I slowly made my way to the office where we had first met. The human still followed me but was barely able to move faster than a crawl. She was about as fast as I had been when I began training here. As I rolled forward, I kept my eye on her to ensure she didn’t fall too far behind. She hobbled along, with the help of her makeshift cane, carrying the bag she had dropped earlier. It looked awkward, but I didn't think there was anything I could do to help. When we got to the office, the door was still open, and the floors were clean. Passing through to the inner door, I saw that my human was burdened and likely would have a difficult time opening it herself. I extended my arm and opened it for her, my chassis swelling with pride at how helpful the new attachment allowed me to be.
Reading human faces was not my strong suit, but even I could see she was confused. I guess that makes sense. My kind can't normally open doors, and she probably thought she would have to open it for me. I'll just take that as a sign of my impressive capabilities growing further. We moved into the room. There was a huge mess by the door. It looked like one of the storage units had fallen over and scattered objects all over the floor. In fact, this room was quite different from the rest of them. The whole thing was lined with storage units, and many of the same square-like objects were placed upon them. They all appeared to have squiggles and symbols on them, similar to those that sometimes appeared in my vision. Idly, I wondered about that.
As we moved into the room, she hesitated. I rolled off to the side, waiting for her to lead the way, but she just sat there. After waiting, I began to explore the room. Finally, taking a step forward, she moved to a bench and stood by it. I beeped at her before continuing to scan. Several more of these rectangular objects were scattered about it. Some were split in half, lying with their paper insides exposed. I thought this room was rather odd. It was clearly made to store many things. However, the use of space is not efficient. All the storage area was only on the walls leaving the floor open. While I enjoyed having an open floor plan. I don't think this was the best layout. Instead of more storage, aligning with the theme of the room, there were tables. A dozen or so empty tables with chairs.
I'm actually a rather large fan of tables. They are always easy to navigate around because the legs are long enough to get under them. Also, their bases are widely enough spaced that it's not hard to fit. Why the humans needed so many here was beyond me. At least the tables match the floors. The floors were beautiful hardwood that I've seen elsewhere around here. The tables were made out of a complementary color, a bit lighter and shade but still actually crafted. On the ends of the chairs and table legs were soft pads so the chairs and tables would glide over the hardwood without worrying about damaging it. I appreciate the care that went into maintaining this room.
The human started flipping through what appeared to be stacked sheets of paper in them. I didn’t quite understand the purpose but trusted that the human knew what she was doing. Perhaps the paper would make her less sad?
As I got to work, I checked in on the human occasionally to see what she was doing. It appeared she had finally moved. She had sat down at one of the tables and removed some glass items from her bag, lots of them, and others I didn’t recognize. The items all looked freshly cleaned or at least, pristine enough that my previous humans would have put them back in the cabinets for storage. She began to place some smaller bags on the table. These appeared to contain dirt, dust, and other kinds of powder. As I watched, she began to carefully scoop the debris from the bags into the clean containers, dirtying them and creating some mixture of various kinds of dust.
I had seen behavior like this before. Taking items that had previously been well-organized and stored, creating chaos out of them, then placing that chaos into previously clean containers. All the while dirtying a series of implements and tools. It reminded me of the strange ritual called “cooking” back home. It had never quite made sense to me. Even if humans consumed these mixtures for energy, why not simply consume each component in its native form? It would save time and energy, making for less mess.
Perhaps it was a way for my humans to generate more cleaning for themselves, to keep themselves busy and interested in the work. That might explain why some more challenging stains and messes could always be found in the kitchen. Satisfied with my explanation, I continued. Though, I think I'd need to set a good example and teach her the proper ways of keeping a clean house.
It was a long trip back to the library. Not because it was a far distance but because it seemed to Bee that it stretched forever. She moved as fast as she could, trying to keep up with Void, but it was difficult. When they reached the door, Void took the same arm it had used to touch her before and opened it without an issue.
She was shocked. Standing in the doorway for a second, Bee considered the implications. It could have gotten to her anytime it wanted. Without even destroying the door. It had been a faint hope that maybe the only thing keeping it from her was that it didn't want to damage its new property, as it didn't seem to be destructive. But seeing that it could have just opened the door and followed her… well, Bee doubted the bookcase barricade would have stopped it. But she had been paying attention and didn't even hear it try. It must have left her alone as it did in the broom closet for some reason.
Taking this as proof that her soul was what the demon wanted, Bee was convinced that was what it was after all along. It seemed to be waiting for something, so she moved to her table with her books and bags of powder from her last trip. Setting her bag down, Bee unpacked the alchemy equipment and supplies she gathered. Taking a quick glance at Void, she noticed it was no longer watching her and was pacing around the room. She took advantage of this to quickly stuff some food in her mouth and wash it down with the water-filled wineskin. She did her best to do this while Void's back was turned. Knowing that it was a glutton that seemed to consume everything, she didn't want to make it think that she was stealing from him.
Once her thirst and hunger had been satiated, she took out the tools she had gathered. She laid them out according to the book before searching through the remaining bags of ingredients. Rather than worry about making a mistake, she left the book open to the recipe and closely followed step by step. Measuring each component, she carefully added them to the proper vials and combined them using the techniques described. This went on for quite a while, and despite everything, Bee found that she actually enjoyed the work a bit. It was infinitely more satisfying than cleaning had been and had the potential to be incredibly useful. It also let her mind focus on something besides her current situation.
The fact that Bee had given away her soul was something Bee really did not want to consider. There truly was no escape for her now. She might heal her leg and gather all the supplies in the castle. Maybe she'd even make it out the front door. However, no matter how far she ran, she'd never be free; even death wouldn't free her now. Implications of this decision range widely; as she didn’t know what to expect, she had to assume the worst. In good conscience, she could never see her family again. That wasn't as big a blow to her as it may be to others. After the way her father sent her off, she didn't want to talk to him anyways. She suspected this arrangement between him and the mage’s college wouldn’t have happened if her mother was still alive.
