Chapter 07 – The Bracelet
The following day, Ruri was ready to present the Spirit of Time with the toy she’d bought at the marketplace, thinking it’d be the perfect fit for someone with an overabundance of time like her.
She opened up her pocket in space and headed inside.
On the inside, however, she was met with an unexpected sight. The space had been completely empty up until yesterday. She’d thrown in her purchases from the marketplace, but this expansive place influenced by Ruri’s mana was supposed to have much more empty space. But, for whatever reason, there were tons of clothes she didn’t remember buying, furniture she definitely hadn’t put there, as well as some random items, like jewelry and weapons that she’d never seen before.
“What the heck is thiiiis?!”
Perhaps picking up on Ruri’s holler, the Spirit of Time phased in out of nowhere.
“I’m so glad… you actually did come back…” the Spirit of Time said, impressed that Ruri had come, and moved to tears. However, for Ruri, now wasn’t the time to bask in this tender reunion.
“I hate to break up this emotional moment, but what is all this?!”
“I brought things that I thought you’d like,” said the Spirit of Time with a cheery face, inviting praise with her tone.
This news, however, simply made Ruri’s head spin. “You brought them from where?!”
“Why, from pockets of space that other people created, obviously. You know that I can’t come out of this space, after all.”
That was what most people would call “theft.” Ruri was speechless. “Put these back now!”
“But, Ruri… I thought this would make you happy.” Probably not expecting that Ruri might refuse her gift, the Spirit of Time was shocked and her eyes started to well up, as if she were about to cry at any moment.
Seeing this, Ruri softened her tone a few notches. “Believe me, I appreciate the sentiment. But taking someone else’s things is definitely not right.”
“It’s fine, if that’s your concern. These are all from pockets that don’t have owners anymore.”
“Don’t have owners anymore?” Ruri asked, trying to get her to elaborate, but in the next moment, instead of standing in the first room, filled to the brim with items, Ruri found herself standing on the steps of a staircase.
“Okay, but only what I think I can really use.”
“That is fine. Oh, right. I’ve left my previous contract-bearer’s room around, but I’ll move the contents to your room later.”
“Huh? No, I couldn’t. That was a special person to you, wasn’t it?”
“It’s fine, it’s fine. They told me to give away everything to my next contract-bearer once I
found them.” “…Hm?”
She said “next contract-bearer,” but Ruri didn’t remember agreeing to anything of the sort. The Spirit of Time noticed the suspicion on Ruri’s face and, smiling, started to speak.
“When you left yesterday, I went ahead and made a contract.” “You did what now…?”
“It only makes sense. I’ve come to fancy you a lot.” The Spirit of Time clasped her hands together and apologized for her assumption in an adorable manner. Ruri, however, slumped in disappointment.
Then, in the blink of an eye, the Spirit of Time teleported them to her former contract- bearer’s pocket space. It was several times larger than the space Ruri had created, and a simple scan of the area showed that every single corner was stacked with valuable-looking jewelry and weapons, leaving Ruri awe-struck.
“…Is it really okay for me to take all this?”
“Of course. I can connect to your pocket space and move it there later, but if there’s anything that piques your interest, feel free to take it now.”
Ruri may have had no idea about the value of things in this world, but she at least knew that the jewelry casually strewn at her feet was not cheap. She looked around, this intensely bright and sparkly room giving her a headache all the while, until a single bracelet caught her eye. It was a thin, gold bracelet with small jewels set in the middle and a pattern etched on it all the way around. “It’s so pretty…”
In addition to the bracelet, she also picked up a few things like a necklace she could give to Chelsie and a knife and bow-and-arrow set, well suited to the forest. Then she returned to her own room. Ruri was so blinded by all the expensive-looking things and overwhelmed trying to choose a few, that she didn’t hear the Spirit of Time’s warning about one of her selections having a shady history behind it.
“By the way, what is your name anyway? ‘You’ isn’t a proper name and ‘Spirit of Time’ doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue.”
“Lydia? Okay, got it,” Ruri said, calling the spirit by her name. Once she heard it, Lydia
beamed with the biggest smile Ruri had seen to date.
◆ ◆ ◆ ◆
After Ruri parted ways with Lydia and returned to the real world, she wasted no time giving Chelsie her gift.
“I’m back, Chelsie-san.”
“Welcome back. Nothing feeling off, I take it?” Chelsie asked, checking in on Ruri’s condition in concern, knowing that being in the temporal domain had negative effects on people’s psyches.
“I’m fine. Apparently, I was contracted without even realizing it, but she said any effects would be minimal.”
“…You made a contract with the Spirit of Time?” Chelsie asked, aghast in wide-eyed shock as if she couldn’t believe her ears.
“Seems so. Oh, Chelsie-san, I brought you back a present,” said Ruri as she placed the jewelry and weapons she’d brought from the pocket of space on the table. Ruri was all smiles, thinking that it would be sure to please Chelsie, but the old woman’s reaction was quite the opposite.
“What in the hell is this?!” Chelsie exclaimed so hard her eyes seemed like they were going to pop out of her skull. “Take a seat,” she ordered, preparing to bust out into a lecture for some reason.
“No questions; just sit. Now!”
“Yes, ma’am…” Confused by the unexpected reaction, she sat down.
Chelsie, her eyes looking intense, started her inquisition. “Where in blazes did you get these from?! You didn’t get these from the city, did you? Regardless of how much the spirits like you, you shouldn’t just take things that could be from who-knows-where!”
“Huh? Wait, you have it wrong!” she quickly interjected as it seemed that Chelsie had assumed that the spirits had taken these from somewhere, so she explained from the top.
