Really, this human was giving me far too much deference. There's only so much humility I can take. I didn't even do that much. All I did was do my job. Though I guess I have gotten quite a bit better at it. Typically I only clean up the messes, and it's the human's prerogative to remove the causes. I guess going above and beyond does deserve some reward. However, this is just too far. I would have been satisfied with a pat and some praise. I didn't know what to say.
We sat awkwardly for a while, staring at each other while I waited for her to straighten. I wasn't sure what I could say or do, but she did seem to be waiting for something. Therefore, I just did the only thing I could. I beeped and looked for something to clean. Except, looking around, there wasn't anything else to clean. I had just finished the hallway, but that was the only thing nearby. Nervous that the human would be getting impatient, I looked back at her and relaxed slightly. It seems that she had taken my beep and spin as acceptance of her gratitude. She had straightened and seemed like she was deciding to speak.
"If you wouldn't mind, I would like to return to the library and reapply the salve to my leg. I'm pretty sure running away from that minor demon didn't help it."
So the mess maker was called a minor demon. It was nice to know the proper term if a bit unnecessary. I suppose it would help me identify the particular mess maker she was indicating in the future. This new role isn't too bad! I could get used to this “cleaning at the source.” Though, how many kinds of mess makers are there? I knew about a few from my previous home, but it seemed like there were new varieties around here.
There were other words she used that I hadn’t recognized too. She had mentioned a “library.” I wasn't exactly sure what that was. My guess from context clues was that it referred to that weird storage room we were in before, where she had been staying. Also, salve sounded somewhat familiar. I didn't know what it was exactly, but it seemed like that might have been the thing she was messing with on her leg. So thinking it through logically, her leg was damaged, and she was putting something on to repair it. The use of her leg made that damage worse. So she'd want to go to the place where she could put more of the stuff that fixes it on. Was that kind of like a lubricant? I know sometimes my humans would put something on my wheels to help them spin easier. This is probably the same thing. Yeah, this checks out. It makes total sense to go back to the library.
Following that line of thought, I had an idea of the library's purpose. It must be some sort of human mechanic shop.
Having figured out how to serve my human - well, no, not my human, but the only human nearby who seemed willing to take care of me - I began to lead the way back to the library. Making sure to keep a slow pace so the damaged human could keep up, I wondered what the human would want to do after repairs. Would she still want to learn more about cleaning? I suppose we could continue with my plan to show her all the intriguing rooms to clean, but I didn't want to risk her getting further damage. Otherwise, it would be impossible to expand my domain upstairs or downstairs. I still didn't need her to go upstairs or downstairs with me yet, as there were many doors I hadn't finished exploring, and I probably wouldn't for several days. We were stuck if she became too permanently damaged to go up or down stairs. As much as I railed against stairs, I had mostly made my peace with the many things I was not capable of. However, stairs were not supposed to be an impediment for a human. I can only sympathize with her. What if I suddenly could not turn my left wheel anymore? I felt I had to do my best to overcome them, failing that, to help her come to terms with her limitations.
What if, when she could leave, she wanted to follow all the other humans? No, I am sure she would take me with her if she did that. She wouldn't leave me here alone.
I also have to consider my battery. It might be best to expedite a trip outside even before I finish exploring the castle. I wanted to release the fuzzy mess maker currently wiggling around in my dustbin with its non-fuzzy tail before having to recharge. I would need to do that soon.
It wasn't that long of a journey to the library. When we got there, the human again went to sit at the same table and make a salve. This time the shiny glass tools she had used before were not shiny. They actually looked like they needed to be cleaned. At least she wasn’t adding to the mess. Maybe she’d clean them after she was done. While she was busy, I looked around for something to do. With my new reserves of energy and the amount of work to be done throughout my domain, any bit of wasted time felt like a true tragedy. However, looking around, I didn't find anything I could do. I had just finished vacuuming, so I don't think this place would benefit from another pass. There was no mopping that needed to be done either.
The only thing that looked out of place was a large pile of rectangular things that lay on the floor instead of on the storage shelves. I went over to one and took a closer look.
This block was colored an exquisite sea blue and sported graceful gold squiggles over some of its sides. It was actually a stunning piece of decoration. There seems to be some mathematical pattern to the squiggles on the front and one of the thinner sides. It was strikingly beautiful, just like a well-laid floor plan. All the ratios were correct. I thought that perhaps if I stared at it long enough, the patterns would start to make some sense, but I left it be. I had more important priorities. I went over to another block, and it was totally different. This one was an ugly stained brown color with plain black squiggles that didn't complement it. This block was the complete opposite, nowhere near a work of art. The only thing in common between the two was the shape and the pattern of the squiggles.
I scanned around the room, marveling at the sheer number of these blocks. Why are there so many pieces of art (and what I assumed to be failed attempts at art) here? That actually raises another question. The blocks I saw around the room were all lined up such that only one of the narrow ends was facing outward. This seems like a very inefficient way to display art. What were the humans thinking? Sure, that was with a side that had some squiggles on it. However, while the designs were compelling, the most beautiful patterns were on the larger flat side. The side that was not visible from the floor. I suppose you could always go and remove one if you wanted to look at the front, but why not just store it that way? Humans are so weird.
