represent spring. It seems Eata represents winter. I don't believe in the transcendent. I assume they were an AI left over from some advance civilization that has since left the planet.
No, that would require a power source for the AI to run. I'm sure Mittens would have notified me there was something like that around. Furthermore, an AI with this level of functions should be able to communicate via Radio or Subspace signals. So is an actual deity to the people of this planet? Or just a worshipped spirit? And what is it really? Some advanced life form? Whatever it is, it gives me a convenient explanation for Mittens: Mittens is my personal guardian deity that inhabits my shuttle.
Young ones that have seen ▢▢ years of life, present yourself to them that ▢▢ the ▢▢. If you are ▢▢, you shall receive their blessing, call upon the help of green ▢▢. Wind, earth, ▢▢ …
Aura's blessing is command of the winds? Like in Green Magic?! My arrow shot… I'll ask.
“When I was hunting earlier…”
“… you used my blessing,” Aura finishes my sentence.
Did I really gain the power to control the wind? No, magic is not real! There must be another explanation!
Even if you were denied their blessing, continue your ▢▢ and present yourself to Altis, Eos and Eata. Altis shall expect your arrival when the sun is at its strongest.
This temple is just the first stop of a pilgrimage… Since you might receive a blessing here, I guess you might get blessings at the other temples, too.
“Altis represents summer,” I speak my mind, “they will receive the pilgrims at the beginning of summer.”
“You are knowledgeable,” Aura answers, “you are qualified to receive all of our blessings.”
“That sounds nice, but sorry, I don't believe in magic.”
“For those that have or seek greater knowledge and believe in the blessings, there exists a greater truth to be discovered. You have the knowledge, but without belief, the truth will remain out of reach to you. Not many have the chance to seek the greater truth. You have witnessed the blessing before. Feel the possibilities of the blessings!”
The voice has become more compassionate. But they are right, I did see that arrow move along a very unnatural path. Maybe there's something more to this. I should check it out.
“But this sure sounds like quite a convoluted fetch quest…” I mumble.
Suddenly, a window appears in my vision.
The Greater Truth
You have been offered a quest: The Greater Truth.
Aura implies you have the ability to discover the truth. You only have to believe in blessings that Aura and their peers offer.
Would you like to accept?
“Mittens? Is that window your handiwork?”
“You did say it sounds like a convoluted fetch quest. I simply took the liberty of creating a visualization of that comment of yours,” Mittens answers.
“But this isn't a game…”
“Yes, that statement is correct, but that venture Aura proposes could end up worthwhile pursuing. Even though we don't have an explanation for the phenomenon we witnessed earlier, if you can learn to control it and similar ‘magical’ feats, it should help you with surviving on this planet.”
“I see… You have convinced me. We'll have a look at it. Let's say I believe in this blessing. How do I control it?”
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“Feel, search, imagine,” Aura answers, “feel my blessing, search for my blessing within you, imagine using my blessing.” I feel a gentle breeze blowing again.
“Feel… feel the blessing… I can feel a breeze… Is this breeze part of your blessing too?”
“My blessing embraces you.”
I can't tell if I am imagining it, but something feels different about the breeze… Some kind of warmth seems to flow into my body. It's an unusual kind of warmth, it also feels somewhat cold at the same time. I have to believe this blessing to be real… Is this warmth the blessing I'm supposed to find within me? I close my eyes. This sensation… it spreads throughout my body… Where does it come from? It seems it's connected to my lungs… Is it generated by breathing? So do I need to breathe faster? Inhale, exhale. Inhale, exhale. No, the warm sensation is waning! I need to calm down my breathing! Inhale… exhale… inhale… exhale… This reminds me of meditation. Inhale… exhale… inhale… exhale… I feel the warm sensation returning.
This blessing gives me command of the wind… and this temple is somewhat dusty. If this works, I can practice this by cleaning up the temple!
So how do I use the blessing? Do I just imagine what I need? I want the dust in the temples to move outside. Nothing happens. I guess that was too vague! Move the air fast enough to take the dust out all at once. I can feel the air moving. I open my eyes again. The dust is still in the temple — all I've done is blowing it up. Now I have to wait until the dust settles to try again.
“This is much harder than I thought,” I mumble.
“My blessing is not easily be controlled by people of uncalm mind,” Aura replies.
So I need to meditate. I end up spending the rest of the day trying to meditate. Inhale… exhale… inhale… exhale… Clear my mind. When night falls, I return to my shuttle to sleep. Usually, a shuttle has two folding beds in the back. But they are not very comfortable, so I had hooks for hammocks installed in my shuttle. Maybe it's just me that prefers sleeping in a hammock. I hang up the hammock and go to sleep.
CC-BY 4.0 q. Thái “0xReki” Chung