11: Coloured Clouds
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Luca had his books open in front of him on the floor, but the happy atmosphere from before had vanished.  Luca now perused the books with a different focus. Galen had certainly seemed convincing when he was consoling Luca's worries, but Luca just couldn't shake loose the thought that he should be contributing somehow.   With this thought installing a new purpose, Luca started reading 'Maurice the Marvellous Merchant' with a different intent. The entertaining stories of Maurice's Misadventures gave a humorous look into how lack of understanding could cause issues across cultures.  It wasn't really designed for Luca's current purpose of fact finding about economics, but it was also his only option. So Luca began panning through the amusing tales for little nuggets of gold.   

He could of course ask Galen but he didn't want to let onto his intentions after their talk the other day.  There was this slight feeling that kept slipping away, like the tail end of a dream that can't quite be remembered. Galen's steely resolve to protect his cub, sheathed in parental love, wasn't something Luca wanted to be shaken by his own mistrust.

There was also the uncomfortable feeling that kept nagging at him, just like having a tiny pebble in a lace up boot. Annoying but barely worth the trouble of taking the boot off.  Sure for now his parents, like so many parents, seemed to attribute his strangely mature actions to genius, or maybe his length of incubation, but who knows where the tipping point would be. Better to play it safe.  He didn't want to be taken to the church for an exorcism or whatever the going thing was here.   

Luca closed his eyes, rubbing the bridge of his nose.  Unfortunately as entertaining and culturally enlightening as it was 'The Marvellous Merchant Maurice' just didn't have the information he was after.   I don't really think knowing that the currency of the water kingdoms is seashells will help.  Neither will the fact that the desert tribes don't have a monetary system. Even if, by some chance, there are things unique to this area that sell well elsewhere, I'm not exactly in a position to travel to where they'd fetch a high price.  Luca sighed internally as he tried to rub away his eye strain.  I guess there just isn't anything I can glean from this book.  If I knew I was going to get transmigrated I would have studied up on technology to recreate.  Luca lay his head on his hands as he sulked.  I guess that's hindsight for you. Glumly Luca realised this worlds technology, or maybe that was magic, was so out of sync with what he knew he wouldn't know where to begin.  I mean they use teleport flowers in shops! Yet I'm not even sure they have wagons let alone cars seeing as how we walk everywhere. Is this place high or low tech?  Luca lifted his head to glower at the book in front of him.

He'd been splayed out on the floor, frowning at the same open page for a while.  Thoughts chaotically crashing round his head as he silent spun himself into a tightly wound spring. Suddenly the book snapped itself closed.  Luca jumped back on all fours, hair standing on end staring unblinking at the flying book. That was until he noticed a slightly amused Galen holding out his hand, the book now tucked under one arm.

"OK bath time then bed you can read some more tomorrow."

Despite his best efforts, Luca was herded into the bathroom.  He had tried on numerous occasions with a deeply impassioned and logical speech to be allowed to bath on his own but no matter what he came up with he was always countered with, "Not until you have full control of your anima," 

Galen was aware that his little kitten was more than capable of washing himself so he only helped him to wash his hair.  He was more concerned that Luca would take after his father. Cats were notorious for not liking water so he was basically just supervising. There was also the possibility Luca might transform in the tub out of stress.  Galen just didn't want to come in to find a drowned kitten. Galen really wasn't sure why bathing together bothered his cub so much but sulking wasn't helping him because Galen found a sulking Luca to be adorable.

The tub was also part of the tree and rather than raised sides it was embedded in the ground.  Luca was sitting inside the tub, on a stool shaped root at the edge of the giant tree, with arms huffily crossed as Galen washed his hair for him. His ears flicked occasionally as bubbles tickled them.  If his long stint in hospital hadn't prepared him for it he might have found having help in the bathroom unbearable. Still slightly embarrassed, Luca distracted himself trying to brainstorm options for his money making plans.  Luca actually knew a lot of random things which in any other fantasy world might help in his current predicament but they all fell down with this worlds bizarre technology.  

Luca resentfully eyed the strange, sponge-like, porous fruits that grew on the side of the wall. He, in particular, glared at the light blue one that was slowly, but visibly, regrowing from where Galen had plucked it to squeeze onto his hair.  Oddly enough the consistency of the juice that easily squeezed out, acted just like shampoo. A thick liquid that turned into a foam when rubbed onto the hair. Luca would be awed if he wasn't so annoyed that his soap making knowledge was rendered useless.  

Galen took his freshly washed and still pouting cub off to bed.  