She wondered what kind of foothold having a soul in this realm gave the demon. Void was indisputably powerful, and she didn't understand what he got out of the bargain. But horrible monsters always wanted souls; at least, that's what the stories say. How was she going to make her new life? What had she bought with the price of her soul? A life of servitude of pain and suffering, surely. Even though she knew Void was a powerful demon summoned only a week ago, she still didn’t understand it much past that. Sneaking a glimpse at Void, it was still pacing back and forth, methodically working its way across the library floor. Currently, it wasn't harming anything. It wasn't torturing anyone. It was even giving her time to heal herself with magic. Maybe if she was lucky, things might not be as bad as she first feared. Or it wanted her in top shape for whatever nefarious tasks it had planned. She cut that thought off before it went any further. All that mattered was that she was alive. But she had to claim any hope she could.
Her healing salve was almost complete. All Bee had to do was add the water and apply. With a deep breath, she lifted her leg on the table and unwrapped it. Leaving it propped up so she could spread the salve to it as soon as it was ready. The book heavily emphasized that the sooner it was applied after it was finished, the more effective it was. Even though it seemed like time was no longer of the essence, she really would rather be able to walk again. Especially if more demons were about. Pouring in the water, she dipped in her glass stirring rod and gently stirred until the mixture was even. Then she scooped out a bit of green goopy stuff that smelled like freshly cut grass and smeared it all over her leg. Bee repeated until the jar was empty. Taking stock of the ingredients left, she still had a good portion, maybe enough for two more doses. If she had done it right, she would be completely healed in a couple days. Then able to walk without assistance in one. So hopefully, she wouldn't need to gather more.
Having finished, Bee stood up with the help of her cane and looked over to her new master, ready for orders.
"Instruct me, master," she said with a bow.
Eventually, the human finished her task, which apparently included smearing her leg with a difficult-to-clean-looking sludge. Man, humans are weird sometimes. I was about done cleaning the floor at this point, so I watched her in fascination at this part. It had been at least a week, likely more like two since this had been cleaned. So she must not have been able to take care of it while she was in need of repairs. Luckily, it seemed no food or anything of that nature ever spilled here. So all there was dust and the occasional insect corpse or something along those lines.
When the human finished, she stood up and bowed to me for some reason. She asked for instructions. This left me in a bit of a quandary. Who was I to instruct the humans?
I generally serve humans. I try to clean up after their messes and keep their house homey, comfortable, and a sanitary environment. What sort of instruction should I give her? It is their job to instruct me, actually. They tell me what to prioritize and which rooms to clean. Only recently have I been having to make decisions for myself. Perhaps they are sending their young to learn for me, but what do I even have to teach them?
Or perhaps this one has not had a good example of how important a clean house is. Maybe she needs to learn what it is to maintain a good atmosphere. Very well, I guess I'll have to show them how it's done. I can show her all the proper floor cleaning methods and even how to optimize her path. Maybe while I'm at it, I can also help her appreciate a good floor design. It would be nice to talk to some people about art. I beeped at her twice, hoping that she would understand the message and follow me. As I exited the library, I heard her shuffling footsteps behind me, so I assumed she understood the message. I went down the hallway to start my routine for the day. I had already begun it earlier but hadn't finished. I had enough time to make it through the whole process. Though, if I started this late, I wouldn't get the chance to do some more exploring. However, I figured showing her the ropes was probably more important than finding a few more rooms today.
The only disappointment was that this human seemed to be in need of repairs. So until those repairs were carried out, it was unlikely that this human could help me get up or down the stairs, as she didn't seem capable of doing it herself. That was unfortunate because I could still feel the fuzzy mess maker inside of me, and I hadn’t found a good place to release it yet. That, and I wasn’t sure what would happen to it next time I emptied my dustbin to gain energy. Until we went outside, I was unwilling to release the mess maker. It just wasn't worth the risk. Eventually, I will have to try to transmute all the mess I had collected to energy. Hopefully, I can avoid transmuting the mess maker as well. But it's a risk I'll have to take if we can't get outside soon.
What was amazing was I still had half a charge. Normally, with all the work I'd done, I would have been well past empty. Maybe my efficiency isn't just increasing in cleaning speed but also energy expenditure, that would be really nice. Plus, it wasn’t an issue now that I don't have to stop working to charge, but it would be nice to not have to think about it.
Trundling down the hallway, I stopped by the first room I would routinely clean. I opened the door, rolled inside, and began to sweep back and forth, using my graceful curves and straight lines to efficiently cover as much area as possible. One nice thing about my improved efficiency, especially in planning, was that I could cover more area with fewer sweeps because of my increased suction. However, this did mean that I had to replan my route every time I cleaned a room. By the time I started the routine again, I had improved enough that my old plan was no longer near satisfactory efficiency. The human stood in the doorway, which was very kind of her not to get in the way. Though I'm not quite sure why her mouth was open. I don't think she can provide suction the same way I can.
This wasn't a large room, but by no means was it small. A normal one of my kind would maybe take 30 to 40 minutes to finish cleaning. They'd spend time redoing their work and carefully edging every corner. However, I have passed beyond such needs. One single super me was enough to purify all but the toughest stains and dirt, and if there was no goop or liquids, I wouldn't even need to use my mop. So all told, the room took me only a handful of minutes. I began to recognize the look on the human’s face. She would have never seen one of my kind clean as efficiently as I have. It may be humorous, but am I not allowed to take pride in my accomplishments?