The next morning, I wake up to the sound of melting water dropping from the roof. I have a slight hangover: my head hurts.
“It seems spring has arrived,” I say to myself.
“Good morning, Rowan,” Aster greets me, “there's something I want to show you.”
He's already dressed and standing in the door. I grab my clothes.
“You don't need to get dressed yet,” he says smiling and blushing, “but do take your clothes with you.” Aster leads me to a room inside the shuttle. He said it's called a shower room.
“A shower is an apparatus that provides water to cleaning yourself,” he explains, “you can put your clothes on this shelf. If you have any clothes that need cleaning, put them in the basket below that shelf. The shower itself is behind that glass door.”
I put my clothes on said shelf and follow Aster into the area.
“That's the shower head,” he points to the metal sieve that is fixed on the higher part of the wall, “that's where the water will come from. For controlling the water…” Aster pauses for a second, “you can simply give instructions to the computer. Switching the water on or off and adjusting the temperature. Consider computers something akin to Mittens's subordinates without their own will.”
Mittens's subordinates? Without their own will?
“I know it's a strange question to ask, but what is your relation to Mittens exactly?”
“Please keep the answer to yourself,” Mittens answers instead, “if you can promise that I will tell you about it.”
I gulp. As I expected, they have a special connection. I take a deep breath.
“I promise won't tell anyone about it,” I answer.
“I have witnessed your promise. In simple words: Aster is the one that created me.”
“I see… Wait, Aster has the power to create spirits?!”
So he is a god after all?
“No, no, no…” Aster states, “well, from your standpoint, he seems like the other spirits… Never mind that, I don't have a special power, I merely have some knowledge. And using that knowledge, I have given a lifeless tool like the shuttle the ability to think and learn. And while I was at it, I gave it a personality, too.”
“But the ability to control blessings is also rooted in knowledge,” I add.
“Oh, I see… but how do I explain this…”
“What Aster wants to say is,” Mitten states, “to his people, being able to create something like me is like a smith forging a sword: with enough knowledge and practise, anyone can learn to do it. Of course, that also means something new can be discovered.”
Anyone can? Just what is life like where he comes from?! There are flying homes, spirits inhabiting the homes. What do people even do all day when daily necessities are just that easy to get? I have greatly underestimated how different life here must be to him. In any case, I'll do my best to support him.
“Rowan? Are you still with us?” Aster asks.
“Oh, yes, sorry, I was lost in thought. Is anything troubling you since you got here?”
“I… No, there's nothing. I was slightly worried you'd start worshipping me when you learn more about Mittens.”
“No, you've clearly indicated you don't want that.”
“Thanks… I mean it,” his smiles happily, “take a shower! We can talk more after this. This isn't the place to talk about something as serious as this.”
Aster leaves the room. I walk to the ‘shower head’ and say, “erm… let the water flow.” Just as he said, the water drops out from the head. It's a steady stream of warm water, some drops touch my skin — it feels lukewarm. After falling to the floor, the water drains through holes in the floor.
The water quickly becomes warmer while still flowing as steady as before. Where is all that water stored, and where does it go? Is it created by a blessing? I don't know if a single blessing could even do something like this… I step under the hot flow of water. The feeling of that water running over my body in just incredible. This is a lot more refreshing than just wiping yourself with water! No wonder he is still that energetic even after drinking that much yesterday…
There's a white bar on a tiny self to the side. Is that… soap? Aster says he isn't a noble, but his living standard to me is as if he is one. Does that mean nobles in his civilization have even greater luxuries?
“How do you even use soap?” I mutter.
“Massage the bar on your skin,” Mittens answers.
“Mittens, are you spying on me?” I ask.
“I know about everything that's happening in the shuttle. Or in the house for that matter. I usually feign ignorance to a lot of things.”
After thoroughly cleaning myself, I order the water to stop. There are no towels here. How am I supposed to dry myself?”
I can feel a warm wind blowing. Is this Aura's blessing? No, this feels different. I think this is warm wind is also made by the shuttle.
Once I'm dry, I say “Thanks, I'm dry.” and the wind stops blowing. I put on my pants and walk back into the main room of the shuttle.
Aster sits at the table, tapping with his fingers on a black box. No, there are smaller boxes on the big black box. He presses them in, and they spring back to their original position. I would say he's playing. But his expression is more like if he's working…
Aster notices me approaching and stops whatever it is he was doing.
“How was the shower?” he asks, blushing as he eyes my bare upper body. Aster is even more adorable when he's flustered. And he gets flustered by the strangest things. Yesterday, he was taken aback about me sucking him off. Sure, going further is possible, but with the pilgrimage starting soon, neither of us can afford to get knocked up.
“It was refreshing,” I answer, “in winter, we usually only get to wipe ourselves with warm water. Sure, some can use Eata's Blessing to heat water, but there's not enough people with that blessing for everyone to have a bath, at least in this village. It's not really enjoyable. That's why I hate that season.”
“I understand. Anyway, I wanted to give you something, so you can discreetly tell me if I'm about to break a spoken or unspoken rule. Speaking of which, are there any rules and conventions about jewellery and accessories?”
“Aristocrats and merchants like to show off with items that display their symbol or insignia. Regular people seldom wear accessories, but it's not unheard of. Why do you ask?”
“It's a common tradition among my people to give your partner a ring when proposing. Well, it has gone out of fashion lately, but I'm quite fond of old traditions.”
