Chapter 59: That Gaia
Halfway through the morning. I still had myself drooling; loss and drifting in bliss after having the scarlet lassie’s dish. My sensitive palate had stamped its seal of approval, deeming her cooking skills on the master-chef level. That ‘not-rat’ cuisine she cooked was so mouth-watering that I would love to have more.
Who could have thought that three years was enough for the scarlet kitten to become a master chef? The taste of her dish had even surpassed all those Michelin restaurants dishes that had passed through my palate? I even asked for more portions until I reached my stomach’s limits and had my belly protruded like a whale.
After breakfast, the young catkins withdrew and went out to herd the animals.
Of course, Emma stayed and kept an eye on me. The old catkin also allowed this freeloader aunt to laze around while she cleaned the house, not allowing me to even help. She was still treating me like I was a sheltered princess.
Thus, I spent my time watching the grass waltz as it followed the blowing wind. Bored stiff.
But boredom ended too soon.
From the wide-open window, a bunch of rugged men sprinted towards the catkin’s home with passion. It was a race. Some even had themselves rolling on the grassland after getting shove the others to the side just to get first. They looked so spirited that I felt my legs weakening. Some men had a vibrant-hued flower bouquet on their hands while a few carried… wait? Is that a shitty goat? Sheep? Cow? Ah?
Okay, time to prepare for a short but infallible rejection speech.
My eyes widened further as I caught a good glimpse of who was behind the tough men through my newly evolved, eagle-sharp eyes. The unbelievable fools even brought… some tough-looking aunties. One look and I had realized who and what they were. My easy-going expression slowly twisted into a scowl, the dumbasses had called deadly reinforcements that were extremely difficult to deal with.
It was an army of moms!
I shuddered and felt cold sweat trickling on my back. Madness! Which crazy bastards called these aunties?! Holy, that’s not fair. Even on earth, I deemed them to be as persistent as hell!
Taking the deepest breath that I could, I squinted and fell in deep thought.
Then… I slammed the window and locked the doors, asking Emma if I could sleep more. She agreed, but not before giving me the strange look. I retreated to my cave like everything was normal. Inside my room, I tucked the blanket over my head, acting like I was still tired and needed sleep. I had already prepared my excuse if someone calls for me.
I immediately sent a message to the little gossipy blob through the spiritual link. I had to hear what’s happening or else I’d never take a step outside until the army of mommas was gone.
“Good news! Good news! Emma come out! We have good news from the frontier!”
“Emma! Splendid news! Come out!”
The aunties chirped, and the young men huffed. The crowd knocked like a rioting crowd.
Emma narrowed her eyes as if understanding why I acted like that. She knocked on my door and whispered. “Victoria, wear the sakkat.” It seemed her kitty sixth sense was on full-throttle. She detected that the aunts and the young men were probably after me. “They’re after you.”
“I’ll open the door a little, but don’t come out, okay?”
I let out a grunt in reply. I had underestimated how desperate these aunts were for a daughter-in-law.
Anyway, she didn’t need to tell me that since I had already worn the sakkat to hide my face. Despite the inconvenience and the fact that I had myself tucked inside the bedsheets, I still wore the sakkat. Of course, I opened a tiny slit on the blanket, just enough for me to peek.
“I’ll open the door now,” Emma said.
She slowly opened the door and met… the aunties. From the gap, I saw a group of infallible aunts standing, and behind them was an army of young men with various gifts and dowries.
My hands turned clammy after getting a peek at what was happening. I gulped.
“What’s the ruckus? Why are there some many of you?”
Emma asked, her eyes turning into slits. She blocked the prancing eyes of the aunties that were looking around the house like fearsome hawks. Thank the goddesses that I hid.
“We bring good news from the frontier!”
One of the excited young men with a cow over his shoulder twitted. His eyes shifty as he tried to peek over Emma’s shoulder. He tiptoed as if he was searching for something inside the catkin’s house.
“What’s the news and what’s with the cow?”
Emma threw a sharp question that had the muscled youth take a step back.
“Take ya’ cover, kid, mom’s gonna’ handle this for you. Yar’ not her much.”
