Home Improvement — Our New House

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“One more thing: the hunters wanted the two of you to join them the day after tomorrow,” Granny informs us.

“Tomorrow? What about today?” Rowan asks.

“You should get your house sorted out first. That house is quite run down, but with Tom working on it, it should be done by the evening. He doesn't realize it, but he finishes his work rather fast. Your input will be needed. And tomorrow you'll need the time for the housewarming visits you'll get.”

“I see.”

I follow Rowan outside.

“I have to say, I'm quite surprised to see this many kinds of people there are in this village?” I tell Rowan.

“What do you mean?”

“Your ears are all different.”

“Oh, you mean that? That's nothing special. We're all just people. That's just how it is.”

“So is there a way to tell what kind of ears one's child will have?”

“Usually, the child shares the same kind of ears as the mother.”

“Usually? Are there exceptions?”

“Yes, sometimes the child has different ears. I've heard of cases where the child didn't even have the ears of either parent.”

That quite mysterious. I wonder how the genetics work out.

“But isn't it too early to think about children? We have to get our house fixed first.”

“What?!” I can feel my face turning red, “that's not what I meant!”

How can we get children? We're both men! Is he talking about adoption?

“Anyway, since it's our house, we should plan for your shop in the front. Good thing I wanted to keep the back door! So you can do whatever you fancy to the front.”

“You… you don't need to…” he shyly answers.

“Don't worry about it — you are my fiancé. It's just natural for me to support your ambitions.”

“Thanks… thanks a lot, A… cutie. I guess I need to get used to that.”

“So do I.”

We arrive at our house. Tom is already waiting for us. He has several planks under his arm.

“Tom, I thought the door wasn't locked,” Rowan says.

“No, it isn't. I just didn't want to be alone in the house with that condescending hag. My part for now is just boarding up the small cracks. Ruby is already breaking a hole in the wall in the far back.”

“Just like that?” I ask.

How do you break walls without heavy tools?

“Yes, as much as I dislike her, I can't deny she received quite a strong blessing from Aura,” Tom answers, “while I'd like to say the blessing I received from Aura is just as strong, it just isn't.”

“I heard you received Aura's True Blessing,” Rowans says.

“Aura's True Blessing?” I ask.

“Aura's Common Blessing is the command over wind or earth or both. Their True Blessing is controlling growth of plants.”

“Isn't that special?”

“It is special, but there's hardly any use for it. Sure, I can make trees grow faster. The more blessing I insert, the faster it grows. But those trees end up too flimsy to use as building material.”

“Doesn't that gift give you insight into the properties of the wood you work with?”

“Now that you mention it, yes, I've become able to sense where the wood is less good. I've never noticed.”

“I just don't have the usual common sense or basic knowledge that everyone here has. Like… when is someone considered of age?”

“Officially, you're of age when you finish your pilgrimage. But people generally treat you like an adult as soon as start your pilgrimage. Since you're asking, how is it where you are from?”

“Over there, they generally consider you an adult when you turn sixteen.”

It used to be different. I remember from history class, the age of majority shifted around a lot between twelve and twenty-one. The current age limit has only been in place for a few decades.

“So it's just age? Are there no rituals connected to that?” Rowan asks.

“It's not exactly connected to becoming of age, but generally there's something when you finish compulsory education. In my case, I was going on a trip.”

“Compulsory education? You sound like a noble.”

“Me? A noble? I don't think so. In fact, being a noble sounds like trouble.”

“Well…” Tom adds, “with you having a flying home, people will treat you as a quasi-noble. So you better get used to that trouble. Anyway, are we going in?”

“Oh right, let's go!”

We enter the house.

From the outside, it doesn't look as spacious as it is on the inside. At the back, Ruby is turning bricks in the wall to sand using her blessing. I can feel that sensation of a blessing radiating from her hand. After clearing the sand from the hole, she recreates bricks and puts them in a different orientation. Looking at the bricks of the same orientation, they form an arched door frame.

“There you are! I've already checked for you. The walls don't have any notable cracks in them. You only need to fix some windows on the east side.”

“Stop poking your nose into other people's affairs!”

“Whatever, get to work!”

Tom walks away to inspect the windows. Ruby finishes putting together the door frame.

“The frame is done. I'm about to open the hole in the wall. Can you prepare to move the flying home?”

“Go ahead, moving the shuttle doesn't take that long.”

