Chapter 5

Eloch and i talked almost the whole night, 
then we both parted ways and went home.
i slept soundly through the night.

   i woke up and walked outside. i looked over to the east, then the west. i sighed before i soon readied myself, and went to bathe in the waterfall. once more, and as usual, i began to think to myself.  i am lonely. how exactly did i end up being so lonely? although, even when life was normal for me, or as close to that as it could be, i was also lonely then, too. i wonder how Cascada's doing.. What if she's lonely too? i smoothed down my hair and stepped out from the waterfall, tip-toeing back into my cave. i hope she's alright... i slipped on a pair of stockings, a skirt and my boots and laced them closed.

Ri-i-i-i-i-i-eeng! Rieeeeeng!

   The mice had rang the bell. i covered my torso with my deep brown tresses, waving and wet as it was. it hung far past my knees. i rushed outside. "What seems to be the problem, my dear mice?"
   The tiny mice began to squeak and squiggle, bursting into chatter. Mallory spoke up. "Esperanza... we can't get food. This cat chased us away and all that we could manage to get was a walnut, and that will only feed a couple of the little ones...can you help us?"
    "Of course, come in." I stepped back up into the cave. They followed after me, hopping, and jumping up and down. i took down the shelf of food i had and set it down on the ground to their level. "Take whatever you want." They squealed and scurried, taking a good portion of the dried fruit.
   "I still don't know how i can thank you."
   "It's nothing, really."
   She smiled and pounced away.
   I went back in and laced up my vest.  i want to go somewhere today... i think i want fish. I'll go fishing! i filled my bag with a few things i deemed necessary: my flute, some dried fruit and nuts, my knife, my fishing rod and a harpoon. i tied my hair up halfway back and braided the top half. i started to walk out from the cave until i stumbled after spotting a young mouse. i stopped in my tracks. that was really close. "What are you doing all the way over here? you alright?"
    "Yes..." she said quietly"I,well, i just wanted to tell you something."
    I knelt down and let her crawl onto my hand. "What did you want me to know?"
   "Well, Esperanza...i..i-i stole from you..." she looked away. "and I'm sorry..."
    I was completely caught off guard. i didn't realized any of my belongings had escaped from my view. "You did?" i asked.
   "Yes.. i did..." she pulled out a kernel of corn from behind her back. "I'm sorry, i really am!" she shut her eyes tight as she held it towards me.
   I giggled. "Mela, its only a kernel of corn. It is of no use to me anyhow. i don't even have much of a liking for corn! haha!" i smiled.
   "So.. i can keep it?"
   "Yes, of course." i laughed. "and you can even eat it, too!"
   "Thank you Ranza!" she hugged my thumb. "can i really eat it?"
    "Yes." i smiled.
    I laughed and let her down from my hand and she hopped down into the hole in the tree.
    I finally began my journey down to the Rainbow sea. when i thought about it, it really wasn't much of a journey at all. the only journey-like thing about it is that i have to make sure no one sees me, or they'll find out where I've been living. i decided to take the long way.
    As i finally got there, the sun was in just the right position for me to see every single ripple in the water. i could see every beautifully vibrant hue of the sea water, making the meaning of it's name so rightfully apparent. i sat on the cliff and strung up my rod, and cast it out.
    i hung my legs over the edge of the cliff. as i leaned foreward, one side of my hair drifted along with me. i felt a tug  and dragged it up the rod. i had caught a catfish, my very favorite to eat. i stabbed it and made sure it was down, then wrapped it in the biggest leaf i could find. soon enough, i reloaded my rod and cast out again. i hummed a subtle tune that i normally play with my flute, and as i reeled in yet another fish, i noticed a sea shell sitting near me. it highly resembled an ocarina. i had always wanted one, so i stashed it.
   the sun shown down heating the sea with all it's might. i left as the fish seeked shelters under rocks and caverns, and shadows by the trees as the sea became too warm. today the clouds moved fast. there's a storm coming. i can sense it. i took quicker steps back to the cave. i was walking as fast as i could until a blueberry smacked me right in the middle of my forehead. i wiped it off with my hand. "what the..."
   "heeheehee!" i knew that giggle anywhere. there was eloch poached on a tree branch, holding a bamboo pipe and a bag of blueberries. "Gotcha!!"
    I smiled. "wow, a blueberry?" we laughed as i walked up to her. she jumped down from the tree and smiled to me. "how are you today, eloch?"
   "I'm just dandy! How about you?"
    dandy? "I'm fine. i just caught a few fish." maybe i should invite her over for dinner...she will find out where i live though... but, i find her to be a trustworthy person, but what will she thinks after she sees where i really live? what if she doesnt like me anymore... maybe i should stop thinking so negative, or maybe i should stop thinking alltogether... but what if she says no? damn it! no. I'll ask her. i trust her and i want to show her that. but we just met... maybe I'm taking this too seriously.I've never really had a friend, at least not since.. well, actually, never. i never had any real friends. i had my sister and of course the animals... well, Eloch is sort of an animal... ugh, I'm so heartless! i can't believe i just thought that to myself. there's a storm coming... a cave is much safer than a mushroom. maybe she could sleep here tonight. wait, no no no... what am i thinking? who would want to sleep in a cave? i think too much...I'm gonna go out on a thin limb here. here goes nothing... "Would you like to come over for dinner?" please say yes, please say yes!
   "Sure!" she grinned, "Sounds great!"
   Yay!! my whole body tingled in a burst of excitement. "alright, well, lets go!" I tried not to blush, but i was so happy she accepted my invitation. i had never had someone over before. "I'll lead the way." we started our walk down the way, weaving through trees and tripping in ditches, making jokes and laughing all the way there. the darker clouds began to roll in faster as we arrived. i brushed away a sheet of leaves and let her walkin under them. "Well, ehre's m home..." i hope she likes it...
   "Waaah-ow!" she blinked her eyes twice and looked from one side to the other. "it's amazing..."
   In my mind, i was squealing with glee, but humbly smiling on the outside. "Thank you, i like to think the same."
   Eloch walked around the area. she ran her hand through the waterfall and stroked it with her finger, then took in the mountain spring mist. she signed in relief. "it must be like heaven living here."

