A note from zaifyr

Patreon increase time! Now up to chapter 70!

Bee followed Tony into the house. She hung back, a little wary of stepping into the flurry of people scurrying about. The noise was slightly overwhelming to her after so much time alone. Though she wouldn't have been used to it even before her stay in the castle. Her father had been well off enough to hire a cook, so this chaotic preparation for a family dinner was something new.

Dinner was meant to be an uncomfortable affair with stern looks and boring adult conversations. More of a training ground to practice etiquette and manners. Bee stood in the entryway, frozen as the complete opposite happened all around her. Tony called out, "Ma, we got a guest!"

A rather rotund woman with hair in a graying bun raised her hand and waved without turning around. She tended to a cast iron skillet cooking something that smelled delicious. Tony just stepped up and started helping his siblings ferry dishes to the table. A few seconds later, the woman turned around, flipping a slab of meat and smiling at Bee. She beckoned Bee over.

When Bee finished carefully wading through the bustling family members and navigating over to the woman, she was handed a dish full of mashed potatoes. "Dear, place those on the table, please."

Then the woman turned back to the stove. Left slightly confused, Bee carried the dish over to the table. Standing amongst what felt like a tornado of activity, she looked for a spot to place the potatoes. Luckily someone came to her aid. Bee hadn't noticed the little girl, no older than five, suddenly standing at her elbow. She barely avoided spilling the potatoes as she jumped. The little girl just placed a trivet on the table and then slid it to the center as far as her little arms could reach. Bee took the hint and placed the warm dish on it before sliding it the rest of the way toward the center.

The little girl had already disappeared. This left Bee standing there, still slightly bewildered. That was until she got roped into helping get the silverware.


The bustle came to a halt all of a sudden, and Bee found herself sitting between Maranda and Tony. Her plate was heaped high with all sorts of food, and she was helping pass around the dishes. Her mouth watered at the aromas. Still, she had to skip many of them. They looked amazing - steamed vegetables, warm bread, and various cuts of meat wafted temptingly under her nose. But there was no more room on her plate. If she was lucky, there might be some leftovers of the sides once she cleared some space.

When everyone got what they wanted, they all dug in. As they ate, no one talked. But it wasn't the oppressive quiet that had reigned at her father's table back home. The noise of people eating and utensils clinking filled the air with a merry atmosphere. After a few minutes of everyone digging in, the older man sitting at the head of the table asked for someone to pass him the butter. With that, a spell was broken, and everyone started talking.

Bee watched as the scene unfolded before her. The mother cajoled her youngest daughter into eating her vegetables, shooting a sharp rebuke across the table at the brothers as they fought over the last roll. Tony spoke with his father about something farm-related as some of the other siblings vied for their attention or chatted with each other through mouthfuls of food. Maranda made sure Bee wasn't left out. "We just finished the harvest of some of the early crops. Normally it's not this formal."

This left Bee taken aback slightly. Was this formal? She finished swallowing her food before answering. A courtesy Maranda hadn't bothered with. "What's it normally like then?"

"Dunno, just normal? We eat, but there's less food, and we don't use the fancy plates." Maranda looked at her, slightly confused by her question. Bee looked down at her plate. It was slightly chipped ceramic that looked to be covered in a plain white glaze. Tony came to her rescue. "Maranda, I'm sure not everyone eats like this. I'm sure meals in the castle are quite different, aren't they, Bee?"

Still suffering from a bit of culture shock, she nodded and, in a rare moment of silence, started to feel slightly uncomfortable as they both stared at her. To shed her discomfort, Bee started to explain how she normally ate with all the apprentices. One of the younger brothers started listening in. Soon she was being bombarded by questions coming from multiple sources.


It wasn't until after the dinner that the adults really started to talk. They asked her a couple questions about why she was there and what she wanted. She answered truthfully. She needed some supplies, and she was currently alone in the castle. Well, not entirely alone. There was someone unrelated to the castle who was there and injured and needed help.

She figured that it was weird enough that she'd come alone without a horse or anything that they already knew something was wrong. After she answered the broadest level questions, the adults looked at each other and seemed to come to some silent agreement. The topic quickly changed, and the whole family returned to their merry evening.

It wasn't long until all the children had gone off to their rooms for bed. That left the parents, Tony, and her sitting around an empty table.

The older woman cleared her throat. "I'm sorry you came in during such a busy time. I totally forgot to introduce myself. I'm Mary, and this is my husband, Trent." Mary gestured to the well-built man sitting beside her with slightly graying hair. He grunted a greeting to Bee as Mary continued. "I see you've already met Tony."

"I'm also sorry for not introducing myself, but I must thank you for your hospitality. I don't think I have ever had such a welcome meal before." Bee smiled sheepishly at the couple as she did her best to remember the lessons her father had drilled into her. "I'm Bee."

Trent harrumphed and leaned back in his chair, arms crossed. "Now, I understand you're in a bit of trouble up in the castle, so why don't you tell us what's going on?"

His manner wasn't unpleasant or rude in any way. However, he had a gruff voice that intimidated Bee. But after seeing how much affection he had shown the children so far, the more she felt at ease with him.

