Like a Cat: An Investigation
Just because a Gormotti had cat ears, did that make them like one? That was the question that was plaguing Zeke's mind one day while the Aegis team was resting at the Torigoth inn before continuing their perilous journey. He couldn't get the idea out of his mind now, he needed to know the answer to this. The question was just how to get said answers.
"My prince, what are you doing?" Saika appeared right at his side while we was distracted, making Zeke jump in surprise.
"Aahhh!! I've told you not to sneak on me!" he complained while glaring at her with his only eye.
"What are you complaining about? I've been trying to get your attention for a while now, it's not my fault you were thinking about Architect knows what..."
"Shut it! You should have tried harder then!"
"Unbelievable..." the blade whispered under her breath. She decided to simply get to her original question, it was easier to deal with him that way. "So, you're gonna tell me what were you doing?"
He decided to accept her change of subject since his original question was still plaguing his mind. "Hey, do you think Gormotti are like cats?" He stared at the people passing by while holding his chin and squinting his eye in thought.
Saika stared at him for a moment, thinking about the question. "Did you fell off your bed again last night? You should be more careful you know," she finally answered.
"Shut up! I didn't fell or anything, okay?!" the prince exclaimed exasperated with her. He gave a sigh before explaining his thoughts a little. "I was just wondering if the ears where the only thing Gormotti had in common to cats, since sometimes they seem to react to things like cats would."
The blade adopted a similar position as his while she mulled over his words. "Now that you mention it that is an interesting question. I wonder how we can find out if it's true or not."
"See? I knew you would see things my way." Zeke sounded proud of himself for managing to pique her curiosity, making her roll her eyes a little in affection. "As for how to answer it I think I got just the idea."
"And that would be..?"
"How so?" Saika actually sounded quite curious about this investigation her prince wanted to conduct, since he was usually the type to go ask directly (usually in a terribly sly manner) if he wanted to know something that badly.
"Simple. We will compare a cat's usual behavior, their likes, dislikes, and all that stuff to a Gormotti we can observe."
"Okay, that actually sounds like a good plan. But wait, the only Gormotti we would be able to observe would be..!"
"That's right Saika," he looked at the fountain right outside the inn, where their teammates were hanging around or playing with the water, and where their subject was happily talking with the Special Inquisitor. "Our very own Fuzzy Ears."
"Okay, we'll begin listing everything we know about cats." Zeke was walking around the boys' room and giving instructions while Saika was sitting on one of the beds watching him. He turned to his blade, "Saika! What do cats like?"
"Well, they like fish, long naps, getting petted," she counted her fingers while thinking about everything she knew cats liked.
"Okay good, we got a good idea for the likes. Now, what do cats dislike?"
"Ahm, water? Being bothered when they're trying to sleep?"
"Not that much information about the dislikes but at least we got something to work with." The Tantalese prince started pacing around the room again. "Anything else to add in all this?"
"Well, I remember that when they get scared their hair gets spiky and their ears stand on end," Saika put her hands above her head as a demonstration.
"That's true." He took a seat at one of the other beds, laying on it after a second and staring at the ceiling. "I guess that's a good chunk of information to start the investigation. What do you think?"
"I say it's good."
"Great! Then let’s start the comparison between cats and Nia!"
"My prince, should you really be yelling that around the inn? What if she hears us?" Saika asked, looking at the door in case someone appeared.
"Right, right. Gotta keep this in the low from the rest of the gang." Zeke got up from the bed, doing a pose. "Let's get this started!" he yelled again, and started laughing like a maniac.
She wondered if she should try to shush him again, but figured it would be a waste.
- Cats like to play with balls and the like.
"Okay, I found this ball of fabric to test the theory. How are we going to get her to play with it?" Saika was holding a weird looking ball made with a blue cloth. Both she and Zeke were hiding behind a building observing Nia while she was shopping with Byakko and some of her other blades.
"We could give her the ball to see how she reacts?" Zeke shrugged.
"And here I thought you were starting to get smarter. That's such a dump idea."
"Oi, I'm doing my best here! And I don't hear you suggesting something better!"
"Then how about we throw it at her? That's a better idea than yours!"
"As if, that's way more stupid than my idea!"
