A few hours later, Mittens calls me, “Aster, I think it is time for the feast. Rowan asking me to get you.”
“Open the door, Mittens.”
I go to the door.
“I assume it’s time, Rowan?” I ask.
“Yes, everything is ready. We’re only waiting for you.”
We go to the plaza. Rowan leads me to a seat next to the elder.
“Since we’re all here, let me formally introduce Aster to all of you. He comes from a country far away. He may have a flying home, but that doesn’t change that he’s a person like everyone else here. Even though his home doesn’t have such traditions, he decided to join Rowan on his pilgrimage.”
“Thank you for the warm welcome. Even though it will not be for long, I’m looking forward to staying here in Dewick Village.”
We begin eating. The meat is red outside. Cutting it reveals the colour is just on the outer layer. Inside it’s completely cooked. I put a piece into my mouth. The grilled meat tastes… for lack of better words… great. I expected something like the flavours of the spice and the flavour of the meat. Yet, the taste of the grilled meat is completely different.
“This is so good!” I exclaim.
“Yeah it is, but I should warn you some richer folks don’t like the red colour,” Nell answers.
“I see, I will keep that in mind,” I take a sip of wine.
The wine tastes slightly unusual to me. I don’t dislike it, but I can’t put my finger on what the difference is…
“Is something amiss, Aster?” Rowan asks.
“It’s nothing much, this wine tastes different from what I’m used to. You should know, stuff from the replicator always tastes the same. I feel like before this, I have never eaten real food, or drunk real wine.”
“I will gladly teach you anything I know about cooking,” Nell answers, “here, have another cup of wine.”
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I wake up in my hammock. Ugh… I have a terrible headache…
“Good Morning, Aster,” Mittens greets me, “I should have warned you about the alcohol.”
“Good Morning… What about the alcohol?”
“Beverages from the replicator commonly have their alcohol content limited to 1%, stronger beverages up to 5%. To preserve the taste, a suitable amount of compounds with similar tastes but without the intoxicating effect are added.”
“So yesterday, when I was drinking as always…”
“… you were drinking quite a lot more alcohol than you are used to. Acute symptoms of alcohol poisoning may include confusion, vomiting, seizures, loss of short-term memory, slow breathing, irregular breathing, pale skin, hypothermia and unconsciousness. Secondary effects up to a day after that are commonly called hangovers. Typical symptoms of a hangover may include headache, drowsiness, concentration problems, dry mouth, dizziness, fatigue, gastrointestinal distress, absence of hunger, light sensitivity, depression, sweating, nausea, hyper-excitability, irritability…”
“I get it,” I interrupt Mittens, “is there something I can do against this headache?”
“Usually I would suggest you taking isotonic beverages.”
“I know, I know, we need to preserve energy.”
“Drinking water should help a little too.”
After a quick shower, I feel a little better. The headaches are still there, but my head feels somewhat clearer. I prepare to leave the shuttle.
“But man, I don’t remember anything from yesterday evening. What did I even do?”
“I do not know anymore. Per Rowan’s request and your authorization, the data was erased.”
Damn, why did I do that? If I really want, I could get Mittens to recover the data, but that takes energy and time. As long as I don’t really need it, I shouldn’t waste energy. I grab the metal ingots and leave the shuttle. Rowan is already waiting for me outside.
“Aster, you’re awake! Good morning!”
“Good morning, Rowan, I still have a headache, but at least I can move.”
“You don’t have to push yourself. I have already explained to everyone you only have diluted wine at your place. Just be careful the next time.”
“Thanks, Rowan. But… did I do something yesterday?”
Rowan blushes and looks away, “nothing special.”
So he isn’t willing to talk about it.
“Do you have any plans for today?”
“No, I wanted to see if you need some rest today before making plans.”
“I have some questions to Nescha.”
“I see. Let’s go then.”
“Are you sure?”
“Nesha is always either working or drinking. If you wait for her to not work, she’ll force you to drink with her.”
I follow Rowan to Nesha’s smithy.
“Good morning, Aster!” she gives me a smirk, “what can I do for you?”
“Good morning, Nescha! I wanted to confirm the names of metal. I have used a function of the shuttle to produce small ingots of metal I’d like you to analyze.”
I put the three Titanium ingots on the table. Nesha takes each of those and looks at them. She grabs the Titanium-50 ingot and stares at it.
“Is something amiss, Nesha?” Rowan asks.
“This is incredible. The other two ingots are the lowest quality Banum. But this ingot is of such high quality it might even surpass the legendary weapons.”
“I see,” I answer. I kind of expected this outcome. She didn’t say anything of note about the Titanium-48. So there’s something special about Titanium-50…
“You’re not very surprised.”
“From what I know, there are layers from that material incorporated into the knife with a certain shape. But I don’t know what that shape is for.”