The next morning Luca had gotten over his aggravation. He had to accept that he wasn’t like those characters in novels who could cheat using their other-world knowledge and make mega-loads of money. He decided to set his goals smaller. It was time for the odd jobs and the adventure society route. At least reading his books had assured him that was an option. 

Galen watched Luca inhale his breakfast with a slight frown.  Am I not feeding him enough? Galen kept observing Luca while he considered his pantry supplies.  Luca jumped down from his chair and eagerly rushed towards the front door.  

“Just where do you think you're going?” Galen moved so fast he almost seemed to teleport in front of Luca preventing him from leaving the house.

Put on the spot, Luca moved his mouth like a fish out of water, without all the thrashing. With his brain shocked silly, unable to string together more than one coherent thought, he could only blurt out the truth.

“I'm going to the guild,” while mentally biting his tongue to prevent it from tattling any further,  Luca peaked at his dad’s expression.

Contrary to what he was expecting Galen didn't look upset, just surprised “Why?”

Not seeing the angry parent his brain half expected Luca managed to hit the restart button.  Talking carefully to prevent any further slips, Luca came up with an excuse to hide his true intentions. “I want to see where father works,” Luca hesitantly explained, hoping that was a sufficiently childlike reason.

It worked, as Galen's expression instantly softened. "It isn't that I want to keep you here.  I'm sure Donovan would be delighted to show you round at another time, but until you have control of your anima it isn't healthy for you to be around too many strangers." Galen squatted down and wrapped his arms around Luca gently tugging him into a warm embrace. Well that and the spirits.  No need to scare him though.

Luca stiffly refused to return the hug. He knew that Galen was only trying to look after him but he wasn't convinced the coddling was necessary.  He'd been mostly fine around other people, he'd only had a slight emotional breakdown with that one rabbit. Luca roasted the rabbit internally.  

"Why can't I go out? I've been fine until now. It was only the other day I really had a moment when I turned into a cat, and that was at home, not when I was out."

Galen smiled and drew back, his cub's stiff body and swishing tail, clearly showing his refusal to be mollified. Keeping his hands on Luca's shoulders Galen looked him straight in the eye. "Yes, you're a remarkable cub.  You've been coping so well with my lackluster parenting that I underestimated what it takes to raise a cub."

"You're not a bad parent," Luca rushed to reassure Galen. "Why'd you say that? Was it what that rabbit said earlier? You can't let someone like that get to you. They didn't know what they were talking about!" Luca huffed at Galen, his nails digging into the palms of his hands.

Galen took Luca's closed fists in his hands and brought them up to his chest. Gently cupping Luca's fists he kissed them. "Thank you, but I have been a bad parent.  It is common practice to keep a new hatchling close to family and not socialise them until you're sure they have some awareness of their anima. You say you were fine, but if you think about it that's because whenever we went out you were right near us the whole time.  Until you went up close to Ryan," Galen emphasised the rabbit beastman's name, “his scent overwhelmed your anima. Really we should have taken you home then but you were so excited about the books it didn't seem fair." Galen reached up to gently stroke Luca's fluffy head.  "Honestly, most hatchlings would have had a more drastic reaction, and sooner. It's possible to have a bad reaction even with a parent nearby. However my baby is strong." Galen smiled then suddenly turned a little more stern "Also it's not polite to refer to someone by their anima,"

Luca frowned at the floor his white knuckled fists subconsciously loosening in Galen's gentle hold. He looked up at Galen, whose smile grew warmer as he gazed into Luca's clear eyes. "Then teach me," Luca's young voice was determined, his crystal clear gaze held Galen's.

Galen's eyebrows arched questioningly "teach you?"

"Yes teach me to sense my anima so it won't be a problem anymore," Luca's young voice declared firmly.

Galen seemed too surprised to speak for a moment, then his feathers fluttered and a smile bloomed across his face. "I can try, but to be honest it's a very personal thing, so I can really only guide you a bit.  You'll have to figure out the rest yourself."

...

Galen and Luca sat on a monster skin rug. They were both sitting with their eyes closed and legs crossed. Hands placed on their knees breathing in and out. 

Fortunately being young and flexible the position was easy enough for Luca to get into.  At first, Luca couldn't help shifting back and forth. The more he tried not to move the more aware of little irritations he was.  His nose started itching right on the end, and once he took care of that his toes felt tingly. Eventually the distractions got less, as he focused on Galen's softly spoken instructions.