"You just say that because you can't think of something better!"
"You really think your idea is that good?!" The blade nodded with determination. "Fine then, let's put it to the test!" The Tantalese took the ball in one hand and threw it at Nia's direction, much to the surprise of his companion. Both watched as the ball flew through the air until it hit Nia right at the back of her head, making her loose her balance and fall right on her face.
"Oops..." Zeke whispered with a wince when the other fell. Immediately he and Saika turned and hid completely in the back of the building, hoping Nia wouldn't see them.
"Ouch, that really hurt," complained Nia while still on the ground.
"My lady, are you okay?" Byakko was at her side in an instant looking her over. Tsuki and Nanakori went to check on her as well, while Zakuro and Hibana were dying of laughter at the incident.
"Glad to see you guys enjoyed it..." complained Nia while getting up, her other blades fussing over her to make sure she was okay. She searched around for whatever had hit her, "Any idea what it was that got me?"
"I believe it was this ball," Tsuki took it from the ground and gave it to her driver.
"Probably some kids that were playing with it threw it a bit too hard. Good thing you're so tough Nia." Zakuro gave her opinion in a mocking manner after finishing laughing. Hibana and Nanakori nodded at her, believing the other to be right and being glad their driver was completely okay, except for a bruised ego.
Nia took the ball looking around with a glare in her face, finally deciding to throw it at her lighting blade's face. "Oops, I guess I threw it too hard," she said with fake concern while watching Zakuro's wincing face, a red spot was starting to form on her forehead. "C'mon, we're done shopping." The cat girl turned around and marched on in a bad mood.
"Did she really have to hit me?" The blade complained while following after her driver, the rest trying to reassure her that it wasn't with ill intention (and Hibana following while laughing at her fellow blade).
"We're lucky she didn't catch us, Nia would have pin the blame on me right away," Zeke gave a sigh of relief after watching the whole scene unfold.
"She would have been right, considering it was you that threw the ball at her," Saika said in a matter of fact way, but was relieved that they haven’t been found.
"It was a spur of the moment kind of thing. Also, it was your idea first!"
"It was just an idea; I didn't tell you to go through with it. And anyways, it didn't even prove anything."
"True. I guess the first investigation is a bust." The man said disappointed. "We need to think better for the next one, I doubt we'll be this lucky and not get her to yell at us next time."
"Agreed. I don't really want her to yell at me any time soon."
- Cats like to play with balls and the like: FAILED.
- Cats dislike water.
They were in Uraya checking on the mercenaries and looking for anyone that needed help as usual. Walking around a place filled with so much water seemed like the perfect spot for the next step in their investigation.
"So, how are we going to do this?" asked Saika, lagging behind the rest of the team with her driver to talk more in private.
"We could try asking if anyone is up to some swimming around the place?" Zeke suggested looking pensive towards the big ponds that surrounded them.
"Won't it sound weird coming from us though? Going around saying stuff like 'let's take a dip in one of this ponds, swimming will freshen us up!' Sounds a little suspicious if you ask me." The blade had a point, it certainly sounded weird for them to suggest such things.
"Tora thinks it good idea! Swimming sound like fun, right Hana?" a voice exclaimed behind them, making them jump and turn towards it in surprise. They haven't realized that Tora and Hana were not walking at the front anymore, and now were confronted with the eager expressions of those two.
"Hana would like to swim." the robot put her hand in the air.
"Meh meh! Tora do too!" the nopon started jumping up and down.
"My prince, what are we going to do?" Saika asked a little worried the other two listened to their conversation.
Zeke stood a moment thinking of this little development, finally giving a grin after coming to a conclusion. "You know, this could work for us."
"Tora and Hana are closer to Nia than us. They got a better chance of convincing her to do something than we could ever have."
"Oohh, that's actually pretty smart my prince."
"See? I can have good ideas from time to time." He turned his attention to the robot and her creator who were still looking at them with eager faces. "Say Tora, Hana. Would you like to help us with a little investigation?"
"Investigation?" They both asked in confusion.
Zeke explained what it was he and Saika were trying to find out and how they were planning on doing so, managing to pique the interest of the other two.
"So, what do you guys say? You'll help us out?"