Ruby touches the wall again, and the portion of the wall under the arched door frames turns to sand. She clears the sand and looks at me with an expecting look.

“Mittens,” I say, “dock the shuttle to the house!”

The shuttle start floating several centimetres over the ground and levitates towards the house. Reversing through the hole in the wall, there's quite a lot of slack in all directions. The shuttle lands.

“I didn't expect it to move that precisely!” Ruby says, “can you move it away again, I'll make the frame a little tighter.”

“Of course, you heard her, Mittens.”

The shuttle moves a bit away from the house. After several minutes, Ruby finishes the adjustments. I have Mittens move the shuttle back in. There's a gap of the width of about a hand in every direction.

Rowan hands me a ragged blanket, “since nobody will be using these anymore, I thought we could use it to seal the seam.”

“Thanks,” I get a knife and cut the blanket into parts and roll them up. Then I stuff the blanket rolls into the seam. We repeat the process with a second blanket. Just this with these, I cut one of them into halves and stuff the longer one over the gap of the previous layer in the seam. We add a third layer, just like the first one, and we're done.

“I didn't expect stuffing the seam would work this well,” Ruby says, “I can't feel the cold air coming inside any more. Consider me impressed. I know we asked you before, but do you need anything else done?”

“We talked about that on the way here,” Rowan answers, “since I wanted to become a merchant, Aster suggested making the front of the house into a store.”

“Ah, you'd have to re-partition the house for that! Yeah, let's do it now. Doing it later after you have fully moved in is going to be a bother.”

“Honey, you decide how it should look. Just remember to have a storage behind the storefront,” I say, “I'll be checking on Tom while you do that.”

I walk to the bedroom, it's at the back of the house to the east side. Tom notices me walking in and says, “I'm done with boarding up the window. I have already taken the measurements. In a few days, I'll drop by and install the new window.”

“Thanks. If you allow me to ask this: have you always been on bad terms with Ruby?”

Upon hearing my question, Tom sighs and answers, “we used to get a long, before our pilgrimage. She keeps dropping by, making fun of me for taking longer to finish my work! They call us the best in the village, but she acts like I'm not good enough.”

“You think so? If she truly thought you were beneath here, wouldn't she just ignore you?”

“Ignore me? Why would she do that?”

“It hurts people a lot more if you simply ignore them. Not talking, not greeting, not even reacting. Just acting as if you were thin air. How would you feel about that?”

“That would indeed make me feel more uncomfortable…”

“Maybe she genuinely wants to help. But then I'm just an outsider that's randomly guessing…”

“I… I'll think about that. Anyway, do you have preferences for the bed? The one in this room is falling apart, so I'll have to make a new one.”

“For the beds? I'll just leave that to you.”

“Alright, I'll do my best. I should have it ready by tonight.”

“That fast?”

“I already had some wood prepared. I just need to cut and join it. It's barely any work at all.”

Even though it's several beds, he claims he can make them in such a short time. I don't think he realizes how fast he actually is.

“I'm looking forward to it.”

I accompany Tom to the front door. The front area has completely changed. If there was the appropriate furniture, I'd say it's the stereotype of a shop. Rowan looks at me with an expecting look.

“This looks great,” I give opinion.

“See? I said he'll agree with you,” Ruby says.

“So this is going to be a store? I'll make you some furniture for that!” Tom sounds motivated.

“Thanks, please keep that in mind for later,” Rowan answers, “necessities come first.”

“Now, it's me who thinks we're receiving too much,” I add.

“That's just how things are in this village,” Tom answers, “unless we're dealing with outsiders, we just help each other instead of dealing with money.”

“I hear you'll join the hunters tomorrow, just hunt something big,” Ruby adds.

“I'm not making any promises, but I'll do my best.”

Ruby and Tom leave for their respective workshops.

I get into the shuttle to synthesize some micro-cameras with microphones. I install one camera at each outside door and in each room. That way, Mittens can do surveillance, just in case. Since it takes a while to a fire to warm the house, I end up idling in the shuttle. Rowan joins me after carrying his stuff to the house. He insisted on doing it himself.