Ring-a-ling-ling! Ring Ring!

"what was that?"
   "The family of mice." i told her. "I gave them a bbell and said to ring it whenever they need me." i pointed to the bell and we joined in walking to the tree. "yes?" i said to them.
   Mela hopped out from the hole. "Ranza who's that?"
   Eloch smiled at her, squeaked, wiggled her nose, and squeaked again, waving to her.
   Mela's face lit up. "Nice to meet you, Eloch, I'm Mela!"
   "Nice to meet you too."she smiled.
   Mallory popped out of the hole. sniff-sniff, "it smells like rain out here..." sniff-sniff "anyways...we were curious to know if we could help you with anything. and.. if i could stay..."
    "What do you mean, 'if you can stay?'"
    "Well,mom left and so did everyone else...and the only ones of us who are still here are me, Mela and Muna, but they're leaving too. but..i-i really like it here...can i stay? please?"
    "Of course you can. you can stay forever if you'd like, i don't mind."
     "Thank you!" she squealed.
    Thunder pounded through the ari. "Welcome." i heard it againa nd it quickly began to drizzle. a cold breeze chizzled the air. "Mallory, Mela, Muna...you guys should sleep in the cave tonight. it's going to storm."
   They nodded and carried out their nest from the hole. Eloch looked at me. I picked up the nest with the three mice sitting inside and brought them in, gently setting down the nest on the cave floor.
   I pulled out a cushion from under my bed and motioned for Eloch to sit. i slid the mouse nest near my bed and let them feast on some left over fruit. Eloch explored the cave with her eyes. i took out my knife and the fish i caught. "Which one would you like?" i unwrapped each one and set them out for her to choose what she watned. she pointed out the catfish. that was my favorite as well.
   i set up my stove and let it heat up as i cut and seasoned the fish. she was still looking around. i fried the fish with vegetables.  i hope she likes this. i concentrated impeckably on not cooking it too long and making sure the tea didn't overboil. i finally finished and put them on a dish, as the warm tea was pured into cups with honey. she took in the herbal scents as i set up a tray for her to eat on and some utensils. "i know it isn't much, or fancy, or anything...but i hope you like it." Eloch smiled at me and began to eat. I began cooking for myself and joined her.
   i could hear the rain tapping on the leaves outside. a little mist blew in from time to time, making the fire sizzle and steam. it was chilly and humid outside, but inside the cave, it was warm from the hot spring. the fire stayed bright as the day turned to night. eloch and i talked the entire time. everything rom animals to marketing, harvesting and more. eventually, the subject of Classes came about. "So, are you going to Classes?"
   "I don't know yet." she sighed. "probably. i havent paid my tuition yet." she brushed her bangs from her eyes. "are you going?"
   "Yeah, i am his year. i haven't paid my tuition yet, either."
   "What group are you in?"
   "16th rotations."
   "me too! heeheehee!"
   "Ha, yeah." i looked over at the mice and they were sleeping. i created a forcefield around them and placed an aura stone in the nest to keep the magic alight. Mela snuggled closely to Mallory. "So, did you go to classes last year?"
    "Yeah, I've gone every year since i came here."
    "Well,how is it? Do you like it? What's it like?" my eyes widened as curiousity leaped up my spine.
   "its a good oppourtunity, i can't say i 'like' it, but its not bad."
    i poured us both another cup of tea.  "Hmm...what do you do there?" i hadn't been to Classes in forever.