“You got them from the Spirit of Time? From other space pockets and the prior contract- bearer?”
“Yes, that is right. Lydia said that it was okay to use them as I wished because they had no owner. …Chelsie-san?” Ruri watched in confusion, head cocked, as Chelsie cut her reaction short before saying that she had a headache and returning to her room.
“Ah… what should I do with these?” Ruri asked, but since Chelsie had already left the room, her words echoed sadly. Ruri had imagined that her presents would have Chelsie jumping for joy, but instead it left the girl slumping her shoulders without a clue as to what she’d done wrong.
She settled down in her room, flopping onto her bed with a sigh. Then she pulled out the bracelet she’d picked out not too long ago. With its exquisite craftsmanship and shining jewels, the bracelet was entrancingly beautiful.
“It doesn’t seem like I’ll have a problem making a living now, but, all things considered, maybe I should be scared…” She was starting to get worried now about coming into a massive fortune out of the blue, but if word ever spread that she was sitting on such a goldmine, there was a huge possibility that money-grubbers would come gunning for her.
She decided that not telling anyone other than Chelsie was the best idea. Then, she put on her new bracelet and let the warm rays of the sun whisk her off to a gentle slumber. By the time Ruri woke up, the sun was already starting to set and nightfall was approaching. Realizing what time it was, she arose in a rush to get dinner started, but when she did, she felt an odd sense of displacement.
(Huh? Something’s not right…)
The scenery in her room looked different from usual, but all the furniture was in the same place it had always been in, so she couldn’t figure out what was off. With a mysterious feeling of dissonance in the back of her mind, she tried to get out of her bed—which was when she caught sight of her hand, now small and covered in fluffy white fur. Turning the hand revealed an oh-so adorable pink and squishy paw pad. After sitting stock still in shock for a few moments, Ruri screamed.
“Wrrao reoooow!” However, the scream that came out from Ruri’s mouth didn’t match up with the words in her mind, causing her to panic even more. (What the hell is going on heeeere?!)
Hearing the loud shriek, Chelsie opened the door to Ruri’s room. “What’s the commotion, Ruri? Hurry up and help me with din… ner…” Ruri, however, was not there; a single white cat was there in her stead. “Well, I’ll be. How in the heck did a cat get in here and from where? Did Ruri bring it in here? I swear, that girl…”
(Cat?! I’ve turned into a cat?!) She’d thought that was simply impossible, but her hand was telling her that she was indeed a cat. And for even more proof, Chelsie looked at Ruri and called her a cat as well—something that caused Ruri to scramble to reply.
“Meow, mraow mroow (Chelsie-san, it’s me. Ruri,)” she desperately pleaded, but her cat speech wasn’t getting through in the slightest, prompting Chelsie to interpret her sentence completely differently.
“What’s that? Are you hungry?”
“Mya-uuh! (No, you’re way off!)” Just when Ruri had given up all hope of Chelsie realizing that it was her, the spirits came to her aid.
“This kitty is Ruri.”
“Ruri turned into a cat, yup.”
“She got all small, so we can’t ride on her shoulder anymore.” “What’s stopping us from riding on her back, though?”
Ruri gave the spirits a mental thumbs-up for the help, but also raised a mental eyebrow over why they wanted to ride on people so bad in the first place. Upon hearing the spirits’ say that, Chelsie looked at the white cat in surprise, hesitantly addressing it to check.
“…Is that really you, Ruri?”
“Meow meow.” Since Chelsie wasn’t able to understand what she was saying, she nodded her head as hard as she could. Chelsie didn’t seem entirely convinced.
“Ruri is supposed to be human, right? And according to her, there aren’t any demi-humans in her world, so don’t tell me she has some catkin blood in her or something,” Chelsie said, pondering this with a low hum. The spirits once again came back with a response.
“It’s because of that bracelet Ruri is wearing.”
“It’s an ancient bracelet that turns you into a kitty!”
Chelsie turned her eyes toward Ruri’s front legs and, sure enough, there was a bracelet wrapped around one of them. The bracelet had been big enough to fit around her wrist when she was human, but now that she was a cat, it had shrunk and fit neatly around her cat-arm. As a test, Chelsie tried to take the bracelet off of Ruri’s front leg. The piece of jewelry slid off without any resistance and reverted to its original size. As for Ruri, just as when Chelsie turned into her dragon form, she was engulfed in light and reverted to human form in the blink of an eye. Ruri looked at her no-longer cat-hand.
She touched her face and body to confirm that she had turned back to normal and the results filled her with wholehearted relief. “Oh thank God! I suddenly turned into a cat and lost my ability to speak words and I thought I would never turn back!”
“Sigh. First, you make a contract with the Spirit of Time. Next, you turn yourself into a cat. Ruri, there’s never a dull moment with you, I swear.”
After taking the bracelet from the weary-looking Chelsie, she quickly headed back to Lydia and had her explain. Apparently, the bracelet was not a harmless piece of jewelry but a magic tool created long ago, which would transform the wearer into a cat regardless of whichever race they actually belonged to. She went on to explain that it was made by a person who held an extraordinary fascination with cats and creating the bracelet had been their life’s work. It was a show of tenacity that no one around them could quite comprehend.
Ruri loved fluffy and cuddly animals, so she would have loved to talk shop with them, but they had lived and died eons ago. She probably could have formed a pretty good friendship with them, too, but it wasn’t meant to be—a fact that she lamented immensely. But Ruri’s lament quickly turned to joy as she realized she now held a great item.
It came with a lesson, however—a lesson to always listen when someone is talking.