A note from zaifyr

The Writathon is over and All the Dust that Falls is on the first page. It looks to be sorted by ratting which is an odd choice... But still we are #6 on the Writathon list and I can't thank all of you enough for the follows, favorites and ratings. The support has blown me away!

Beatrice faced the skeleton with the broom in one hand. I was proud of her. She was trying very hard, and now she was using a proper tool. The short sword-like counterbalance worked reasonably well for some things but seemed to have little effect here. The lump of iron was more effective, but it just didn't seem to have much use past breaking things. I was satisfied with the broom. It was reliable, multipurpose, and simply fantastic for cleaning. It also apparently could help her defend herself.

Beatrice grabbed the broom near the bristles and whacked the skeleton around. It seemed to do far better than the sharp tool or the lump of iron she had previously beat it with. With the length of the broom, she also had enough reach that the skeleton couldn't grab her while she swung at it. That was good. It meant I didn't worry about her getting hurt nearly as much. The broom did look awkward to use with one hand, though. Maybe she could wield it a bit better once her other one was better. Silently I cheered her on so as not to distract her.

I figured I could try to suck up this skeleton if things got really out of hand. On the other hand, I wasn't sure if it was too big. If that didn't work, I could, at the very least, trip it up by tackling its legs. Still, this skeleton differed from the ones my humans put on display yearly. Those were usually a bit dusty at first, but it was minor. They definitely didn't move on their own. This one not only shambled around, scraping up the floor needlessly, but it also seemed to emit dust constantly. It was like it was flaking apart as it moved. That on its own was enough of a problem, but also trying to attack my human? I had no sympathy for it. Neither did Beatrice, from the way she was going at it.

Beatrice smacked at its joints several times with the end of the broom. Her methods were messier than mine and caused debris to fly around, but that was ok. She would learn to become more efficient. The close confines of the walls seemed to prevent her from adequately wielding her broomstick. Sure she had more reach, but she didn't have as much ability to wind up and hit with as much power as a broom could generate. I only had my short bristles, so I had less experience with brooms than I would like. However, even I could tell that she was a bit limited here.

It was like how my counterbalance could allow me to make turns faster. But that wasn't useful in tight quarters where there wasn't as much space to maneuver around.

Soon enough, Beatrice's efforts had caused the skeleton to lose several pieces of its arms. They clattered to the floor and stopped moving. So now, it was mostly just a torso on some legs snapping its teeth at her.

Now that Beatrice wasn't in much danger, I started getting a little louder with my cheers. She glanced at me and actually gave me a smile. This was fun. Cleaning up mess makers and troublemakers together like a team. She was becoming stronger and better able to clean messes. And I was helping. This was awesome.

Beatrice repositioned the broom in her hands. As if she was trying to get a feel for it. It moved more naturally as she got the hang of it and figured out her range better. She slightly changed her grip, and this time she poked at the skeleton with the bristle end.

Instead of passing through one of the rib cage's many gaps, the bristles struck on the bones and flung her armless opponent to the floor with a solid jab. Then, taking advantage of the skeleton's position, she raised the broom high and smacked its head against the skeleton's chest. The ribs splintered and caved inward, sending more bone shards around the room. Beatrice came closer to kick with her feet and break apart the skeleton's legs. At some point, what was left of the skeleton stopped moving altogether. Beatrice pumped her fist triumphantly, and I gave a quick cheer of delight.

The way the sound echoed down the halls still made me a little bit uncomfortable. But the noise was nothing compared to the racket Beatrice had just caused by tussling with the skeleton. Beatrice seemed to agree as she let out a whoop of excitement.

While we were celebrating, I figured I might as well get some work done. So I moved forward to clean up the remains of her fight. She did a good job, and I couldn't help because I felt she needed to work independently. However, cleaning up after her was the least I could do.

I also just wanted to help. I would be lying to myself if I didn't admit it. It was hard to watch her fight alone, even if I knew she wanted it that way. I vacuumed up the tiny bones with no issues, as expected. I was expecting to have some problems with consuming the larger ones. I know I had consumed larger objects like the demons, for example. However, they have been fleshy malleable things, and the demons felt like more energy than solid material. At least, that's what I could feel with my advanced sensors examining them in my dustbin. But the bones just zoomed right in. That was unexpected. I knew my suction was getting more powerful. However, suction shouldn't be able to bend bone without breaking it. Or shrink things that wouldn't otherwise physically fit inside me. Especially these old brittle bones that made up the skeleton. I could see maybe breaking it and crushing them but nope, it just kind of… stretched out and zipped into my dustbin.

Beatrice picked up her other tools and put them in her backpack again while I cleaned up the skeleton remains.

The whole encounter had taken little time. But now that it was over, we had a better idea of what to expect going forward. If it was like this, we would have no issues. We could explore for a bit, and then when it was time for Beatrice to charge, we would go back. I started cleaning the hallway immediately until I heard Beatrice announce that she was ready to move on.

"I only need a few more of those fights, and I think I'll level up. After that, I can't wait to get my next skill," Beatrice said.

