Chapter 07 – Midnight Mishaps and Matinal Meetings
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Oh my, another series of Firsts for me. I don’t really go into the details -- and I don’t even know if I COULD, but I am flirting really close to the edge of where I become uncomfortable describing further! I hope you people enjoy this chapter, even if it’s rather lacking in punching, kicking and robot smashing!

 

     As I wake, I can once again feel the warmth of the fleece blanket. The extra weight of my furry protector sleeping on top of my chest brings a smile to my face. There is no pain in my left arm, or anywhere else, it seems, as I stretch. The smell of the cawl is still as lovely as the last time I awoke. I do not hear any ratcheting, voices, or footsteps. I take one of my hands to Rune’s head, and start delivering scritches behind his ears. He wakes up, startled, and quickly relaxes again, purring. At first, I feel like I could stay like this forever. But then my throat starts complaining that it is rather dry.

 

     “Alright Rune, I need to move, scoot, little buddy,” I croak as I lift my head and rest my weight on my elbows. After a second hesitation, he jumps down from his perch to the floor with a cute little chirping noise. I look at the blanket covering me with a bit of dread. I remember the way this body looked in the character generator, I have walked around in it, and I’ve used it in some cat-versus-giant-robot deadly martial arts, but I haven’t really given any time to look at it, to accept it as my own. “Gotta get over with this, at some point.” I pull, turn and push the blankets towards the edge of the couch.

 

     The nightgown I am wearing is white silk, and as previously observed, silky smooth. Judging by its length and how snugly it fits, I suppose it must have been made to my size -- Vieras are quite tall, and any of them around my height would be much younger, and wouldn’t have the beginning/hint of curves that this body has. Looking at your own body is very different from looking at a mirror, photograph or user interface. I’m trying to determine what kind of reaction I should be feeling, and what kind of reaction I was expecting. Because currently? I feel nothing uncomfortable or exceptional, really more the opposite.

 

     Looking at my old body in the morning is something I always subconsciously avoided. Putting a T-shirt and jeans on was the first order of business, so I could stop being confronted by it, and avoid thinking about it. Right now, I don’t feel that need to avert my eyes, so that’s certainly a step up. Actually, the more time I spend, the more I think my brain finally realizes that I’m looking at myself, and not someone else. I focus my gaze at my feet, curl and then uncurl my toes, one foot at a time, then both together. Those are simple gestures, but it puts a stupid grin on my face as I feel my brain associating to this body. I guess it’s finally sinking that this is really me!

 

     The well developed legs that emerge from the bottom of the nightgown are making me feel particularly good. They’re not Viera-epic, but that was never the image I was shooting for. I lean forward and reach for the calf muscles, curious about how they feel, and how it will feel to be touched there. “Oh my…!” Hairless skin is certainly surprisingly smooth! And comfortable from both ends, wow! Being fit and having a near-perfect BMI also comes with its own bunch of new feelings. I allow my hands to explore further around the calves, caressing my toes, feet, knees, and thighs. I could get used to this, but I may have to stop before I get myself too hot and bothered…

 

     I slap myself in the face with both hands to snap back to reality -- my parched throat still was complaining, after all. I need to find something to drink, and Naja said something about making us Chai. And that sounds lovely right now. I swing my legs off the couch, feeling the sensation of them rubbing against each other, and force myself to scan the room. Perhaps there’s a cup and teapot sitting somewhere? Sadly, I don’t see anything that could pass as a water pitcher or teapot in all that clutter. Perhaps it’s here, but it’s not somewhere obvious to me. I need to find Naja and Aileen and ask, then. 

 

     I stand up, which feels slightly harder than it should be, although I still feel that sense of almost supernatural catlike grace in the movement. Now that I’m standing up, my impressive mane of silvery hair starts hugging and lightly tickling my body through the gown. Once again, this feels really good, and I’m not even doing anything. I didn’t know simply being alive and doing normal things could feel so right. Rune jumps straight into the spot I’ve just cleared, and curls himself into a ball, apparently pretty happy to capture all the heat I’ve left behind. “Be right back, kiddo.”

 

     I leave the back store, and enter a similarly sized room. The windows aren’t letting any light in, so I have to assume it is the middle of the night. A few weird hovering fist-sized orbs dot the room and provide a very soft blue light. This makes me think of the amount of light you’d get from night lights. Just like in the back store, the amount of clutter is insane. There are a few shelves, cabinets and display cases, all filled with items of so many shapes and colours! Flasks, herb and flower pots, piles of books, tiny pouches, candies wrapped in bright-colored foil, precooked food, medical and alchemical paraphernalia. In one corner of the room, there’s a huge machine that bubbles, whizzes and whooshes loudly. A white noise that feels almost like it’s breathing.