"Tora will!" the nopon agreed immediately. "Tora always wonder if people of Torigoth is cat, but Tora never dare ask anyone for answer."
"Hana wishes to help friends as well," the robot agreed just as easily.
"Great! Then you guys can start helping us by convincing the others to take a break to swim around," Zeke assigned his new accomplices.
"Yes!" The duo responded energetically, making their way to the others to ask right away.
"I think we found ourselves some good help for this project," Saika commented while following the other two at a much lower pace.
"Quite right, it certainly makes things easier for us. Now we just gotta see how Fuzzy Ears reacts to going into the water." Zeke responded, keeping an eye on the girl's reaction.
"Take a break and swim?" Rex said a little confused at the sudden petition from his teammates. It was true they have been going around helping everyone they could in Uraya since their arrival, so maybe his friends were right to ask for it. The only thing weird was the desire to go into the water instead of laying around in the ground to take a nap (as was the usual for the nopon). "Okay, I guess. What about you guys? Wanna join?" He turned his attention to Homura, the other two drivers and their blades.
"Sure, it sounds like a great idea," answered the Aegis with a happy smile.
"I rather stay by the side reading a book if you don't mind," responded Kagutsuchi disinterested. "What about you Lady Meleph?"
"I have no desire to swim either, but I don't mind a small break." The Special Inquisitor turned her eyes on the other driver of their team. "What do you think, Nia?"
"I don't mind a little swimming around one of the ponds; it can be quite refreshing." The girl seemed happy with the suggestion. "Although, I guess Byakko will keep you guys company, since he prefers to stay out of the water." Nia directed a teasing smile towards her main blade.
"I'm sure I'm not missing anything while staying on dry land. It can be quite as interesting as swimming," the tiger-blade defended himself.
"Well then, I guess we all agree on that break." Rex turned to Zeke and Saika who were just catching up with them. "Hey, you guys wanna take a break and swim around?"
"Sounds like fun; who else will be joining us?" asked Zeke to know if Nia had agreed to go into the water or not.
"Me, Tora, Hana, Homura and Nia."
Zeke shared a glace with his blade, both disappointed to see the girl accepting and proving them wrong yet again. Meleph noticed the interaction, but decided to keep silent about it; she didn't know what it meant, but she would find out.
"Well, what are we waiting for then?" The Tantalese decided to make his way to the closest pond around them, the others following his lead. He was disappointed by the lack of results but happy for a break nonetheless.
- Cats dislike water: FAILED.
- Cats like long naps.
They were in Fonsett taking a break from their journey so Rex could visit the village and the team could restock on supplies. The sun was shining, the breeze was comforting, and the ambient was relaxed. It was the perfect time to take a nap, which is exactly what Nia decided to do alongside Byakko.
They decided to lay down in a grassy spot under the shade of some trees, listening to the kids play and the birds sing, content to spend their time sleeping.
"Okay, for this part of the investigation we'll have to make sure she sleep for a really long time," explained Zeke looking at their subject from a distance, making sure to not be obvious about it to ensure not to get caught by any of their friends.
"Tora understand! Tora will keep eye on Nia!" the nopon said enthusiastic as always.
"Oi, keep it down Tora! We don't want anyone to know what we're doing, remember?!" Zeke reprimanded the other in a harsh whisper.
"How long must we keep watch?" The robot wondered while looking in Nia’s direction.
"Well, cats usually sleep most of the day away, so I guess...until dawn?" Saika answered a little unsure about the exact amount.
"Mehmehmeh! That too long!" Tora expressed in disbelief. "Can Nia really sleep that much?"
"That's what we'll find out," responded the Tantalese sitting down beneath a tree where he could keep looking at the cat-girl without a problem. "So, better get comfortable my friends. This will be a long day."
The others took a seat around him, all keeping an eye on Nia to see any changes as soon as possible. With any luck they would be wrong about this one as well and be free to do as they pleased the rest of the day instead of keeping watch. Sadly, things rarely went how one wished them to.
[Many hours later]
"Tora wants to sleep..." the nopon said tiredly with his eyes closed, Hana had already fallen asleep using Tora's head as a pillow.