“Interesting… I remember… you did mention blessings are unknown among your people. I’ll try to explain: the distinction of quality Titanium is solely on how well it conducts the blessings. And the kind I’m currently holding is the one that conducts it. This conducts it so well, most common smiths would mistake it for low quality Titanium. Anyway, the shape you mentioned helps with cutting when you channel the blessing through the knife. You should try it, you’ll definitely feel the difference.”
Now that we’ve established Banum is Titanium, Mittens seems to have updated the translation program.
“I will try it next time I find the opportunity to. If you like, you can keep of those.”
“Are you sure?”
“I don’t have any use for them. And having the shuttle take it back would be quite a waste. Also, I wanted you to have a look at these.”
I put the Chromium, Lead, and Tungsten ingots on the table.
“That’s Hard Minum and Soft Minum and a metal I’ve never seen before.”
“That’s the metal I mentioned is used in Stainless Steel; we call it Chromium. The surface of that metal reacts with the air similar to iron when it rusts. That mechanism coats the metal or alloy with a thin layer that protects it from rusting.”
“So it’s a deliberate kind of good rust that prevents the bad rust.”
“The experts would cringe with the wording, but that’s the mechanism.”
“Can I use that in my steel weapons?”
“Sure, you need about a little more than 1 part Chromium and 9 parts regular Steel. You can keep that sample of Chromium.”
“I understand you don’t want to part… Oh… I did not expect you to give me that recipe this easy.”
“It’s common knowledge among my people,” I shrug it off, “so it’s nothing special. But why would you need that?”
“Titanium weapons usable with blessings are expensive. Those that aren’t compatible with blessings would be cheaper. But those would sully my reputation as a blacksmith. So being able to sell good quality Steel knives is a must.”
“I understand. I hope you’re not counting on me to get you Chromium?”
“No, that shouldn’t be necessary. With the sample you left me, procuring it should be only a matter of scouring the markets. If that fails, I just have to rely on my personal contacts.
But… if you can have the shuttle make stuff like that…”
“… can it make money? I doubt it. There are countermeasures in place. Let’s assume it can, I don’t recommend it. Overly introducing money into a market devalues money and creates a lot of other problems. So I won’t even try it.”
At least publicly, I won’t say it’s possible. In fact, it’s just a matter of what materials are used as money. Of course, I’ll have Mittens analyze money if I can. Just for emergency uses, of course. And the countermeasures… well, Mittens already took care of those.
“Speaking of money, what does the money look like here, anyway?”
“I can show you,” Nescha answers and puts several coins on the table. Two red coins, two yellow coins, and one white coin. Each colour has a round coin and an oval coin twice the size of the round coin. All coins have a hole in them.
“The red coins are mostly likely copper, the yellow ones are brass,” Mitten’s voice sounds in my head, “bronze and gold look slightly different.”
“The smallest one is a round copper,” Nesha points the round red coin, “it’s also called a Bit. Twelve of those make one long copper coin. Eight long copper coins equal to 1 round brass coin, which is also called a Gil. One 1 Gil has the same value as 96 Bit. Eight round brass coins make one long brass coin. Thirteen long brass equal to 1 titanium coin, which is also called a Bell. One 1 Bell has the same value as 104 Gil. There are units above these, but you’re very unlikely to come across them. But those all have a gem in the hole of the coin.”
“Those are quite complicated subdivisions…” After that explanation, I’m quite sure the replicator can reproduce them.
“Yes, but those are just the official numbers. Some merchants are inclined to simplify the numbers, and just use ten for each step, usually when buying and selling in bulk or when the potential losses aren’t that big. Super rich people sometimes simplify the numbers to demonstrate their spending power by showing everyone the difference doesn’t matter to them.”
“So actually being accurate is considered admitting not being in the same league as the super rich?”
“If someone offers you a simplification in your favour, accept it. It’s considered bad etiquette if you don’t.”
“I don’t think I’ll ever get into such a situation. But thank you for the warning. I think that’s all I wanted to know. Thanks for your time.”
“It’s nothing. If you feel like it, drop by the bar in the evening and have a drink with me.”
“I’ll consider it.”
“Oh, I forgot to say this: take good care of each other,” Nesha says while grinning.
Where did that come from? Rowan and I leave the smithy.
“Since that’s settled,” Rowan speaks, “I’ve been meaning to ask, where do you get your hot water from?”
“I wanted to bring over hot water to wipe yourself. But your hair was still slightly damp from hot water when I met you earlier.”
“Oh, it’s another function of the shuttle. The shower can produce flowing warm water for cleaning the body. There’s a toilet in there, too.”
“I see…” Rowan gets closer and quietly asks, “can I try out the shower?”
“Sure, let’s go.”