   "it really depends. last year, we couldnt choose what we wanted to take. everyone had to do the same thing and we had an hour break to go and do whatever we pleased. this year, for us, is supposed to be totally different." she sipped some tea and set the cup on the ground. "this year, we get to choose what we want to take for our classes, so it should be fun. for the first three days we have schedualling, then it should be normal. i think it sounds like fun."
   "So do i. i wonder if they have an art class, or archery...or scribing or music..."
   "They have all of those. I'm doing scribing for sure, i love to write."
   "As do i, i love to create poems and stories."
   "i love writing stories. maybe one day, i will finally finish one." we laughed together. i knew what she meant. most of the stories i started were unfinished as well.
    a loud burst of thunder struck on the other side of the mountain. the sound echoed through to my side and awoke the sleeping mice. "its getting late..." Eloch implide scratching her head. "...but its raining so hard, theres so much lighting and wind..."
   Here's my chance! Go for it! "y-you can stay with me, here, tonight--if you want to... i dont want you to get hurt or anything."
   "Really? I can stay here?"
   "Yeah, if you want to..."
    "alright!" She smiled widely. "i didn't expect that, since we just met...i would have never though i'd be this welcomed! Heeheehee!"
   "its fine with me" i laughed. "you can come over when ever you want!"
   We sat near the opening of the cave and watched the rain fall. it hit the puddles on the ground making ripples and waves. soft tapping sounds accompanied the whispering wind, soothing as it was. a leaf fluttered down from the tree and landed in the center of a puddle.
   It was pretty late, but neither of us were tired. Eloch was fiddling around with her necklace, i was relacing my boots for the seventh time. we may not have been tired, but we were most definately bored. then i began thinking. its been a while since we've eaten. maybe we could eat again. "are you hungry?"
   "Eh, yeah, kinda." she was playing with her hair.
   "Alright, I'll make something." i went and got some rice i had cooled and mixed in some milk and cinnamon sugar. Got some fruit and put it all in a separate bowls, then split the portions and brought them back up front to where we were sitting. Eloch was reading something. it remains a mystery to me as from where she got a book from. "Well, here's something..I'm not sure what to call it. it's just a little sweet something i make on occassion." i set the bowls down and pointed to the bowl of fruit. "and there's some apples, purpleberries, cantaloup, watermelon, and this new fruit I've found that i call 'stars.' maybe you'll like them." i smiled hopefully.
   I could see her closely examining the star as she picked it up. she smelled it then ate it. "Wow! i like it!" her eyes were rich in pleasure and excitement. "its sweet, but kinda citrusy, but it tastes like it has some spice to it too...like, it hits all of your sences, like BAM!"
   I jumped as she screamed, startled, but i laughed. "They're my favorite fruit." I looked back to check on the mice; still sound asleep. "I have never sold them, though."
   "Why not?! you could make a fortune from these! They're great!"
   "Yeah, but they're kind of secret...I'm the only one who knows where they grow. There's a few other fruits i have like that, too." The rain began to slow down, turning from a blurry sheet to little sporadic spots. "i could show you, if you'd like."
   "Sure, sounds like fun! and i wont tell." she smiled.
   "Alright, lets go!" i got up and noticed the rain had siesed. just in time.

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