"Gotta keep watch Tora..." Zeke reproached him, even though he was barely awake. Saika was mumbling something while sleeping with her head on her prince's shoulder.
It was already night and most of the villagers had gone to sleep with only some of them still going around Fonsett doing who knows what; the four of them had kept their watch without rest but haven't seen the girl stir even for a moment.
Zeke turned a little to reproach his furry friend again, but noticed that Tora had ended up losing the battle against sleep while still sitting with Hana resting on top of him. The prince turned to look at Nia's direction again, trying his best to stay awake but feeling his eye close more and more.
A figured approached the group, stopping by to leave a big blanket on the four of them and then continuing their way to where Nia was sleeping. They picket the girl up carefully and went in direction of Corinne's house.
Zeke wasn't sure if he hallucinated the person approaching them, he was way too tired to care and probably wouldn't even remember when he woke up next. He decided to succumb to his tiredness and ended up falling asleep with his head on top of Saika's.
[In the morning]
"Guys, don't tell me you actually slept outside in the ground." A voice called out to them, arousing the four from their unconscious state.
The small group woke up, Zeke yawning while Saika stretched, Hana getting up and shaking her driver to fully wake him up. The group stood and turned to the one that called to them, finding Rex and Homura with confused expressions.
"Hey chum," the Tantalese greet him after stretching a little, feeling a little sore after spending so much time sitting in the same spot.
"Why were you all outside? You could catch a cold if you're not careful," the Aegis said in a worried voice.
"It was his idea," pointed the two blades and the nopon at Zeke, feeling a little sour after having to spend the night in the cold hard ground.
"Oi! It you didn't feel like staying you could have said something!" he exclaimed angrily at his companions. "I'm guessing the others are already up," he turned his attention back to Rex.
"Nia is still asleep, but Meleph has been up for a little while now."
The other four immediately turned to where Nia was taking a nap yesterday only to find it empty, not even her blade was there.
"She must have woken up and went inside while we were asleep," Saika summarized.
"You mean Nia? Actually she was brought inside when it was getting too cold," Homura explained.
The others stared at her for a minute, processing her words slowly thanks to having just woken up.
"Then Nia take long naps like cat," Tora said looking at Zeke for confirmation.
"Seems that way," the Tantalese smiled broadly, happy to know they managed to guess correctly this time.
"But who took Nia inside?" asked a curious Hana.
"Byakko must have woken up and decided to take her there before it got too cold," Saika guessed.
"Doesn't matter!" interrupted a happy Zeke. "This investigation was a complete success, we should celebrate with food!" he exclaimed to cheer the others, not remembering that both Rex and Homura were with them.
"Yeah!" the three shouted their agreement, following Zeke as he made his way to Corinne's house for a good breakfast to celebrate.
"What investigation?" asked a completely confused Rex to his blade.
The other just shrugged. "Should we tell them it wasn't Byakko who brought Nia back?" she asked instead.
"Nah, I'm beginning to think they're a little out if it this morning. I mean, they didn't even noticed the blanket that kept them from freezing last night." he picked up said object, draping it over his arm with a small smile. "Well, shall we? I must say I'm quite hungry myself."
"Of course," the blade followed him with a smile back into the house for some breakfast.
- Cats like long naps: CHECK.
- Cats' ears stand on end when scared.
They were on Tantal this time around, exploring the place as much as they could (who knew what secrets they could find).
The group was on the upper part of the place, going from pillar to pillar, being careful were they stood and beating any creatures that dare attack them.
"So, what's the plan my prince?" Saika asked her driver. The four of them were at the back of the group again and speaking in low voices to make sure the others didn't hear.
"I guess the direct approach is our best bet this time," responded Zeke still thinking it over.
"Direct approach?" asked Hana with a tilt of her head in curiosity.
"That's right Hana. I'll simply go and yell near her to try and scare her."
"And if plan don't work?" asked Tora this time.
"Then you guys will try to do the same and see if she gets scared." concluded Zeke with a nod of his head, sure of his plan for the time being.
The rest of the group were looking around the pillar they were standing in, admiring the view that stretched in front of them, with Nia trying to keep her distance from any ledge. She didn't noticed when Zeke stood behind her, giving a thumbs up to his partners in crime before turning his full attention to the girl in front of him.