"Well, all the mages had to leave because of an emergency." Bee was careful to leave out that the cause of the emergency was still in the castle and how frantically the mages had fled. It wasn't so much that she wanted to lie to them, but she didn't want them to think they were in danger from Void. "And in the rush to leave, I got left behind. I don't expect them to be back anytime soon. Unfortunately, many of them had to go to deal with an emergency a ways away. And I've started to run out of food, plus I'm having trouble caring for the animals and plants there."

She had to be a little looser with the truth than she really wanted to be. But she had the feeling that they would just offer her a place to stay here if she didn't have a reason to get back. And without a reason to decline, it would be suspicious. For the same reason, she also didn't mention the recovering adventurer she had just found.

She was about to go on, but Trent bent double, coughing quite ferociously. She kept expecting it to stop, but it continued on for almost a dozen hacks. When he took his mouth away from his sleeve, she saw spots of blood there. He just waved off the concerned look his wife gave him. "Don't worry about me; I'll be fine, just a cold. Having a little trouble getting over it."

Bee severely doubted that. She had read no small amount of medical texts when trying to fix her broken bones. Coughing up blood was a very bad symptom. It usually had to do with a sickness of the lungs. From the look that Mary gave her husband, she clearly wasn't buying it either. However, she let it go without saying anything. She turned to Bee and asked, "Well, we weren't expecting a member of the castle for several weeks yet. The harvest would usually be ready for them to collect around then. Sometimes they come here when they need repairs that they can't manage, but that's pretty infrequent."

Mary frowned and thought for a moment. "The real question is, how can we help you? Aside from the crops we have, our neighbor is a part-time blacksmith. He is by no means good, but he can repair a horseshoe or two. His words, not mine, though."

Bee was still studying Trent but responded to Mary's question. "If you have any food to spare or maybe just some advice on caring for chickens, I would be grateful."

Tony shot a look at his mother. She looked back with a slight frown on her face. She made to speak, but then she looked over at Trent. Bee felt like she had just missed something important. It was like the family could hold entire conversations just through looks alone, but it wasn't her place to pry. She instead focused on Trent's cough. In fact, she remembered where she had read about it.

Suddenly Bee stood up and moved to her pack. The family's eyes followed her, but they didn't say anything, still having their silent discussion amongst themselves. She started rummaging through the pockets, looking for a general-purpose medicinal alchemy book she had brought along.

"I think we can give you some food, but despite what it might look like tonight, we really don't have too much to spare until next month. I can definitely tell you a bit about caring for chickens, though." Trent called over the sounds of clinking glasses and shifting supplies.

"I would appreciate anything. Of course, I brought some coins to trade. I don't want to lean on your generosity too much. Also, the vegetable gardens they kept are starting to get overrun. I don't think they are anything near the size of what you have here, but I have absolutely no idea how to care for them. So if you can provide any advice on that front, too, I would greatly appreciate it." At the mention of the coin, Mary and Trent seemed to relax slightly. They were clearly willing to help, but if their pride allowed them to take coins, things must have been tighter than she thought.

I raced after the demon. This was the 12th one this night alone. They had started to get smart. Not that they were particularly smart, but they were capable of learning. No longer did they stay and fight if they saw me. In fact, this one started to run the instant it noticed my approach. It wasn't too much of an issue as I was still faster than them, but they had started to work together. I only hoped they didn't start hiding soon. Or retreating up any stairs.

It really would have been much more of an issue if it hadn't been for my latest mutation. The air affinity mutation was unlike any of the others. Instead of giving me a new attachment or upgrade, changing my internal machinery, it allowed me to directly control the air slightly. It was kind of like pointing a vacuum in a particular direction rather than just having it pointing at the ceiling. It was hard to explain how exactly it worked, but it did. And I was starting to really get the hang of it.

I didn't have to only pull the air towards me anymore. Even though that was what I primarily did, being a vacuum and all. I could push things sideways or even away from me. For now, it was not a very strong gust of air, but still noticeable. I had a lot of fun making the tapestries on the wall wave. It looked like the seas of grass they were depicting were rippling in the breeze.

This had more of an immediate effect than I first thought it would. The directional vacuum greatly increased my combat capabilities compared to these earth demons. It increased the material I could consume from one of them by nearly 30%. It also slowed them down more, making it even harder for them to run away.

On top of that, the directionality let me turn my vacuum on higher without the worry of damaging the surroundings, as I now could avoid absolutely trashing the carpet on full suction. I could direct the air around certain areas and items to spare them or even change the amount of suction that different spots received. The amount of chasing I was doing was getting a bit ridiculous, though. Between the constant use of my sanitation lamp, the vacuum, and running at top speed, my battery drained very quickly. I already had to transmute a couple of the lesser demons I had stored away for later.

I put on one last burst of vacuum power, dislodging a considerable chunk from my prey. I darted forward, and the last of its earthen form disintegrated, a quick swirl of sandy material whisked away by my brushes. As satisfying as it was to work on eradicating these demons, I didn't feel like I could savor it much. At the rate I currently was going, I likely wouldn't finish ridding the castle of them completely by the time Beatrice returned. Well, that wouldn't be the end of the world. It would be nice to have her come home to a safe house, though. As I wished for a tiny bit more time to finish my work, I also hoped she would get back soon. It was quite lonely here.

A note from zaifyr

I'm rather proud of how the family scene turned out...

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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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