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Chapter 13

Veins of orange pulsed through the blackness of the sky, trembling from a rosy orb in the faint distant. The orb looked so insignificant, so tiny in the midst of the night that it was surprising that the fervor it contained was intense. It tried to be humble, tried to be swallow by the darkness, but this suppression, effused more streams of light, spilling spectrum of red, orange and yellow throughout the sky.

In the minute of this spectacle, birds began to sing. Their tweets and chirps reverberated through the land. The moment was too prodigious, too marvelous for anyone to ruin.

"Earl Grey!" a feminine voice shrieked through the heart of beauty. The birds held silent on top of the trees.

My eyes slightly opened to see a biped swathed completely in light green clothing. The only thing visible was her dull brown eyes. My heart almost failed. "What the bloody mouse are you?"

It unwrap the veil around its face. "Earl Grey, it's me, Tora."

Who was that? Tora… sounds like a bull or something. Suddenly, early recollections of my life as a human rushed back to me. I frowned. "Oh, it is you." I clearly saw her blemishes. "So… how did you find me?"

"So how did I find you, you ask?" Her tone rising. "Well, I spend all night searching for you! And here I am, finding you resting on a bench!"

"Well, not my problem you took so long. My legs ached for so long that I—"

"That you ran far away to sit down at a bench right here?" Her jaws dropped.

"No, no! I was chased!"

"What?"

"Well, if you let me explain." I cleared my throat. "So you see, while I was waiting for you, something smelled so good. I got distracted so I followed the scent. I came across a table that had breads. I took one and ate it. I was about to return to you, but then a male with a sword was going to kill me. I threw my water bottle at him and ran away. I ran for some time and came across here." I smile weakly. "So… that's what happened."

Tora took some time to digest my story. She paced back and forth for some time. At first, she looked thoughtful, then confused, and then worried. "Did the man with the sword hurt you?"

I scoffed, "Nope."

She stopped pacing. "Well, while I was shopping, I went to replenish our supplies. I had to carry this load of junk for you!" She removed her backpack and handed me two jugs of water, box of food, and silky gray cloth.

"What is this?" I asked, patting the gray silk.

"It's a veil that you should wear instead of wearing your brown sticky shirt."

"You want me to wear it?" I said with disgust. "By the dead mouse, I would not wear such outfit!" I quickly added to palliate the situation, "But I will knead on this fabric. It's very nice and soft. I think I should use this as a blanket or give it to Henmick so he could use it as a table cloth."

Tora's face slightly pinked. "Is it that you don't like the color? I didn't know what color to get you, so I got you a gray one to match your name." She chuckled feebly.

"This clothing is ridiculous, Tora!" I stood up, holding it up. "You expect me to drape myself in this completely gray outfit? It's arrantly hot outside, and it will be foolish for me to dress myself entirely."

"But Earl!" she whined, "You will only stand out! Everyone is going to stare at us, and we will only attract attention. Plus, it's not that hot wearing this. It actually keeps me cool from the sunlight."

I hesitantly looked down at the clothing. It was true that I didn't want everyone to stare at me.

Tora looked pleadingly at me. "Come on, you must wear it. I mean, your shirt-dress looks turbid anyways. Don't you want to wear something fresh?"

I sighed in resignation. She was right. The shirt was sticky and smelled musty. "Fine."

Tora smiled. "I knew you will not put this veil to waste. We should go somewhere first so you could change."

We walked away from the oasis and headed to a nearby building. Ducking under a blanket-like entrance, the first thing I noticed that the place was completely dark aside from the crack of light peeping through the window. I made blurry outlines of many tables and chair as we walked towards the end of the room to a male who was cleaning a huge table.

Tora said, "A room for a day please."

"Fifteen gold pieces," he grumbled.

Tora gave two golden round-shape rocks and handed them to him.

"Two doors to your right," he said, vaguely pointing to the right.

We followed the direction and we entered the room. The room was bare like Henmick's room. Dull tan walls filled the entire containment. There was a bed on one side and another on the other side.

"You should change now," Tora said. With that, she turned around.

