After the unfamiliar humans had been chased off, I needed time to think. There were many things that I must consider.

First and foremost, I had done something far outside of standard practice. I had threatened humans. Only threatened, but threatening anything was a concept utterly foreign to me. Even with mess makers, I didn't "threaten" them. I just dealt with them. Also, I saw a human damage another human. This really threw my worldview off. If humans weren't all kind and benevolent, then what? Was I living a lie?

It couldn't be. My humans were wise and kind and treated me well. Beatrice wasn't quite there yet, but she was learning. But I needed to rethink my stance on humans. The very existence of the ones that had attacked Beatrice so callously meant I had been wrong for a while. The possibility that there were more humans like that was even more troubling. If anything, they might be worse than some mess makers. Not only did they cause disorder and destruction, but they did so even though they knew better. It was a malicious mess, the worst kind.

I needed to think; all this new information made me feel like my dustbin was in disarray. I saw Bee safely to the library and made sure she could charge. The repairs could be carried out later; we couldn't have her crashing in the middle of them. I shut the door behind her and went to consider. I sought out my favorite rug, where I felt safe and warm and surrounded by beauty. As I nestled in the soft fibers around me, I began sorting through all the inputs I had received today.

I made a list of the main points I had to consider. First, not all humans were good. How could this be? I thought about it. The man with the large counterbalance, the sword, attacked Beatrice for seemingly no reason. He did not try to explain himself, just swung at her and damaged her arm, seemingly without prompting. From first appearances, there was no way to tell he was a bad human.

How was I supposed to distinguish good humans from bad humans? Did they have some markings or something? On the other hand, maybe they were just defective, and I would only know once they misbehaved. That left a massive question, though. How should I treat humans when I don't know if they're bad or good? Maybe I just don't know how to distinguish them yet? This needs to be clarified. Humans are even stranger than I thought.

There was another thing that had been bugging me. A couple other things, actually. I had my first glimpse of the outside. It was terrifying. I only managed to get into the cobbled landing area since the stairs prevented me from going further, but that was enough for me. The floor beyond was covered almost entirely in dirt. It almost looked as if the ground itself was made of mud. I felt my brushes quiver at the thought. Did no one ever clean it?

The horrors of the outside and the endless mess of dirt I could see could only keep my mind occupied for so long. Soon I thought back to the humans. They must have arrived from someplace outside, within or beyond the dirt. Were the outside and bad humans connected? My humans went outside often, but then again, they did live inside. Were the filthy humans the bad ones? They had soiled clothes that could probably be used to indicate whether someone was bad or good. However, Bee's clothes were also not clean when I first saw her. Yet she still seemed promising, even if she had yet to learn to give good head pats.

There was another thing pulling at my thoughts, though less aggressively. It was Beatrice. I knew she was a magnet for trouble. Every time I ran into her, she seemed to require some assistance. And well, while I definitely didn't mind giving it to her, sometimes I would have duties, or she would have tasks that would take us apart. For example, I might need to clean the grand hall while she needed to organize the kitchen counters I couldn't reach. That assumed I would delegate tasks to Bee when she was the human. Did my issues with human understanding fail not only at their morality but their superiority? Why did they seem so much… weaker? Less capable? Man, I really couldn't concentrate on anything. There were too many things that were just piling up in my head, vying for my attention.

What have I learned so far? Humans are not all bad or good. Not all are wise and perfect like my humans at home. The outside is dirty and scary and would require a lot of work to clean because, apparently, no one's ever done it. So bad humans come from outside and are dirty? And Beatrice needs help.

Okay. Okay. That cleared my thoughts to focus on one thing at a time. That summarizes my understanding right now. I'll need to revisit these topics later. The tension in my brush lessened, and my wheels relaxed a little.

To gather my thoughts, I started cleaning my favorite beautiful carpet. Gentle suction and brushes teased dust out of the fibers as they fluttered around my wheels. Then, I simply rolled back and forth, covering every inch of it. It only took a few minutes, even doing it very slowly. Still, I was cautious to not use too much force and damage it. That was a new development. I never had to worry about hurting anything with my abilities before. But seeing what had happened when I intimidated the bad humans by pushing my suction to the limits, I began to worry about controlling my power.

I considered the most immediate problem before me. Beatrice was incapable of defending herself adequately. This wasn't something my kind is usually very good at either. Still, apparently, this place was strange enough that I had less of a problem than she did. So there was no reason she couldn't learn to as well. I guess I had found something else to teach her besides cleaning. I would need to make her strong. Strong enough that a few bad humans from the dirty outside wouldn't be able to push her around and damage her so easily. Yes, I now had a plan of action. I'd teach Bee to defend herself against bad humans. Yes, this would work.