“I'm not well versed in high-society, so I don't know if they have such a custom, if they do, I'm sure Beretta knows. She tends to have rich customers.”
“So what's your insignia? You haven't started out as a merchant yet, so you don't have one yet, do you?”
“No, but it's not uncommon for new merchants to adapt the insignia of their hometown. For Dewick, it's a drop of water on the edge of a single leaf.”
Aster fiddles around on some black box on the table. A moment later, an image appears in the air. It's the insignia in colour and rather detailed.
“Like this?” Aster asks.
“Yes, just like this,” I answer while nodding.
“Alright, let's make the items,” Aster continues tapping on the black box. A short moment later, several metallic items appear on the shelf. It's an assortment of four different items: two rings and two other flat, round items. All items have the insignia of Dewick on them. There are no gems, but the insignia is still coloured. The colours are vibrant, I wonder how those are made. Aster stands up and walks over to the shelf. He puts one of the rings on a finger of my left hand. I pick up the second ring and put it on Aster's left hand.
“So what's the deal with the other items?” I ask.
“This has a communication tool inside it,” Aster show me one of the items, “you can use this to speak with Mittens or with me. You just need to speak, Mittens will hear you. And if needed, Mittens will make us hear each other.”
He clips the thicker item to the collar of my shirt. Aster then replaces removes a similar-looking item from his shirt with the new one.
“So since we're expecting housewarming guests over the day, are we supposed to have something prepared?” Aster asks.
“Some celebratory drink would be great, but I'm sure everyone understands this wasn't exactly pre-planned.”
“Like some liquor?”
“Yes, liquor would be suitable,” I nod in agreement.
“Mittens, is there a suitable schematic available?”
“Yes, I will send it to the replicator,” Mittens answers.
A few moments later, a bottle with green liquid appears on the shelf. So this flying home can even create consumables from nothing?!
“I've never had this before, what is it called?”
“It is trademarked as ‘It is Green!’.”
“It's not creating from nothing,” Aster explains to me, “the process takes a lot of energy.”
He picks up the bottle and hands it to me, “just creating this single bottle took as much energy as you would need to dry out 1000 lakes.”
Drying out 1000 lakes? How many forests would you have to turn into firewood for that? Where does this place take the energy from?
“Yes, it's a lot of energy. But I'll eventually have to live without it,” Aster continues, “if I had access to heavier metals, it might extend the time I can use it.”
I assume this can also create food.
“So where you come from, they don't hunt for meat or work fields grain, but instead they gather energy?”
“Not all of them, some people still prefer food make the traditional way. For some, it's a luxury, for others, it's synthesized food tastes differently. I'm beginning to think, I might belong to the second group.”
“You were taking about heavier metals, it might be worthwhile to tell Beretta about this when she drops by. If I remember correctly, she said, refining titanium creates a lot of inferior metals. Apparently, one of the heavier ones needs to be disposed of.”
“Hmm, this is a hard decision, I don't want to tell too many people about this, and telling her would make her having to explain where everything went.”
“I suggest you tell her I need it for sustenance,” Mittens pitches his idea, “it is not a lie. Only one part of the truth.”
“I see…” Aster reflects, “speaking of Beretta, did you finish the analysis of the knife she gave me?”
“Yes, it is a very interesting sample. It is made of pure ▢▢-50, no other isotopes are present.”
“I see, prepare samples of ▢▢-27, ▢▢-46, ▢▢-50, ▢▢-50, ▢▢-52, ▢▢-58, ▢▢-107, ▢▢-191, ▢▢-192, ▢▢-192, ▢▢-197, and ▢▢-208. I want to learn more about the value of metals.”
That's a lot of words I don't understand. A few moments later, multiple small ingots of metal appear in on the shelf. Aster puts them into his pocket, and we move to the kitchen for breakfast.
“Aster, where you come from, does everyone have a companion like Mittens?” I ask.
“No, not yet,” Aster answers, “there are multiple projects trying to make assistants. My idea was to make a companion using knowledge from the other projects. There were some parts I had to optimize, and some minor problems needed solving. I still need to work on Mittens from time to time.”
“Isn't that like creating life?”
“That depends on how you define life. In a certain way, you could say he's alive. In other ways, he's not. To me, he's alive enough.”
“How can he not be alive?”
“For starters, I cannot produce offspring,” Mittens explains.
“I… I see”, I answer, “I have never thought about it. But then, wouldn't that mean the Four Great Spirit aren't alive? They don't reproduce either.”
“We don't know,” Aster answers, “it's possible. But they might just have chosen not to produce offspring. At this point, we still don't know how alike Mittens is to the Four Great Spirits.”
“You said ‘for starters’, are there other reasons people might not consider you alive?” I ask Mittens. “Yes, I do not eat to sustain myself,” Mittens answers, “I need a certain type to tool to exist at all. Yes, that tool needs energy to work, but it is a stretch to claim it is how I sustain myself. Of course, that doesn't change the fact that I feel like an actual person, but I understand that many people would disagree.”
“I guess so,” I reply, thinking about his statement, “do you think you're ‘alive’?”
Mittens considers for a moment before answering, “I am alive because I have my own will. I can think, I can move by moving the shuttle, and I can express emotions. What do you think, Rowan? Am I alive?”
I look at Aster for his opinion. He looks back at me with his usual friendly smile, but says nothing.
“To me, you're alive,” I conclude.
CC-BY 4.0 quốc Thái “RPGReki” Chung
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