Time Cat: An American Feline in Edo

Tobias is just an average black cat. Well, almost black - he has a white sock on his left rear foot and a white patch under his nose. One day while exploring the yard of his Human, he comes across a curious glowing orb. He begins to investigate it and inadvertently activates it, creating a rip in the very fabric of reality. Much to his dismay, he is sucked into the rip and carried through time and space to an era much earlier than his own. Now he must track this orb across time and space in order to activate it and bring him back home. Don't forget my author page: tinyurl.com/anrisarynfb

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5. Explanations

         Tobias found himself back in the village rather quickly. He raced up to his tree and began to eat the fish, his belly filling with joy and excitement. If he could eat like this every day, he might as well stay here. There was bound to be more fish on the way if he could keep this up.
         He watched as the people in the village cleaned up from the previous day's activities, each carrying something here, or something else there. Everyone was busy, and everyone was in good spirits after the new year's celebration. This year promised to be of good harvest according to the elders.
         The clouds had returned, making the day gray again. Tobias hoped that it wouldn't rain while he was still in the tree. If he had to slip and slide his way do the trunk, he wouldn't be a happy cat. He finished off the rest of the ayu fish quickly and climbed down before his suspicions could be confirmed.
         The Chi-chan and the Okaa-san were in the kitchen preparing flat rolls for the coming fish. Tobias wanted to sit on the table and watch, but even Food Plop Lady had yelled at him last time he did that.
         Talk outside drew his attention to the door. It had been left open when the sun was out and (Tobias hoped) to let him out. A man was outside chopping wood across the way. The Otou-san had stopped to speak to him and sent Hitoshi away with the fish. The young boy stumbled about, nearly tripping on Tobias with the heavy load. The Chi-chan and the Okaa-san went to help him and they all set about cleaning the catch, filleting them with practiced hands.
         Tobias watched the Otou-san talk to the wood-chopping man in an effort to perhaps find out more about this war that was to happen.
          "We recieved another shipment of guns today," the wood-chopping man told the Otou-san.
          "Good. Now will we have enough bows for all those that prefer them?" the Otou-san asked, shifting the disassembled poles to the other arm.
          "The guns will be more useful, but the men are fashioning more bows for the fight. My son is collecting supplies for arrows until the planting begins." The wood-chopper man stood up and leaned on his axe. "It's only a matter of time."
          "Otou-san, it's time to eat!" Hitoshi stuck his head out the door. He looked down and picked up Tobias who purred slightly, but wished he could stay and hear more. Hideki nodded towards his son in response.
          "Is that him?" the wood-chopper man asked.
          "Yes, that is my son - Hitoshi," Hideki frowned in worry. "I hope he doesn't have to get involved in any of this.

