The Escort Mission

Text to Speech:

I have been briefed about Dewick Village, but it's actually so diverse, I'm still very surprised to see it. My elder twin sister and I arrived here with our charges. The briefing said it's a mixed bunch of different folks living in this village, so I expected like three or four, but this feels like every single race under the sun is present here!

And then, there's Aster, one of our charges. He's a short person. But not only that, he's a complete mystery. While his ears suggest he's a Simianfolk, he lacks the typical simian tail and body hair of one. Is he one from beyond the sky? I thought that was a legend! But then, I also heard the rumour only people from beyond the sky are capable of using flying homes. I think Rowan said, Aster calls it a “Shuttle”.

Yes, Rowan, he's our other charge, the bastard prince of the kingdom, betrothed to Aster. Rowan, and by extension Aster, is to be officially welcomed into the royal family soon. His older siblings have arranged for Kate and I to act as their guards while they are on their pilgrimage. Both Rowan and Aster have a head start on us, they have already been to the Wind Equinox Temple, but they are returning to the temple soon: one of them has gotten an invitation from Aevita.

We have just introduced ourselves to the elder of Dewick, Rowan's grandmother. Just from how she holds herself, I can tell she is a cunning woman. As we're leaving to go to Aster's and Rowan's house, she slips a note into my pocket. A secret message? Well, I say slip, but she's rather obvious about it. Outside, while leading the group to the house, I read the piece of paper: “We light the way”

Isn't that the motto of the Gruba family? They are well-versed in espionage, but they belong to the Nobility Faction. This will be trouble… She didn't say it, that means she doesn't belong to that family, so it means: brace yourself, the spies are coming.

“Where does his grace wish to have for lunch?” I ask.

This is the secret message we decided on yesterday, I would ask or suggest a place to eat in a formal manner.

“The main room in the flying home will have to suffice,“ Aster answers, “the house has gotten too cold for comfort.”

We arrive at the house, I open the door and let everyone enter. I close the door behind me, and we move to the shuttle. The door closes behind us.

“What's the matter?” Rowan asks.

“If the information is correct, operatives of the Gruba family are about to arrive,” I answer.

“Gruba, they aren't part of the Royalist Faction, are they?”

“Correct, they are part of the Nobility Faction. They might want to find faults with you. Or they try to get you to their side.”

“You can have the lunch in here,” Mittens proposes, “there should be enough space for eight people. The windows can be set, so they are opaque from the outside.”

Mittens is a spirit inhabiting the flying home. While he looks and sounds like a child, it has a lot of knowledge.

“Great, since that's settled,” Aster states,“ would you help me with preparing lunch, Tate?”

“Sure, I might even learn something,” I answer.

Aster opens a cupboard and hands me some cuts of meat. He and I leave the shuttle and move towards the kitchen.

“The meat is cold,” I describe the feeling in my hands, “is that a special function of the shuttle?”

“You could say so,” Aster answers, “I wanted to sell this boar meat in the capital, but everything got so hectic, we forgot.”

“This is snow boar?! I've never eaten it before. Snow boar is very rare meat in the capital.”

“Apparently I have a talent for running into them. Who is better at cooking, is it Kate or is it you?”

“It's hard to say, she never actually ruins the food, but it's not exactly tasty either. Things I make taste better, but sometimes I mess up and destroy the food.”

“I see.”

As we arrive in the kitchen, we put the meat onto the clean table. Aster grabs a jar and puts it on the table next to the meat. I take the jar and open it, it contains a red powder. Could it be?

“Are planning on using this?” I ask, “I've never seen this powder before.”

“It's made from Xiu berries,” Aster answers while cutting the meat into slices.

“So it is Xiu powder!”

“It's used here a lot, so I thought it's a staple spice.”

“Maybe that's just here in Dewick. I've read this is more popular in a country to the west. Does it really colour the meat red even when it's cooked?”

“Yes, it does.”

Aster takes the jar and pours some power onto the cut meat. He then rubs the meat to spread the powder evenly. After he's done, he puts all the meat into a bowl.

“It's better to let the spice seep into the meat.”

After a few minutes, Aster hands me a pan. The pan is snow-white on the inside. I've never seen a pan like that.

“What's that white layer on the pan?” I ask.

“It's something my people have developed,” Aster answers and takes another pan, “it's a layer that makes it harder for things to stick to. It makes cooking and cleaning easier.”

“I see…” I examine that layer. It feels like the same material as luxury pottery that has recently been developed.

We pour some oil into the pans and sear the meat slices. After finishing, we put the cooked meat into a warm compartment of the oven. Aster then shows me to a room in the shuttle he calls a ‘shower’. He explains it has tools inside to clean myself with hot water. And he casually mentions he's a person from the beyond the sky! He then leaves me in the room to clean myself.

It's a rather unique experience to control the water just by commanding it with words. I'm glad, Aster told me about his situation, it means, he trusts me enough. I will do my best on this mission! After drying myself and changing into a fresh set of clothes, I put the dirty clothes into a bin as Aster has directed me to and leave the shower room. Aster enters the shower himself. Meanwhile, I leave for the elder's house to fetch the group from Frosfeld. 

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