"Ggaaahhh!!" he yelled near her ears, making her scream and jump away from him in surprise, her ears standing on end and her hands at her front ready to protect herself with her claws. The others reacting quite similar thanks to the surprise of the Tantalese's actions.
Zeke couldn't help but laugh at the outcome, which in turn made the girl quite angry at him.
"What do you think you're doing?!" Nia yelled at him while stomping her feet on the ground she was now standing on, which turned out to be ice when it started to crack from the hit. The rest of the team barely had time to react before the ground collapsed and Nia started to fall with it.
"My lady!!" Byakko yelled in surprise.
"Nia!!" Meleph's quick reflexes made her rush towards the cat-girl before she disappeared completely from their sight, managing to grab hold of her arm to keep her from falling to her dead.
"Meleph!!" cried Nia in fear of what was below her, her eyes wide open and her ears flat on her head.
"Zeke! Rex!" the Special Inquisitor called to them so they would help her out.
The two guys rushed to the warrior's side and grabbed Nia's other outstretched arm. Together the three got her back into solid ground without much trouble, giving her space to recover her breath; Byakko being the only one to get close to make sure she was unharmed and offer his silent support.
"Nia, are you okay?" Meleph asked concerned, making sure not to touch her so as not to scare her.
"Just trying to...calm down a little," she answered short-breathed and shaky, not moving from the spot they left her on. Meleph turned to glare at Zeke, considering him at fault for this little incident.
"I'm sorry Nia, it was just a little prank," he explained as best he could, feeling terrible for what happened but not knowing how to make it better. "I'll make it up to you, I swear."
"I know Kamechan," the cat-girl said standing up on shaky legs and putting a hand on her blade's back to keep steady. "Let's just leave it at you owing me some good Cream Orange Paratha and get out of this place. I really don't like heights..." She got on Byakko's back so she wouldn't have to walk and could calm her nerves.
Meleph and Rex went to both her sides to keep her company on the way back, Hana and Tora going after them in concern for their friend, all of them wanting to make sure she was fine.
"You're so lucky she forgave you so easily," Saika commented while walking to her driver’s side. She knew he felt bad about what happened but she didn't want him to dwell on it too much. "I hope you have enough money my prince, I doubt just one of her favorite dish will be enough."
"Yeah, I figured as much," the Tantalese gave a sigh of relief at the outcome, starting to follow the others back to the city; he knew he wasn't out of the water yet (especially with Meleph being strangely mad at him for it), but he would make sure to make it up to Nia. After all, the investigation turned out to be a success again, since they all noticed the girl's ears standing on end when he first scared her.
- Cats' ears stand on end when scared: CHECK.
- Cats like to be petted.
Argentum was as noisy as ever, people buying and selling, a great amount of customers at Noodler's Delight, many salvagers going to trade their stuff for money, and ships docking and leaving the ports at all times.
The Aegis team decided to make a stop in here to rest for the night at Lemour Inn, wishing to enjoy some warm food and a comfy bed before returning to the World Tree to stop Torna from reaching Elysium.
They were occupying different tables around the Rumbletum Canteen, enjoying the music and some of the food. Zeke was sitting with his partners in crime, Rex and Nia on another table with their main blades, and Meleph was with Wadatsumi and Kagetsuchi talking about some imperial business.
"Okay, we now gotta try to find out if Fuzzy Ears likes to be petted." Zeke started talking in a low voice to the rest of his companions, "Any ideas?"
"I doubt direct approach will work this time," Saika opined.
"True. Anyone else?"
"Tora don't think Nia will let anyone pet her," the nopon said in a defeated voice.
"C'mon people! There has to be someone with the chance to do it," expressed Zeke a little exasperated.
"How about Rex?" Hana suggested to the rest.
They turned to look at the table Nia and Rex were occupying, the two drivers seeming to have a good time talking to one another. Now that Zeke thought about it, Nia did confess to liking Rex when she revealed her true form, so maybe the boy could be the key this time. Nice idea Hana.
"Well, I'm going to bed," they heard Nia said while getting out of her chair. "You can stay some more if you wish to Byakko. I'll see you guys in the morning." She said to the rest before making her way to the inside of the inn; the rest of the group saying their goodbyes before she disappeared.