All this thinking exhausted me. I could feel it in my drained battery, and from the debacle earlier, I knew I would soon need to recharge. Carefully, I selected just some of the material I had gathered, not one of the demons, and transmuted just enough that I would top off my energy. Sure enough, I went just below full. No sparks flew anywhere, and I felt amazing. Some large squiggles floated up my vision but weren't accompanied by any great voice, so I ignored them and resumed cleaning.


After Void left the library, Bee got up from where it had tucked her in so gently. Void had prompted her to lie down where she had that first night and then slowly dragged a blanket over her. Then it proceeded to use its small arm to gently tuck it in underneath her. Between this and its actions earlier, this had pretty much erased all fears she had of Void trying to cause her harm. Now it just seemed like a sweet, misunderstood being. An all-powerful one, capable of terrifying displays of power, but adorable nonetheless. If anything convinced her that she had absolutely made the right decision in choosing Devotee, this was it.

However, it also had very strict ideas about when she needed rest. She really wasn't tired yet. She was honestly too hopped up on adrenaline and pain to sleep. Her arm was killing her, and she just wanted to make some of that healing salve. On top of all that, as much as she tried to listen to her master, she knew she needed to improve. It was frightening how little combat ability she had. So far, her only option had been to fling demon repellent at something or hack at it, which already was suboptimal. If she was being attacked by anything that wasn't a demon, she was pretty much dead in the water. She didn't really know how to learn how to use swords or any other kind of weapon; also, she needed to be stronger to effectively use them anyway. So that left magic as her best option.

Sure she might not have any magical-based abilities in her class and may never get them, but she wouldn't let that stop her.

Bee untangled herself from the blanket, wincing every time her arm moved. Next, she fashioned a clumsy sling for her arm using a couple of cloth bags and a strip of fabric from a robe she had found on a chair. It took Bee quite a while since she only had one working hand. Still, eventually, she managed to immobilize her arm against her chest. With that done, she carefully began moving the alchemy equipment a couple tables over. Of course, if Void insisted she sleep here, she would, but she'd rather not do it with a bunch of glass vials with magically potent ingredients right above her.

As she moved the beakers and stirring rods, she silently thanked herself for cleaning everything right after her last alchemy experiments. There was no way she could have cleaned them with just one arm. Even mixing and using them was a big issue now, but holding one in place while wiping was impossible. Now she was pretty much unable to do that.

Bee began the familiar process of preparing a healing salve and lost herself in the movements. Bee had always wanted to do magic, but unlike many things she had dreamed about, she actually enjoyed doing it more than expected. Starting out, she had thought about the majesty of magic, the grandeur, and the influence she would wield as the most powerful mage in the world. However, that had quickly been disabused as she realized what magicians actually did. The vast majority of their time was spent physically making the potions, powders, and materials that yielded such awe-inspiring effects. The amount of time that had to go into just a single fireball potion was mind-boggling if the recipe was to be believed.

Plus, the scope of what a magician could do seemed much more limited than her imagination led her to believe. They needed many materials from many sources, some of them incredibly rare. So the idea of a powerful mage laying waste to all who opposed them was a bit silly, seeing that they would still need a way to supply all their ingredients. All you needed to do was cut off their supplies to stop them. There were a lot of functional recipes and options that just used common materials - healing, explosive, distraction, and illusion potions, for example. But most of the more potent stuff required at least one harder-to-source ingredient.

Even with that reality check, Bee had found that she enjoyed the magic process itself. It wasn't because of the things she got at the end, though. She really did like having her broken bones heal so quickly. No, it was that measuring, mixing, and following a recipe like this soothed her. It wasn't like cooking, which was much more stressful. In fact, she had assumed that she would never have the patience for something like this. But where it usually was a chore to sit still for more than 5 minutes, she could spend 45 minutes reading about or mixing chemicals without any issue.

Bee finished the mixture without too many issues and applied it to her swollen arm. Luckily, this wasn't nearly as bad a break as her leg. It was probably a fracture, but it would still be a day or two before it was fully healed. Hopefully, it would stop hurting in an hour or so.

Giving herself a moment to rest, Bee thought about her plans. She wouldn't be cleaning anytime soon, and practicing alchemy with a broken arm didn't sound like a great idea. She could take advantage of this time, though. Standing from her chair, Bee began to sort through her books on demons and legends about the captive lieutenant.


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About the author


Bio: After reading pretty much everything I could I figured I would try making some of the stories that I wanted to read.

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