"Listen to the sound of my voice, breath in, and out, let your mind focus inwards. Breath in, and out, you're moving towards your centre," The odd cadence of Galen's voice drew Luca in.  He closed his eyes and concentrated on his dad's voice, letting it mesmerism him. Finally all the distraction fell away as his mind drifted inwards.  

At first everything was dark, then without opening his eyes, he was flooded in light standing in a maze of clouds. Upon closely inspecting the nearest cloud, which he'd first thought to be white, he noticed a blue tint. His eyes followed a smaller one drifting by.  It was tinged green, like a bleached ball of moss. 

Curious, Luca reached out to try and touch one of the drifting coloured clouds.  It was golden yellow and fluffy, like a baby duck the size of a horse. Luca felt a tremor of fear, the hands he felt reaching towards the cloud couldn't be seen at all.  'Looking' around he couldn't see his own body at all. Luca grabbed his nerves and gave them a good talking to. I'm in my own mind surrounded by fluffy, coloured clouds so maybe, let's not worry about it.  Shaking of his fears, he went back to trying to touch the cloud.  When his mental hands touched the cloud his senses shifted, the scene before him blurring, replaced with another. A two year old Luca was on the beach, building a sandcastle with his sister.  The tiny, frothy waves, drifting back and forth a couple meters away. Snatching his hand back in surprise the vision vanished. His eyes twinkling, Luca started to reach for another cloud when he heard Galen's voice again. 

"Once inside don't delay, quickly look for your anima, you don't have time to play,"  sheepishly Luca withdrew his invisible hands and followed his dad's instructions. With no real idea of where to go, he just started drifting with the clouds looking for anything that could be his anima.  Once he started purposefully searching, a feather light feeling tickled his senses, vaguely nudging him in a particular direction. Uncertainly following this ghostly sensation Luca floated along. Frustratingly, whenever he thought he was closing in on the anima, that feeling slipped out of his fingers.  Like trying to catch an eel with bare hands, it's slippery skin leaving no room for purchase and the harder he tried to hold on the faster it slipped away. 

"Alright that's enough for now time for dinner," Galen's voice at a normal level dragged Luca out of his reverie.  Luca blinked rapidly at the newly appeared living room, disorientated. His brain felt like it'd slipped sideways mentally dropping him on his bum.

Dazedly looking round the living room as if he didn't know where he was. Galen gave a wry smile and left Luca sitting on the floor to regather himself. Galen grabbed some snacks out of the strange monster flower alcoves then went back and placed the leaf with the berries and meat on the floor in front of the still owlishly blinking Luca.

Once Luca finally regained his equilibrium he looked up at Galen. "Why did we stop?" he demanded, frowning up at Galen.

Galen smiled at the frustrated frown that was plastered on Luca's face "You should only spend a little time each day meditating,"

Luca looked down, his hands slowly squeezing the rug he was sitting on. Galen ruffled the fluffy white fuzz on top of Luca's head. Luca flinched back, grabbing his now messed up hair, his ears and tail puffed up. Sitting down, feathers unruffled by Luca's reaction, Galen picked up the plate and offered the food to Luca. "Eat something, you need to regain your energy."

Luca didn't see how sitting crossed legged and meditating could possibly use energy and was about to say so, when his nose caught the scent of his favourite jerky and his stomach made it's desires known with a loud growl.  Suddenly feeling ravenous, Luca grabbed a strip of dried, flavoured meat and tore at it. Ripping his defenceless and spiced prey into edible bite sized pieces. Galen grabbed a berry and popped it into his mouth with a smile watching his baby carnivore aggressively attack his jerky.

"You don't have to stress over it Luca, it usually takes a while to get the hang of it. Most hatchlings take several years before they can properly control their anima." Galen's calm voice crashed onto Luca like a breaking wave crashing onto the beach in fury.  

Luca reeled back the jerky held partway to his mouth as if he'd forgotten it's existence, "years!?" despair practically dripped from his voice like the tears he was resisting shedding. Stupid anima making me overly emotional. Luca thought using the self directed anger to distract himself from the despair that was threatening to swamp him.

Belatedly, realising that his through-away comment had caused his beloved child more distress, Galen quickly amended his previous statement. "Yes, but most cubs hatch much sooner than you and don't have the control you already have, I'm sure it won't take you that long."

Luca was barely mollified by Galen's reassurance. He distractedly went back to gnawing on his jerky. If he could, he'd ignore his dad's advice and go straight back to practising, but he didn't know how to get back into that state without his dads guidance. He continued the therapeutic action of taking his feelings out on the defenceless food.

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