“I’m already thirty mom, I can handle this myself!”
“Na’ ya don’t.” The fierce aunt kicked his son to the side and faced off with old catkin.
She glanced at Emma as if she was trying to read something. “Emma, they had won against the ratkin army. The war had finally ended. The little one’s parents are now coming back.”
“And?” Emma’s ears perked up.
“They’re alive. Your old husband too.” The aunty smiled. “The three of them are alive and well.”
A crimson aura suddenly burst out from Emma, the scarlet fog had the entire crowd retreating. Soon enough, a misty-eyed Emma appeared from within. With my sharp eyes, I saw her clenching her fist tightly, and she was trembling. Before the crimson mist could fully disappear, she turned her back from the crowd, rubbed the dew coming out of her eyes, and flashed a genuine smile, unlike her usual fake ones that looked quite evil.
“So the kittens still have their parents, unlike me. And Emma’s husband is still alive.” I felt happy for a moment before suddenly feeling empty. I sighed. “Parents.”
Though years had already passed since the death of my parents on earth, I still had a lot of what-ifs buried inside my heart. Though time had removed the pain, it also strengthened the longing.
Anyway, it looked like what I secretly did had helped them to reunite again as a family sooner. As for the rat army… a smile bloomed on my face. Though it was not what I intended, and I only vented my fury and trauma, it still felt good to realize that I had helped somebody.
‘Come to think of it, I wonder why did the parents of the real Victoria treat her like that. From just how Saria cared for her, she sounded like a good girl.’
Suddenly, a brief image of a floating violet-haired lady flashed before my eyes, and my lips involuntarily moved. It was a memory. A piece of my memory that I seemed to have forgotten. I don’t know why, but something akin to glass broke inside my mind. I felt dizzy, and sweat dripped from my forehead as the images slowly flooded me.
“I-Is she the real Victoria? W-What’s happening? What am I doing there?”
A blue notification rang and appeared in front of me.
[Two days before full recovery. Your soul is getting stronger and stronger day by day. Please assure that you’re in a place with no buildings or people in 47 hours and 57 minutes… 56 minutes.]
I let out a chuckle. “Why does it sound like I’d be someone dangerous after the timer goes off? Did someone put a bomb in me?”
“Don’t be too happy yet, Emma.”
The tough aunty took a deep breath and called for Emma’s attention. Well, she also caught mine too. She scratched her cheeks and turned fidgety.
“Why?” A worried expression involuntarily slid out of Emma. Her brows creased. “Did something bad happen to them? Did someone lose a limb?”
“No, nothing like that!” The aunty shook her head. “I think some dirty religious zealot had infected them. The village messenger that was listed in the army just arrived this morning. He was the one who brought this news. But he turned weird. He even fell on the ground as soon as he arrived at Astolfo’s house just to praise some, er, goddess.”
“Wait? What?” Emma frowned, feeling confused.
“I mean, they’re thanking a minor goddess for saving them and killing the invading hundred thousand rat armies.”
“If a goddess helped. Isn’t that normal?” Emma’s frown turned deeper.
“No, it’s not. They were shouting praises and honor like a madman towards that… Gaia.” The aunty walked towards Emma and whispered. “And… they’re acting like those agents of those evil cults, they’re trying to convert everyone they encounter. They even shout ‘Praise be to Gaia the Savior and Destroyer’ with zeal. I heard she did an incredible miracle on the battlefield.”
Emma’s eyes widened. She looked dumbfounded. “G-Gaia? Not the other gods? A-Are you sure?”
The aunty flashed a wry smile and shook her head. “It’s indeed the evil imp of a goddess.”
“The goddess who scorched our farmlands helped them? The one who accidentally spread out the plague, which was supposed to be used for pest, but wiped the weretiger kingdom instead? The one who caused the famine on the Madlands after an innocent kid prayed to her to stop the rainy season? The one who forced all the other gods to say sorry on her behalf!? The goddess of destruction and mischief?”
The aunty nodded.
Silence fell. Even the young men who just heard of the news felt confused. They might not know the names of the major gods and goddesses, but the name Gaia rings like their mom’s morning nagging. The infamy of Gaia the Evil was just that unforgettable. Even if you try to forget it, you couldn’t.
