Chapter 3: Rose Carvings
“There are, but not right here right now. They’ll be back at night.” The fur on Ao Ao’s back trembled.
It felt like it was shivering along with the grass in the woods beyond the castle.
So there was people here after all.
It was warm, but strong. Elegant, but unruly. The shadows were like a black honey that flowed slowly across the landscape, causing all the hairs on my person to stand up on its head. As hard as I tried to imagine the faces of the people who lived here, I was unable to imagine the scene perfectly.
The world within the mind was capable of lacking in details, and the more one thought about the concrete details behind it, the less real it became.
A burst of clarity shone through onto my tired mind then.
I continued walking with Ao Ao through the halls and into a long but narrow white corridor. On both sides of the corridor were doors carved like roses. Alluring on how it extended through the corridor, the carvings looked ready to move or even start laughing. With how tall the carvings were, it’d make anyone feel dizzy trying to make sense of it. The petals to the rose were dripping scarlet red with dew, and the light reflecting off of it was sharp the eye.
It looked as though they would fall any moment, but it was only waiting for the right time to create a swamp on the ground below as if it were a game.
“Different doors lead to rooms of different uses.” Ao Ao explained. Its ears were drooping more than before, I noticed.
But maybe it was only a trick of the mind.
Rooms of different uses? Like cloakrooms or gyms? I felt as though there was some sort of way to use these rooms, or some sort of limits on how it could be used, but the exact details were lost on me.
“You’ll understand.” The cat smiled again mysteriously at me. Its smile this time was like the corals underneath the deep blue sea.
A forced smile, one that looked like I had swallowed something I didn’t want, appeared on my face.
“Ahhh, how tiring. Shall we go to the coffee house for some coffee?” Ao Ao stretched its back with its arms curved downwards to the ground like a parabola.
“Okay.” I nodded.
I was thirsty anyways, so coffee sounded good.
Then again, even if I wasn’t thirsty, I’d probably agree anyhow.
Sometimes, I felt like the freedom of choice wasn’t a freedom at all. In situations like this, I didn’t have much of a choice.
But even then, it was a little relieving.
Coffee is something that is alive. Within the circle of bitter ripples is an enchanting smell that’d intoxicate anyone and whet their desires. The liquid is rich, creamy, and sepia in color, and made with a millenia of bitter history.
Coffee has a myriad of graceful sounding names: mocha, latte, cappuccino, Americano….
Just tasting these words on the tongue was enough to allow one to smell the sweet aromatic smell of the coffee itself. There wasn’t a need for coffee to really be there on the table.
But how could the names of the coffee be so pleasant to begin with?
Was it because of the initial translations in which people thought it to sound good already?
When Ao Ao took a sip of its coffee, its beard trembled with joy. A droplet of coffee had somehow made its way onto its beard and was suspended in the hairs.
The afternoon glow of the sun clung softly to my skin. Comfortable. I was reluctant to leave my spot. Even if it meant staying even a second longer here meant losing an era of light, I didn’t want to go.
The curtains in the coffee house was a delicate yellow. Adorned with a lacy-white gauze, the fabric flowed softly in the wind in a way that felt like my heart would flutter with it.
“This coffee is quite something.” Ao Ao complimented, the coffee that had somehow made its way onto its eyebrows falling off.
“It is.” The aftertaste of the coffee was still fresh on my tongue.
“Coffee is a panacea. A panacea that can fill the cracks in a person’s life and heal over the scars that once worried them. Every time I feel unwell, I drink a cup of coffee.” Ao Ao bowed his head to stare the crystalline water with its eyes.
Still, its eyes twinkled brightly like stars.
“I like coffee too, in the world of coffee, there’s nothing to worry about–only just a peaceful calm.”
Somehow, those words managed to spill out from my mouth.
“That’s right. A cup of coffee has no limits to what patterns can be put onto it. The realm of possibilities is endless when thinking about the cup, you may wish to have just a cup of coffee on a white porcelain plate, or you may even wish to add a little something of an image you might enjoy onto it.
To each their own image, and to each image a different taste.
From the calming flow that is of the Nile River, the harsh-cold snowy landscapes of a preserving kingdom, the dreamlike wonderland of the charmingly pink garden party, to the prismatic primitivity of the Amazon Forest, there is nothing that cannot be imagined, and nothing that cannot be placed onto this cup.
The cup is the fusion of reality and fantasy, and the union of softly sweet to strongly bitter.
Having a simple taste of a cup of coffee draws you into the sealed narrative of the world the coffee conjures, and the flow of the brown syrupy canvas is what hypnotizes you and imbues your lips with it. It is a magical banner of life that shatters the yokes of reality and allows liberty to soar unfettered to pursue that taste of freedom.
Freedom. A word that isn’t limited to the physical sense that the body can enjoy, but also the mind.
As long as your mind is free, the shackles that was once placed on you will be broken, and your soul will be set free.”
Somehow, I could only think about what Ao Ao had said. Even if Ao Ao’s words were supposed to resonate and draw a response from me, I couldn’t think of one, but even if it didn’t think I understood it, it didn’t matter.
The burning spirit of mine was caught in between time and space as it tried to think of something, but it was stuck there, frozen for eternity until it transformed into the truth.
A claw of Ao Ao went up to scratch its ear over and over again.
I saw movement then from the outside. Something like iron stepped onto the wooden boards outside. It was far away at first, but it slowly drew closer with increasingly louder footsteps. Only the footsteps could be heard, but each time it was heard, I felt like it could cause an entire mountain to collapse.
The door leading to the corridor outside slowly opened, allowing for the light in the room to escape and leak out onto the corridor in long streaks of gold.
And from the other side, a silhouette slowly made their way in.
Finally, when the light was strong enough to illuminate the silhouette, I could finally see what the person looked like.
He was a tall man with legs like bamboo. He wore long coattails that rode to the bottom of his shoes almost and had pockets that looked extremely spacious.
He was handsome, and his chin was chiseled really nicely along with the muscles in his neck.
But the eye lashes on his face looked as though they could thaw out a century-old iceberg.
“Hey, hello there.” A smile only he could pull off appeared on his face.
He didn’t seem introverted nor extroverted, or so I thought. Still, he seemed like an honest person that wouldn’t be alienated by any person without reason if he could smile like that.
In a way, his nice smile and his slim body complimented each other in a nice warm way that could tickle anyone’s heart.
“You’re finally here, Hugheston.” Ao Ao leapt to its feet.
So they knew each other.
Only I was the outsider in this situation, but they didn’t single me out when they greeted each other.
I could feel my nose twitch a bit; this world had such great people.