As we started walking again, Beatrice started to fill me in on what the carvings she was interested in were about. Apparently, they were pictures telling the history of humans.

"Thank you for this opportunity, master. If we can find more of these skeletons, it'll be a perfect opportunity for me to level. They're relatively rare outside dangerous areas since everyone burns their dead if they can get to them. Too much concentrated death like this makes them get back up, and the stronger living people make stronger dead too. At least, that's what people say" Beatrice paused for a moment, appearing thoughtful. "But with how ancient these catacombs are… maybe this was before they figured that out? However, going by these carvings, it's even older than that. This is pre-Intervention stuff. It would explain the whole lieutenant demon being here." Beatrice said.

I couldn't really tell if she was talking to me or just sort of talking to herself. She definitely didn't seem to expect good responses. I wasn't sure I understood everything. From the context, I had picked up that these catacombs were a place that stored a lot of dead people. And that these skeletons were basically once-dead humans. Great. Another kind of dangerous and unpleasant human. I pushed down the slight existential crisis that bubbled up inside of me. However, I only knew a little about the whole lieutenant stuff. I was sure that she would let me know if it was necessary.

We continued on like this for a while, occasionally encountering more skeletons as we traveled. They each looked pretty sad, wearing poorly maintained helmets or greaves that were more rust than metal. Beatrice became much more efficient at knocking them down and deactivating them as we went. Her trusty broom was proving its use again and again.

As she did her thing, I vacuumed up as much dust as possible and made models of the area. I also continued experimenting with my sanitation lamp. I confirmed that my light did seem to get steadily brighter as I continued to use it and that this brightness correlated to an increased rate of germ eradication. However, I calculated that a 2x increase in efficiency would only increase my energy expenditure by 1.25x at this rate. Nevertheless, knowing that I was also improving was quite a relief.

Eventually, as Beatrice wondered aloud how old this place was, we rounded a corner. Ahead was a tall, rounded archway of musty, dark stone. More things were carved above this archway and into the pillars on either side. Beyond the archway lay darkness. My sensors indicated a vast room, but Beatrice's held light didn't penetrate very far into it.

"Where hope hath waned, and history demands its toll, enter ye desperate and despair, gaze upon the heroism of old..." Beatrice was staring intently at the squiggles above the archway. "I wonder what that means?"

That was a strange question. Why was she asking about some random sentence suddenly?

Beatrice scratched her head. "First off, that doesn't rhyme properly. Secondly, I suppose it is a tomb or catacombs or whatever, but that still seems a bit… much? And third, what heroism? Is this related to the carvings we've been seeing? Fourth, did people really used to talk like that? It sounds like bad poetry. "

I had seen the carvings earlier too, and it made total sense that she gleaned information from them. However, there were no carvings here. I didn't see anything like that. There were just the squiggle-like carvings that she was still staring at. So unless it was some really abstract art that Beatrice was an expert at interpreting, I didn't understand what she was talking about.

I looked closely at those carvings with my advanced sensors, and nothing struck me. Upon further review, though, I noticed that they had the same sort of mathematical patterns that squiggles in her books had. Though they were slightly more elongated shapes.

Something clicked. I should have seen this earlier. Perhaps the squiggles were some kind of shorthand pictures? Maybe the patterns were some stand-in for more detailed drawings or images. Or some other sort of art. That would explain why Beatrice always spent so much time looking at books. She was trying to understand what paintings they were representing.

If she was asking about this one, perhaps she needed to know precisely what each symbol represented. But she definitely understood more than I did. I supposed that with enough repetition, you could even paint a picture in your mind of what the squiggles were trying to convey.

If this was true, there had to be some sort of data lost in the translation from pictures to symbols. I wondered what kind of compression ratio they would get. There's no way it was as good as a Huffman compression. And seeing how large those books in the library were, they must either convey massive amounts of art or be inefficient. But I suppose I could see the advantage. Even if I might still prefer seeing the images directly myself. Though it did beg the question: could I see more art if I could also understand these mathematical squiggle patterns?

I thought about the many, many books in the library. If each one of those held a floor plan or maybe a description of a new type of floor in such a way, I could picture it in my head as if I was seeing it for real... Oh boy, the endless possibilities! I don't think I could ever get bored if I had that many different types of floors to look at.

I made a note to get Beatrice to teach me about these squiggles. I wanted to also picture the art she had been enjoying.

This revelation passed. I mentally retrieved the words she actually said. Yeah, those words didn't really make any sense, either. Perhaps they're pronounced differently. The rhyming scheme was indeed wrong. Honestly, I was curious if it was supposed to rhyme. Is this supposed to be an intimidation method? They should make it less ambiguous. Either way, considering the floors I had seen so far, whatever was behind that archway would need a lot of dusting. No abstract representation of possible vague threats would keep me from that.

A note from zaifyr

72% of the way to 4 chapters a week.

Spot might be a bit slow when it comes to figuring out what books are but at least he appreciates art :)

Support "All the Dust that Falls: A Roomba Isekai Adventure"

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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