It was the perfect opportunity to approach the Aegis driver with their idea so Zeke got up and sat in Rex's table, the other three doing the same.
"Hey chum, got a favor to ask of you," the Tantalese went directly to the point.
"What's the matter Zeke?" Rex asked with a smile, happy to help any of his friends.
"We want Aniki to pet Nia!" Tora was the one who answered, jumping in his chair in excitement.
"What?!" Both Rex and Homura jumped at the request, even Byakko who was sitting at the side of the table got surprised, his tail and ears standing to attention.
"You see, we're trying to find out something and you're our best shot at getting close to Nia and getting her permission to pet her," Saika explained without giving much of their intentions away.
"No way! Nia would never let me do something like that!" Rex exclaimed with a red face.
"My lady would never permit such a thing!" Byakko said indignant.
"But Rex is the closest one to her," Hana reasoned, trying to convince the driver to do it.
"Why don't you guys ask Meleph instead?" the boy suggested.
"What?! Are you crazy?" Zeke said incredulous. "There's no way we'll ask Meleph for this!"
"Ask me what?" asked a suspicious voice behind the prince and his companions.
With a wince they slowly turned to look at the Special Inquisitor; her eyes were narrowed at them, daring them to try and lie to her.
"We want someone to find out if Nia likes to be pet…" Hana decided to tell her the truth.
"And why, per tell, do you wish to know that?" she menacingly shifted her eyes to Zeke, who she already considered the mastermind behind it.
Zeke could only move nervously around his chair, looking at anyone except Meleph.
"We wanted to see if Gormotti were like cats in any way aside their ears…" Saika was the one to answer her, feeling just as nervous as her driver.
"Then I suppose all the other incidents were with that idea in mind," Meleph concluded while still keeping her eyes on the Tantalese prince, who was doing his best to try and ignore the look.
The other three could only nod in response not daring to say anything else in fear of what the warrior might say or do to them.
"I want you to leave Nia alone, unless you wish to join Newt on her daily training for a week," the Special Inquisitor threatened the four of them waiting for their agreement (which was a squeaked yes and many nods of their heads), before taking her leave and going to the inn. Kagutsuchi and Wadatsumi deciding to stay some more at their table to see what else would happen, and knowing where it was their driver was going.
"I hope the four of you learn your lesson with this," reprimanded Byakko.
"Yeah, yeah," answered a still nervous Zeke. "But why did you have to go and tell us to ask her, chum?!"
"Well, if someone can know if Nia likes to be pet its Meleph," responded Rex with a shrug.
"Why would she know such a thing?" Saika asked confused, the other looking just as lost as her.
"Because they're together." Rex said nonchalantly.
The other four, Byakko, Homura, Wadatsumi and Kagutsuchi stared at him in surprise.
"What?" the salvager asked after a while. "It was quite obvious with how they are with one another."
"What?!" The Tantalese duo finally reacted. Followed by Tora and Hana asking Byakko if it was true and when had it happened.
"I must say, this is a surprise," the Flamebringer said impressed. "Of all people I never thought it would be Rex to realize what was happening between Lady Meleph and Nia."
"It certainly is interesting," responded the water blade at her side. "I wonder if we should let them know about this."
"No, let them enjoy their time together for now. After all, I'm sure there will be many questions come tomorrow."
[In a room in the inn]
"What took you so long?" asked an impatient and tired Nia from one of the beds, already starting to fall asleep.
"Just had to take care of some things," Meleph took off her hat, gloves and jacket, leaving them on a chair on the side. She took a sit next to where the other was resting, giving a small smile at how cute she found Nia when she was sleepy.
"Stop smiling like an idiot and come here," the blade pulled the other to lay down beside her. She was in a needy mood so that meant she wanted to cuddle as much as she could, which was fine by Meleph; she was quite happy with having the other in her arms whenever possible.
The warrior remember the others desire to know if the girl liked to be pet, giving a smile at the knowledge that they would never have the privilege to know that. With that thought in mind she settle in for the night with her lover, running her hands in the other’s hair and ears and enjoying the content purring coming from the girl.
- Cats like to be petted: CHECK.