A few hours later, it's getting dark. Mittens informs me Ruby and Tom are approaching the house. Rowan and I open the door for them. They are carrying lots of wood with them. After bringing it into the bedroom, Tom immediately starts assembling the bed. Yes, one large beg. It seems I misunderstood, and Tom went ahead to make that oversized bed for us. Sure, we're engaged now, but sharing a bed right away? But then, I don't want to ask too much of them. I wonder how Rowan feels… While Tom is busy, Ruby leaves to get something. She doesn't tell us what it is.

About half an hour later, Tom has finished putting the bed together. Ruby arrives with a large mattress and a pair of blankets and pillows.

“Consider this a housewarming gift from the two of us,” she says.

“Thanks,” Rowan and I answer. I can't help blushing… It's… so awkward…

“Since we're done here, how about we hit the pub?” Tom suggests.

“OK, let's go!” Rowan and I answer.

As we leave the house, both Ruby and Tom summon light balls that follow them. The pub is just a few houses away. Just as we get closer to the pub, the area gets a lot brighter.

“Good evening!” the bartender greets us, “Ruby and Tom walking in at the same time? That's rare!”

“Today's an exception, Grey. We just finished fixing their house.”

“I see,” Grey turns to us, “I'm glad to have you in the pub. Rowan already knows this: for villagers, up to three mugs of ale a night are free. If you want more or something fancier, you have to pay. Although, just today, for celebrating the village's newest couple, you get mead for free instead.”

“Alright, I'll take some mead,” I answer.

“Some mead for me as well,” Rowan orders.

Grey fills our mugs and puts them on the table in front of us. We toast.

“Three drinks sound quite arbitrary to me,” I state after taking a sip. The mead is quite strong. But with its sweetness, it's still pleasant to drink.

“From what Granny tells me, it's because in her generation, they used to have a person that would drink like a fish if they didn't stop him. I still haven't found out who she was talking about.”

Upon hearing that, Grey shifts his gaze away, staring into the far. I guess it's him. I take another sip.

We sit there speaking with the other guest. We talk about the village, the kingdom we're currently in. Hunting in winter is quite hard, they say. When we finish our mugs, Grey takes them and asks if we want anything else.

“Thanks, but I still need to get used to undiluted alcoholic beverages,” I answer, “can I get some watered mead?”

“Sure,” he answers. Rowan orders another regular mead.

After we finish our drinks, we return to our house to get ready for bed.

Later at night, Rowan and I walk back to our house. Rowan is quite drunk and rather clingy, he puts his chin on my head while embracing me.

“You're such a cutie,” he says.

“I know,” I answer. It still feels kind of awkward, but then I recall he's my fiancé now — I have to get used to it. Rowan embracing me is actually a good thing, I'm not exactly walking steadily right now. I look up at the sky. While the stars are visible in the clean sky, the moon is barely perceivable. It's a waxing moon.

“Come to think of it, when is the Umbral Full Moon?” I ask. By measuring, Mittens already measured a day on this planet to 28 Terran hours. To accommodate this, my clock has been adjusted, so every hour here has 70 minutes. It's not such a big deal to get used to. According to Mittens, with the right stimuli, the body gets used to longer days, up to 32 Terran hours per day, quite quickly. In fact, I didn't even notice the longer days until Mittens told me about it.

“We just had the Spring Astral New Moon yesterday. So the Spring Astral Full Moon should be in twenty days. The Spring Umbral Full Moon is fourty-two days after that.”

“So a season two moons?”

We arrive at our house and enter.

“It doesn't always line up perfectly, but yes, it's about two moons per season. We call them Astral and Umbral, because the first moon of a season, the Astral Moon, brings us changes. The second moon of the season doesn't change much, so we call it Umbral Moon.”

In our bedroom, we undress to go to bed.

“Is that underwear? You really are like a noble,” Rowan states. I look at him, he is completely naked! Having a closer look, I have to admit Rowan has a nice build. Skinny, but muscular. Not too brawny, yet still having some nice muscle. Just how I like guys.

“Compared to you, I'm rather slight,” I explain while blushing. I get myself on the bed. I'm too embarrassed to look at him. Rowan gets himself on the bed and embraces me. I can feel his breath on my neck. Slowly, I turn towards him. As I look into his eyes he starts kissing me. I am taken aback, but I don't stop him either. We are a couple now. Sure, I barely know him, but I don't mind the advances of this hot guy! He pulls back to look at me and kisses me again, longer this time. I haven't really kissed much before, but this was nice.

“Sure, you're cute skinny boy,” he eventually says, “but I don't think that means you're weak by any means.” 

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