I looked at the human in shock. Who knew she would be so bloodthirsty? Besides, exterminate what? I swiveled around, looking for a possible mess maker. All I saw were the water tanks. I supposed the tanks themselves did make a bit of a mess. They splashed and left water stains on the floor occasionally. As the water evaporated, salt and other particulates were left behind.
The calcium buildup was one of the hardest things to get rid of. In fact, I didn't think I could do it now, even with my advanced capabilities. The obvious solution, trying to dissolve it and mopping it up, didn't work. That tended to only spread it more. Also, you couldn't tell when it was gone if it was still wet. So I understood the sentiment, but you can't exterminate the water causing the issue. Unless humans had a way? That seemed implausible at best. Humans are really amazing, though, so I wouldn't put anything past them.
I thought about her chopping at the tanks with the counterbalance. It was an admittedly amusing thought, but I figured it would cause water to get everywhere. Imagining that quickly put a damper on my amusement.
I beeped a response to her question. It was a descending note, starting off high pitched and going down low, typically used to indicate something along the lines of, "no, don't do that". I tried to imitate the “sighs” I had heard from my humans before.
I saw that she slumped a little in disappointment. Well, I was glad she understood what I was trying to say. I could communicate yes or no to her. It made our working relationship considerably more effective. Even with an improvement of that nature, I was starting to wonder how I would teach someone when I couldn’t explain things. I'd have to get good at demonstrating, and she needed to continue asking questions.
The goal of visiting here was to show her the areas we’d be covering but not cleaning today. We did a quick pass through the room. We paused and gave special attention to the areas that required extra cleaning. Corners that water pooled in, some of the particularly deep grooves in the tile, and around the drains were the worst offenders. Carved crevices guided most of the water down the drains and caused debris to gather. She nodded understanding and seemed to follow along with what I was trying to show. I was so blessed to have such an attentive and dutiful student.
Void let out a descending screech. It seemed to be a negative response. Bee had heard what she thought was a yes before. Those notes were more… positive? Chipper? Ascending, at the very least. She sagged in relief. She hadn't been looking forward to fishing out demons and hacking them apart with her cleaver. That was going to get really gross. It would be tough as well, not to mention potentially dangerous.
Void continued leading her around the room, showing Bee what she took to be the more pertinent areas. She noted the grooves scratched into the ground resembling containment circles around all the tanks. Well, at least the outlines of containment circles. The salts and magical components that would have made them function had disappeared. She assumed Void erased them. Bee didn’t know who else could have. They were pristine, without so much as a grain of salt remaining. It showed Bee where the grooves were inlaid on the ground such that the salt and other components would stay in perfect shape. She assumed the drains allowed the whole thing to be easily washed away and replaced when necessary.
Bee was not sure why Void was showing her these things. Why would it show her that the demons were loose when she already knew that? Perhaps there was something it wanted her to do?.
She didn't ask. Mostly because she wasn't exactly sure how to do so in a way that Void could respond. There was also a good amount of fear that she might misunderstand the lesson. If she was an inadequate disciple, what would Void do? It was better not to risk it until she needed to or got a better idea of its predilections. Perhaps it was just an informational thing, telling her, “Hey, I released all these demons. Now it's your job to go fight them for training.” or something.
She hesitated to even guess at the mind of Void. Bee thought the assumption that the demons were released for training was reasonably fair. So she would stick with it until she was sure of another interpretation. Void certainly hadn't been ordering them around. All he'd ever done was devour or ignore the demons. Perhaps it wanted the magical properties of all the containment measures and just releasing them was a side effect?
In either case, Void surely wouldn't mind if she trained on them and got that final push to level five. Bee struggled to think of a third option that would contradict her conclusions. After all, reaching level five wasn’t worth the risk of angering her master.
Void was incredibly efficient. It quickly showed Bee each of the critical factors of the room, then went to move out. She limped slightly after it. Her leg was healed, for the most part. But the healing was still fresh, and following Void for an extended period reminded her of that fact. It only twinged sometimes now. She was starting to regret not bringing her stick with her. It would have been able to provide her with a lot of relief. She could still feel the ointment working, but it would likely take until evening for her to feel 100% better. Still, her recovery had gone much faster than she’d hoped.
Bee stopped walking for a second. She hadn’t really had a chance to consider the ramifications of what she had done yet. She was using magic! And not just basic magic, but healing magic! Something that she never thought she would do, especially after how the mages had treated her. Most common people never learned magic at all. The few that did just mixed simple recipes using readily available ingredients that did little more than heat the stove quicker. She was in a castle stocked for a college of mages and taught by a near-omnipotent being. Bee let a shiver of pride go through her. But it was quickly cut short as Void beeped at her to hurry up. She quickened her pace towards its waiting figure in the entryway.
Bee was greeted with a similar tour of the lesser demon room, complete with a familiarly powder-free floor. When they entered, she looked carefully at each cage; every one was empty. She guessed that all those were released over the last couple of days. After their magic was no longer suppressed, the metal cages wouldn't be able to hold them for long. She knew that Void had killed at least two of them but had no idea how many it got when hunting. It very well could have gotten all of them. Either way, she had no way of knowing how many of these cages originally contained a demon. However, she was confident she’d be able to handle at least one lesser demon on her own soon. At least with her newly recovered mobility and the recipes, she planned to try out.
Her confidence lasted until the next room. This was a specialty room with rather large cages, casually referred to as the “dust devil room”. The cages held what looked to be collections of rocks and sand. Bee noticed some of the barrel-sized piles moving. That was not good. These might not be as powerful as the water demons, but they could survive outside their containment. So these cages were reinforced thoroughly, with the summoning protections being much more intricate.