 

     Above what is likely the main door, there’s a beautifully ornate chime, I’m curious how it sounds. On the wall above, a map of the known world, or possibly of this continent? It’s strangely familiar and alien to me, at the same time. If it was Eorzea, or Vana’diel, chances are I would recognize either. I’ll have to find or make myself a copy, I think. In front of that, the main counter has a cash register on it, and a thick book. At first I assume it’s a book to track orders, running bills and such, but it looks like it’s actually closer to those guest books you see at funerals or weddings? 

 

     The text in it is in Eorzean, which looks like the same characters we use in English, with some twists. Some of the letters are flipped horizontally, and such, to give it a foreign feeling. Most of the content of the book is people thanking Aileen and Naja for their hospitality, or the quality of the goods and services. Some of them mention paintings and how much they like them? This makes me think of reviews you’d leave on Google Maps for a business. They don’t have many reviews, but seem to have a pretty good average rating. I smile as I wonder if the fact you have to write the review in front of the owners has something to do with that.

 

     As I open the last door, I am greeted with a dark small storage room with well-stocked wine racks and beer barrels. A narrow staircase leads downstairs, and an unseen source of light is casting dancing shadows on the walls at the bottom of the staircase. I begin the descent down the stairs as quietly as I can, which turns out to be very! The room at the bottom of the stairs is a kitchen/dining room, which seems to be made to accommodate about four people comfortably. The kitchen area with all it’s cooking surface and implements actually takes probably more space than the dining area, which hints that either Aileen, Naja or both are really fond of the culinary arts. The dining table is set for three at the moment, and in the center of it, a simple three-armed candelabra flickers and burns. It is the only source of light in the room. Are those candles made of actual wax, or are they some kind of magical wax that never runs out?

 

     My ears perk up as I hear a very soft breathing. Someone sleeping? It’s coming from the next room over, the way there partially blocked by a nice-looking decorative Shoji -- those Japanese room dividers, this one with a beautiful rendition of a Sakura tree. Sidestepping the divider, I peek into the room. Oh, that’s interesting, I can feel my eyelids open as they go into low-light vision. At the same time, I notice all colors are fading in exchange for gaining, in computer terms, what feels like a much higher resolution? I remember what one of my photograph friends said before about black and white photos being much clearer, and I feel like that the same applies to my vision now.

 

     In front of me, in the center of the room, is a single, large bed. In the bed, I can see in terrifying clear black-and-white detail two mostly naked viera women intertwined in each other’s arms. It’s a good thing they’re asleep! Also that I can’t see colours right now, and there’s no mirror, because my face is probably tomato red. I quickly take a few steps back. OKAY. I don’t know how to process this new discovery! So Aileen and Naja are an item. That’s great, and totally none of my business! That’s normal, even; there’s not even a playable male Viera character model! Come to think of it, there’s no playable male Agrarian Mithra, either. Does that mean anything about my future?

 

     I creep back upstairs to my couch as silently as possible, my head drowning with questions. Since I haven’t managed to find the promised Chai, or water, I decide to settle for another bowl of Cawl instead. I open the cupboard where Naja fished for a bowl, and stretch, tip-toe, to reach for one. A few spoonfuls of midnight snack in my bowl, I sit in the blanket next to Rune, and start digging in. To my surprise, it tastes even better than yesterday. Getting used to the different ingredients’ and spices’ unique tastes, I suppose? I don’t think I’m at the point of hunger where everything tastes amazing?

 

     “Hey baby, can you move a little, I’d like to lay down on that couch until sunrise,” I ask Rune as I put the empty bowl down on Aileen’s workbench and sit myself on the couch. He vaguely opens his eyes and looks at me, apparently totally uninterested in whatever I have to say. Well, fine. I’ll just try to squeeze myself in the space that’s left. I slip back under the sheets, and pull them back to cover my body. Rune finally agrees to scoot a little, just enough for me to find a comfortable position. Falling asleep might be difficult now that my mind is filled with sexy Vieras. Urgh. Maybe I can count sheeps? Or maybe just try to figure out how to “T-Spin” in Tetris, whatever will help me think of something, ANYTHING else…? Yeah, no. I don’t think anything can prevent my brain from imagining what their lips, hands, and bodies did to each other as they lay together in that bed earlier. This may be a long night. On the plus side, I can conclude that I’m absolutely not turned off by the image of lesbians going all intimate on each other. Actually, I think I caught myself wondering if there was a way to insert myself into this scenario, the soft skin of my legs caressing against… NOPE NOPE NOPE. Okay, calm down, Brain. I need to sleep, please let me?

 

     When I wake up, the first thing I see is Naja’s lips approaching my face, about to plant a kiss on my forehead. I panic, trying to determine if this is a dream or fantasy, freezing until I feel her lips touching my skin. Naja quickly backs off and tilts her head as she looks at me, visibly puzzled “Good morning kitten, what has got you spooked that much this morning?” 