I took the opportunity to remove my shirt. Tossing it on the floor, I dropped the gray dress on top of my head. The dress reached down to my feet. It was a relief from the scratchy brown shirt Henmick gave me since this silky dress was airy. "Well, how do I look?"

Tora turned around. She beamed a smile at me. "You look great!"

Mumbling thanks, I was about to head towards the bed until Tora tugged my sleeved. I turned around.

"Wait, something just occurred to me. Why did the man chase you?"

"Well, I didn't have any 'coins' so the male took out a weapon, and that's when I started to run away. I didn't get why he got mad."

Tora's forehead crinkled with disconcertment. "You do know that you're supposed to pay with coins when you buy something?"

"What are coins?"

Her eyes boggled a bit. "You don't know what coins are?"

I shook my head.

"I don't believe you. How can you not know what they are?" Hands on her hips, she stared deeply in my eyes. My blank expression attested my confusion for she reluctantly reached in her bag and took out two shiny copper coins that looked like flatten round rocks that I saw before. "I still find it hard to believe you don't know what coins are."

Nodding, I said, "So, these are the coins that everyone wants."

"You know, Earl, you don't have to act dumb to evince your innocence. Everyone knows that you must pay for what you buy. Even if you lived in sequestered area with just your mother, and you have this 'disease', it is common sense that you must pay. I'm sure your mother must have taught you that."

"No really, Tora. I didn't know what coins were until you told me. I'm serio-"

She looked sharply at me. "Gods damn it, Earl. Why can't you admit that you stole that bread? It's that easy. You don't have to add any pretense in your story." Her eyes blazed with fury after she was done.

Eyes irate, I could not believe what she was implying. "Stealing? I did not steal. I am not a scavenger if that's what you are calling me. I did not deign to that level. I am no vulture who goes around pinching food."

Tora elicited a cacophonic laugh that ended short. "You did nothing to defend your case. You're just in denial. I have enough of your bleats and I will hear no more." Tora walked away from me.

"So who cares if I steal or not?" I called loudly after her. "Why does that even concern you?"

Tora immediately turned to look at me. "Why do I care? I have a conscience. What you did was wrong-" Her voice surged with vehemence (sounded like mucous lodged in her throat)—"You stole someone's bread. You deprived him of his money that will be used to feed his family."

I chuckled. "So? I don't give a dung about that man's family. I don't even know him."

"I cannot believe you, but how can you be so selfish." Tora walked closer to me. Her cheeks burned red.

I rolled my eyes. "I see animals stealing in the wild and I don't see anyone fussing. And if someone got stolen, then it's too bad for it. It will have to die along with its family."

In a low tone, she asked, "When you say 'it', are you referring to a human or an animal?"

"Both. Does that matter?"

"You must be blathering, Earl. How audacious of you to even compare humans to animals? Have you been isolated for a long time? We humans are superior to animals. Actually, we aren't even animals. We are civilized. We can reason, think, and build houses. We are not savages roving around the forest because we are peaceful. We know the difference between good and evil. We have intricate feelings that an animal may not even experience. Don't give me that disgusted look, Earl. What I mean to say is that animals react on impulses. So if you hurt them, they will feel pain and-"

"You think highly of your own kind, Tora. You eulogized humans as if they're superior to anyone in the world. Just because you bipeds are able to build these prodigious houses does not mean you're grand. So if a dragonfly can fly, does that mean humans are inferior because they can't fly? Oh don't give me that look, Tora. You know what I think? You humans are selfish because you are so imbibed in the knowledge that humans are the greatest thing in the world that you don't even realize that we are no different from other animals." I paused in the midst of my rant to catch my breath.

Tora looked at me askance. "You're a human your—"

"I'm not even done speaking!" I snapped. "I assure you animals could feel besides the, 'AHHH! I got bitten by a bear!' You see, I would know. I saw a several month kitten who was depressed because her mother died. For many days, all the kitten could think was about her mother and—"

"And, how did you know that, Earl Grey?" she asked calmly. "You speak the mind of an animal. Surely, how will a human like you know how an animal really feels?"

All the winding speech stirred my impetuous response, "Perhaps because I'm not a human but a feline inside."