Or they were more intricate. Now the extra protections were missing, of course. She just hoped that Void wasn't about to take her to the fire or wind sections next. Earth was one thing, but the fire could burn down the castle. An air demon would likely leave the region and start terrorizing the countryside. Earth would probably stay and make her life a living hell, but Void could, without a doubt, take care of it. Her only concern was running into one alone.
Bee’s stomach started to betray her mid-lesson. It had been a long time since she ate the last of her food, and she still hadn't had a good night's sleep or a full meal in over a week. She had filled up her wineskin with water recently, but that was almost empty again. Now that she was relatively safe, her body was making all of its needs known. At least she was hydrated and rested enough to ignore those feelings for a while longer. However, her stomach didn’t let up. It seemed to know that there was a perfectly good kitchen full of delicious food around the corner, and it didn’t want to fast if it didn’t have to. Her stomach made its point emphatically. She fought with it the entire time Void showed her the dust devil room. But she kept getting distracted and missing some critical parts of the protections to the point that she almost tripped over one of the cages.
Void made to leave, presumably to show her something else. She decided she was going to speak up and risk Void’s displeasure. If it wouldn't let her eat and drink, she wasn't long for this world anyway. Judging from the pillow, she would be surprised if Void had a problem with it. At least that was what she told herself to muster her courage, but still. Disappointing it might be just as bad.
“If you don't mind, master. Could we please make a stop in the kitchens? My water skin is almost empty, and I would like to get some food. I haven't eaten for a long time. And the thought of even some dried meat has my….”
Bee bit back her words, realizing she had started rambling. Her voice had come out rusty and disused. She hadn't said anything to another person in a very long time. She had spoken to Void once or twice briefly, but this was the first complete set of sentences she uttered in over a week. Speaking hurt. Some of that was the disuse making her vocal cords feel like she'd swallowed a bucket full of sand. But more than that, perhaps the more impactful part was loneliness. Speaking to something that understood her was like a balm she didn’t know she needed. Scrunching up her eyes to hold back impending tears, she waited for a response while trying not to consider that she was likely days from any other people. And her only company was an insanely powerful being who didn't seem capable of speaking. Benevolent it might be, but she could want a conversation.
As expected, Void did not respond in words. It gave an affirmative screech, a lighthearted cheerful thing with a rising pitch at the end, almost as if it was asking a question. She wasn't quite sure what question it was, but it definitely sounded uncertain. She wasn't going to let that stop her, though. Bee needed to take the opportunity. She bowed to Void in thanks and started walking towards the kitchen, the black disk whirring along behind her.
I knew humans needed breaks. It was not uncommon that the large humans would come home and sit on the couch for a bit before doing anything. Sometimes the large male human would pull into the garage and then not come out for 15 minutes. I assumed they could charge wherever they were without a charging pad, even if it wasn't maximally efficient. They seemed to work more effectively in bursts rather than maintaining steady progress for an extended period. It was the opposite of my kind. We generally weren't the fastest at any individual task. Especially when we were learning a new area. However, we could keep going until the house was done or we ran out of batteries. Taking a break to recover energy just wasn’t a concept that worked for us. Undoubtedly humans were special. So I did know on some level that humans need breaks, but I failed to consider it when I had planned out my teaching schedule. That was quite a severe oversight, and I was mentally scolding myself after she brought it up.
When she asked for permission, though, I was very confused.
Humans didn't need my permission to do anything. Maybe as an instructor, I suppose it would be proper. When viewed only as a formality, it made more sense. How could I refuse? I was here to help my humans. If she needed a break... Then that was the best way I could help. Besides, she needed to be in top shape to clean and do all the other things humans liked. Or whatever she wanted to do. She was a human, after all.
Luckily the human seemed to accept my response. Walking out the door, she started leading the way to the kitchen. I followed, trundling along at her heels happily. It was nice to have someone else lead for a little while. Always choosing the direction for myself is a bit exhausting. Even if I needed to do it to get better, it doesn't mean I had to enjoy it. I wiggled from side to side. Maybe I could use a break as well.
When we got to the kitchen, the human filled up their liquid-carrying pouch. She drained a large part of it. And then filled it up again. With that slung over her shoulder, she checked the food sitting on the tables. None of it seemed to be satisfactory to her, with good reason. All the fruits were slightly rotting and did not look like anything I had ever seen a human eat. She picked up some of the bread with white fungus growing on it. Gross, the fungus was the worst. Now that I had conquered liquid, fungus was my least favorite thing. Behind stairs, of course. It was a weird debris-filth-dust-gross thing that didn’t just sit there but multiplied. Plus, it was almost impossible to vacuum up, even after scrubbing it with my brush endlessly. At most, it just flaked off. Luckily, I hadn't come across any fungus recently. Even with all my power, I had no idea how to deal with it. I hoped I’d get some mutation to fight it before I came across it again. Either that or get the human to deal with it.
The human moved to the pantry, opening the door to the small side room. I knew from previous trips that it didn't have much space behind it and not much open floor. Instead, it just led to a narrow walkway line with shelves. The shelves were filled with jars, boxes, and canvas bags. There were also barrels at the end of the hall and larger canvas bags, all seeming to contain some sort of food item. They must have been preserved in some way because this area didn’t have the same kind of fungus and rot as there was in the kitchen.
The human inhaled deeply and got to work filling her bag.