“The goddess that turned this land place into continent into a literal Madlands? You‘re telling me she’s finally acting like some good god, not an evil one? That Gaia?”
“Ya’ heard me right?”
“Isn’t that impossible?” Emma choked in disbelief. “She did nothing good for the last hundred of years, but now… Did she finally grow crazy? Wait… that’s… good crazy.” She cupped her hands into a prayer gesture and closed her eyes. “Please remain crazy forever, our dear goddess.”
On the other hand, I, Victoria, who was still hiding on the quilt, felt stifled. Through the help of Maggie the Gossiping Wind, I mean, the Whispering Wind, I heard everything loud and clear.
‘Did I just cause some great misunderstanding? Should have said some other random name I’ve read in the books.’
I remembered the warnings of the blue notification just now and how happy the goddess was when I gave her the credit when I slaughtered the swarming ratkins. She was also preparing a reward for me, right? I chill crept up on my back, making me squirm.
“Anyway, I heard my daughter-in-law decided to stay in your house last night? Can I say hi?” The tough aunt finally decided to cut to the chase.
The aunty threw the fastball, catching Emma and me off guard.
Wait? My eyes widened like a plate. ‘Whose your daughter-in-law?’
“Tsk, glib tongue.”
“Hey, Lisa, don’t take advantage? The lady has chosen no one yet. I bet she would like my son better than your rascal.”
“Yeah, don’t take a head start without our consent. Nothing’s decided yet.”
Emma, my cat shield, cut off the rambunctious crowd from their daydreams.
“The lady is asleep.” Emma huffed. “Don’t worry. I’ll tell her you ALL, said hi.” She held the doorknob and pulled the knob, In hopes she could close the door, only to be blocked by the pushy aunts.
“So you don’t wanna help me with this.” The aunt named Lisa shook her head as she and the other aunts swarmed Emma. “I even told you about the return of your family.”
“Astolfo and Hild would inform me that without even your help,” Emma said, sounding like an impenetrable block of ice. “Oh, but thank you for telling me in advance.”
Soon enough, a stand-off began. Emma and the aunties glared at each other. The pressure alone made me gulp. It was a whole new level of the mental battlefield over there. The aunties were not backing down at all, despite Emma’s hissing.
It was one hell of a match. Some inpatient aunties and young men even tried to enter from the roof and the shut windows, but the crimson fog that Emma release thwarted them. I couldn’t help myself but cheer for Emma in my heart.
‘Best kitty Ever!’
“Hey what are you all doing over there return to your homes!” A scarred giant with a thick slab of minty herbs plastered on his chin roared at the crowd. He still looked groggy, but there was a big foolish smile drifting on his face. He looked energetic. Standing behind him was a beautiful golden-haired lady and the cold-faced villager elders.
“Go back to your homes! The princess is still sleeping, be mindful of your actions.” Astolfo bellowed.
My eyes constricted at his words. I was right. ‘Saria had told them about my real identity.’
Question marks appeared in the crowds’ eyes. Confused.
“Ya’ heard me right! That lady inside is a princess from another country, so don’t force your precious sons on her… or else! His father, a king, might take your son’s life for that! Even your entire family!”
After hearing that the lady was some kind of royal princess, the faces of the clamoring crowd of aunts blanched. They immediately dispersed, dragging their sons and dowries back with them. Although they heard the lady was good-looking and they wanted her to marry their sons, they all knew that no one should ever mess with a noble, especially someone from a royal family. There were enough stories about commoners getting killed for trying to woo a royal or a noble.
After assuring that the crowd had gone back to their homes, Astolfo, Hild, and the village elders greeted Emma, the fierce gatekeeper.
“Thanks.” A tired smile slipped out of Emma’s lips. She then turned towards my room and met my eyes from the gaps. “Princess Victoria, it’s safe now. You can come out now.”
Letting out a long-suffering sigh, I cautiously walked out of my hole like a frightened rabbit. I looked at the wary faces of the escaping villagers and threw a glance at Astolfo. Perhaps it was already time for me to hear the story about Saria.