 

     “N--nothing..!,” I stammer. Naja squints her eyes a second, probably not buying my lie. She leans in and puts her forehead against mine. “Well, you are overheating a little. Let’s have breakfast, then you can try those new clothes of yours as we visit the Caller. The walk outside should get rid of all that excess heat.” 

 

     Aileen enters the room, carrying a large platter. The scents of roasted bread, strong cheese, and Chai reach my nostrils in seconds. “I bring breakfast for all!,” she says with a grin, as she places the platter over her workbench, after clearing barely enough room to squeeze it. Breakfast goes by fast and mostly silently. It is a simple bread and buffalo milk cheese. The smell of the cheese is rather pungent, but the taste works really well together with the rye bread. 

 

     Apparently, before going to sleep yesterday, Aileen finished the jewelry she promised -- the rubellite choker to help fight the cold, which is actually mostly made of electrum. Every other piece is silver and amethysts -- two earrings, two rings, and a cute wristlet. She also apparently managed to make me a new outfit more suited to the weather this far north. I don’t know how she found the time to do all that in a single evening, but I can only assume that “Crafting” in this reality was closer to magic than the normal process artisans have to go through on Earth.

 

     The outfit in question is some comfortable navy blue sweatpants, a turquoise tank top, and a nice white sleeveless button-up blouse. She also made some warm black cotton knee-high socks, underwear, elbow-length gloves and a scarf. To top it off, a rather warm-looking, furred-winter teal jacket that reaches all the way below my knees, topped with a hoodie with room for my ears. It's astounding -- she is either a mind reader, or really good at figuring out the kind of things I’d be okay to wear. I also don’t remember when she took my measurements, so I assume that drunk Neva is a lot easier to handle than unconscious Neva, somehow?

 

     “Hey Aileen, can you teach me how you made these things? I’d like to be able to mend or make my own clothes, someday…,” I ask after she finishes helping me into her creations.

 

     “Ie, it is not complicated, just need understanding of how things work. Then have crystals speed the process. Will see, will see,” she answers, giving me a look over. She unbuttons the top three, and the bottom button of my blouse, giving me a casual, decontracted look, which I approve of. She nods “Now the little cat looks like she fits better here.”

 

     Naja, who has been running to and fro, stops to admire Aileen’s handiwork. “Well, it’s a bit practical, and she could show more of her beautiful skin, but she seems happy about it,” she comments.

 

     “It’s fine! It’s perfect, I like it!, ” I quickly answer, blushing, to dispel any idea that I may be interested in the kind of clothing Naja seems to have in mind. I assume that if it was only up to her, I’d get an outfit comparable to Etna from Disgaea. Sure, Etna is a sexy and cute little demoness, but I would rather look at her than be the one that gets that kind of attention!

 

     Naja grins, apparently satisfied with my reaction. “Well, put your coat on, and get Rune to follow us, I’ll take you to your appointment. The caller agreed to see you today, so let’s not waste her time.”

 

     I nod, slipping into the fur-lined winter jacket, and beckon Rune to follow me. He does so without hesitation. We leave through the front door, and the chime, as I expected, produces a very enjoyable melodious song as the door opens. This doesn’t even feel possible through normal physics, so there’s probably a minor enchantment on it. 

 

     Outdoors, there are snow banks as tall as houses all over the place. Trails are dug deep in the snow, and create some obvious paths in the village. I say village, because from the Atelier’s front door, I can see a maximum of twenty other dwellings. But I assume most people live further away, especially if the residents are hunters, farmers or gatherers. 

 

     The first thing I notice is that almost everyone in the city are Vieras, and they all share the same traits as Aileen. Similar height, pale skin, shorter ears, and light colored hair -- snow white, light blue, light green, platinum blonde, light rose… So Llanfair is a settlement of Veenas. Naja, on the other hand, has the features of the Rava -- jungle dwellers. 

 

     After following the main path from their shop to the center of the village, Naja leads me down a path that seems to head outside of the village, as no houses seem to be in the direction she is leading me. She explains “Caller Kaestra lives a bit off the village. She is not Veena, but her abilities and wisdom have earned her a reputation with the residents.”

 

     I nod as we continue along the path. There’s not really anything exciting to see around after the first few minutes, but I have to admit the open air feels good. Pine trees to the left, and to right. Snow everywhere. A single path going forward.

 

     After a short while, I notice the trees giving way to open air as the path leads us right next to a frozen lake. And in the center of the lake, a young woman dressed in red clothes is currently doing some kind of dance. No. Not a dance -- a Kata. In her hands is a gleaming katana. So this is a Kendo Kata, probably? I find myself fascinated by her training exercises, and stop. Naja notices after a few steps, and stops to look at the girl and myself. She steps closer to me and waits.