I moved on to the third one of these blocks near me. It appeared to be damaged somehow. Instead of being in a whole piece like the rest, it was split into two halves. They were barely hanging together by a few threads connecting the pieces. When I took a closer look, I realized that the inside was full of squiggles too. However, these were not really very artistic. The background was a shade of sepia or off-white, with plain black squiggles. Now, I suppose you can find some beauty in simplicity. I certainly did. There's nothing more beautiful than a well-laid floor plan with beautiful single-color marble floors. They are well maintained with no adornments and beautifully cleaned. However, this just seemed repetitive.
Upon further inspection, it looks like this block was not broken, but it was designed to be opened this way. In fact, all the blocks looked like they had this one side that was meant to split in half, opposite the one with the colorful squiggles on it. The colorful side was reinforced, and all the others were not. Scanning the other blocks, I found several more that had fallen open. Trundling over to inspect them, I saw that the inside was the same as the previous, except that the patterns were slightly different. Huh.
I glanced back at the human. She was still making her small mess, constantly referencing the squiggles inside one of the blocks on her table. Might these patterns mean something? Maybe some of them were repair manuals for humans? Or cleaning manuals? It could be like how I plan out my routes in different rooms. Whenever I plan out a new cleaning route for a room, I store that information in a map in my head. That was because if I was trying to do the same thing and if I remembered it, I didn't have to make a new plan each time. Maybe these blocks were like that, somehow.
Could this help me with my current situation? If they were cleaning manuals, I could give plans like these to the human directly. They wouldn’t benefit me much since I just remembered all my routes. Unless… humans can be pretty clever sometimes. I bet they already thought of this, and these blocks contained all the best maps to clean each room in this castle. If I can learn the patterns, I won't need to plan each room!
No, I can't be right. I update my maps when I become more efficient. Maybe that is why there are so many of them. There are maps for each efficiency level for each room.
I didn't have time to decipher the patterns inside these blocks now. I would put it on my to-do list. Looking over at the human, I saw she had almost finished repairing herself, judging based on her previous actions. So I didn't have much time to clean up this mountain of blocks. I wanted to make sure that her living space was orderly and clean where I was concerned. Using my claw, I went to pick one of the blocks up. It was surprisingly heavy but not impossible to lift. Feeling the weight, I was sure it was heavier than the blanket I struggled with a couple days ago. Still, it wasn’t a huge challenge. I moved the block over to the side, a little farther away from the downed storage unit, and set it down. It seemed best to set it on its flat side, so I could stack them. I marveled for a second at its color and squiggles before returning to work. As much as I enjoy looking at beautiful things, I didn't want to waste too much time. I quickly returned and grabbed another. This time, instead of placing it on the floor next to the other one. I put it on top. It balanced perfectly. I repeated this motion until I had 14 blocks stacked on top of each other. When the 15th block was attempted to be laid on top of that stack, the whole thing collapsed. My claw just wasn’t long enough to manage such a stack, and one of the blocks landed on top of me with a solid thump. I tried to move and shake it off, but it stayed on top of me. I had to spin around in a circle rapidly to knock it off of myself.
Looking around, I beeped in distress. After all that hard work, I had just made a mess. I felt like I had finished a long hard cleaning session and emptied my dustbin everywhere. Am I the mess maker now? I was so disappointed in myself for allowing this to happen. Could I even call myself a professional still?
I shook myself. No. Mistakes happen, especially when trying something new. I had to learn how my new abilities worked. Plus, no serious harm was done as long as I cleaned up after myself. Satisfied at how I had averted my existential crisis, I began stacking blocks again. 14 is the limit. All right, 14 blocks shall be how high I go. I stacked them in a row next to one of the storage units, each stack precisely 14 tall. Once one was finished, I moved on to the next, methodically going down the line of storage units against the wall.
When the last block was moved to a stack, I was short two blocks to finish the stack. I saw none were left when I went to grab the next one. This was distressing, and I couldn’t quite get the tip of my brush on why. Rolling a little ways away to get some distance, I admired the stacks all in a neat row. With only one stack incomplete, I decided to be done. Looking around, I saw the human standing by her chair. I didn't realize the human had finished making her salve. She had even already applied it and rewrapped her leg. She was watching me with a look of pure confusion on her face.
Harold felt exhausted and ready to pass out in the nearest thing that slightly resembled a bed. After running for several days straight, it was just his luck to have arrived in the morning. He probably could have begged off and just gone to bed early. But no, he had duties to attend to and a crisis to avert. Time was of the essence. After getting all his mages set up and taken care of, Harold returned to Captain Wallace’s office.
“Wow! You look half dead,” Wallace grinned in greeting. Harold just gave him a dark look.
“Okay, okay. I’ll make this quick. No drinks.” Wallace stood and made his way to the door. He led the way out, down a short hallway and through a side door. Soon, they emerged into the bright sunlight of the courtyard. There were three men and a woman waiting for them.
“I trust they were volunteers?”
“Yes, they know the risks.”
One of the men stepped forward.
“And we know the consequences if no one does this.” He said as he stepped forward to shake Harold’s hand.