 

     The girl is dressed like you would expect of a minor samurai trainee -- a red jacket (gi) with a wide black belt (obi). The only parts of her outfit which seems armoured are some small shoulder pads (tate-eri), plate skirt (kusazuri) and gloves (kote). Under that armored skirt, she wears shorts that end around mid thigh, and the rest of her legs are almost entirely exposed, except some cloth scraps around the ankle and arch of her foot. Which means she’s essentially walking barefoot on ice right now. She has long salmon-pink hair, tied back in a japanese top knot, complete with the chopsticks aesthetics. And crowing it all, she has cat ears and a long, fluffy cat tail dancing along with her every move.

 

     “Her name is Pimy. Pimy Kettihl. She’s a strange one, she came recently, and started practicing here. Keeps mostly to herself. She talks more to her magic mirror than she does to the residents,” Naja offers. Pimy either didn’t notice us, or is too focused on her training to show any reaction. She keeps fighting invisible enemies, swinging her weapon with ease and obviously practiced precision. Every single one of her movements seem to contain exactly the amount of force and grace needed, and not one ounce more, hinting at a level of intense mastery of self.

 

     “What’s this about a magic mirror?,” I ask, my eyes still glued on the display in front of me.

 

     “It’s a little thing -- perhaps yay big?,” she indicates with her hands, tracing a box about the size of a smartphone. I turn to look at Naja as she continues “People have seen her look into it, and they say it often shows things that aren’t there. So unlike a mirror, it shows other locations, or other people. She often stares at it, and she sometimes talks to it, or listens to it.”

 

     “Well, I don't usually go blabbing to people about it, but since you’re talking about it... This mirror is known as the Glass of All-Seeing. Maybe you've heard of it?” the girl known as Pimy offers. I don’t know when and how, but she’s standing a few short meters away from us, her katana held at her hips, in a polite and non-threatening way. Before either Naja or myself manage to catch our wits, she continues: “My name is Pimy Kettihl. This mirror has been in my family forever! It guides me along my path in life, and it showed me that you would arrive here. I have been waiting for you!” she bows with her whole torso, a clear mark of deference.

 

     “Huh. Hi Pimy! I’m Neva, it’s nice to meet you…? Can you please stop bowing before us, please?,” I ask, a bit intimidated by her. 

 

     “Huh, Neva, is it? Nice to meet you too, at long last! Hey, I have to ask, how old are you, anyway? You looked older in the mirror…”

 

     Without thinking, I start answering “I’m forty…”. Shit, I’m not used to the fact Neva is fourteen, not forty.

 

     “Forty months, huh? Yeah, that looks about right. You’ll be fully grown in a little bit less than half a year, then, won’t you?,” she continues with a grin, unphased at all by my answer. Wait. Forty months old? Oh. Right, the age in the character creation wasn’t real age, it was physical maturity expressed in Human Years, for the benefit of the player. So Agrarians have either a much shorter life-span, or simply a very accelerated growth? It’s so annoying sometimes to jump into something without all the proper data! 

 

     I’m a bit at a loss about how to answer this, but thankfully, Naja comes to my rescue: “I am sorry to cut this short, kittens, but Neva here has an appointment with the Caller, and we need to be going.”

 

     Pimy closes the distance in a few steps, and passes us with a twirl, waiting ahead of us on the path “Oh! Let me come, then! I like visiting new places!” Neither Naja nor myself seem to have any good reason, or perhaps even the ability to prevent her from doing as she pleases, so we nod, and resume the trek to Caller Kaestra’s place.

 

     It takes only a few minutes more of walking before we arrive in front of the house of the Caller. It is a fairly large house, made in the same style as the rest of Llanfair, which reminds me of Canadian log houses. This one, however, could be considered a small mansion. As we arrive at the front gate, Naja stops, puts a hand on Pimy’s shoulder and says: “The Caller instructed that you are to enter the mansion with Rune and no one else.”

 

     I nod and take the final few steps to the front door and open it. The room that greets me is big enough to act as a town hall meeting room, and is almost totally dark. The only light in the room comes from the fact that small shafts of sunlight are able to seep in from the front door or imperfections in the construction. I take a few steps forward, making sure Rune is with me, and close the door. 

 

     “Hello?,” I ask out loud, hesitantly, “Caller Kaestra..? You called for me?” 

 

     I wait for an answer, but am only rewarded with silence. I scan the room, my eyes adjusting once again to low-light vision. I slowly take very hesitant steps forward.

 

     Suddenly, I feel an extremely weird feeling. The feeling of a very subtle, but ice cold breath, blowing at the top of my left ear. Instinctively, I turn around and before I can even think about it, I am throwing a spinning kick at… a floating, ice-blue lady in a dark blue bikini! She swiftly blocks my kick with her forearm, having covered it in a thick layer of ice before the impact.

 

     Wait, why am I fighting against Shiva, the Avatar of Frost, exactly?!

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