         Tobias leaped from the boys arms when he was safely back inside. The smell of fish made his mouth water, but he sat and waited, meowing a few times in an effort to ask for some.
          "Nya, nya, nya, you silly cat!" Akiko complained, not looking up from rolling an ayumaki she was rolling. "YOu get no ayu until I'm done making these rolls!" She placed the ayu sushi roll into a basket which was layered with a few more ayumaki. She placed a lid on top and put the basket into a large cupboard-type structure. The door swung open, revealing another collection of baskets which Tobias presumed were also filled with these "maki" things the Okaa-san mentioned.
          "How many more do we have to go?" Chihiro whined, finishing up her maki roll.
          "We can finish the rest after we eat," Akiko nodded, carrying an ayumaki to the counter. She sliced it up and put a few pieces on some old chipped plates. The patterns were faded - they had been used for many generations as were the chopsticks and sauce cups.
The family crowded around the small table, chattering about various happenings. Tobias watches as their expressions changed with the conversation. He sat and waited, hoping for some pieces of fish, but they were all too involved in the conversation to look down.
         He began to pace around the room, growing impatient for his soft bed that Food Plop Lady had always given him. The floor beds were nice, but it was always cold in the morning before the stove was burning. There were many things he missed about his home, and he wondered if he would ever go back.
         But coming here wasn't so bad. He met Hitoshi and the Chi-chan. The Otou-san and the Okaa-san were nice, too. They reminded Tobias of the Food Plop Lady's mother and father, as she called them. He later found out this meant that the Mother gave birth to Food Plop Lady, and Tobias began to thank her every time she visited the house. The Mother was the reason Tobias was with Food Plop Lady. The Okaa-san and Otou-san were strict just like the Mother and the Father, but they were nice and gave Tobias many pets and cookies.
But there were no cookies here. The Otou-san and the Okaa-san didn't have any. The fish was good, but he missed his cookies. But if he left, Hitoshi might be sad. Maybe there was a way that Tobias could explain everything to him.
         He mewed softly below Hitoshi's chair and the boy slipped him a piece of fish. The Okaa-san looked at him, but didn't react. Hitoshi was happy she had been so nice about Tobias. Maybe she finally thought he was growing up.
         Akiko was secretly glad he finally had a pet. It was something for the boy to look after. She wasn't going to let him know that, though. She always kept up that expression of disinterest. It kept her son from begging for too many things.
         The sun was setting, but Tobias had to know if the rip in the world was around here. Dismissing himself from the table just as Hitoshi offered him another peice of fish, he dashed out the open door, leaving his human blinking in confusion. He heard the Okaa-san tell the boy to make sure he closed the door before the sun disappeared. 
         Slinking about, he made his way across the roofs of the houses. They were close together, so hopping from each one to another was rather simple. Soon he had developed a hopping pattern and he was able to concentrate on the task at hand.
         Now, if he was correct, he should be looking for anything that was out of place. He didn't know much about Choshu, which was where he was, but as he thought this, a flood of information raced into his mind. Images of samurai (which he know knew they were called) and people sitting in chairs in a big building (which he learned was called the Diet, the equivelant of Congress) filled his mind. Instantly, he knew everything there was to know about this area, and that he was in Japan in the late Edo period. What was even stranger was that he actually knew what all of this meant.
         He paused for a moment, wondering what was going on. A similar feeling swept through him when everything was slow this morning. He hadn't ever felt this feeling before he arrived in this strange place. His thoughts flashed to the orb and he wondered if something had happened to him by touching it. 
         He felt a strange itch at the back of his neck. He sat back and scratched it with his rear claw, inadventatly unlatching his collar. It was a simple plastic clip, much like one might find on a fanny pack or backpack. It was simple enough to take off, but it was annoying to get back on. He usually had to ask Food Plop Lady to help him.
         Something was weird with his collar today. Normally, the cerulean blue was plain, and the silver circle that had his name on it showed no sign of strangeness.
         But now, there was a difinitive glow to it. He wondered how Hitoshi had missed it. Well, sometimes his fur did cover up his collar, but he didn't think it was that hidden.
         Why was it glowing, though? He sniffed it and picked up a very faint scent of metal. There was a strange residue covering the collar, and having cleaned himself this morning, he recognized the smell from his own fur.
         Could the orb have left something on him? Was this why time had slowed, and he could understand people?
         Images of the orb filled his mind. He was told via this that the orb was also a translator, a database, and a time manipulator. But the last feature was only to be used in a dire emergency as it could damage the time line. But even this information couldn't explain everything. 
         Why was he sent here anyway? His connection with the orb, whatever kind of access he had to the information about this topic was muddled and he didn't understand anything. He tried to access the data bank again, but nothing happened. It indicated a malfunction and appeared to shut off, sending blank images to his mind.
         At least he knew where and when he was, and why he knew this. It must be some kind of mind connection the orb had created for the user, who in this case was him - a cat. Shouldn't a human be using this kind of thing? They might be more interested in it. While he found the information useful to get home, it didn't particularly excite him.
         Well ok, so now he knew the basis of what was going on. This battle the people spoke of was the beginnings of the Meiji Restoration. THis battle was going to overthrow the bakufu and lead for a reform in the government.
         At least it was supposed to. But something in the information was wrong. Something was just not right. The orb indicated there was something that needed fixing. If he fixed it, could he go home? Perhaps that was the plan. The orb would lead him home if he fixed what was wrong. He sent the question to the orb, willing an answer to arrive, but nothing came. He sighed mentally, his tail swishing in slight annoyance. Some help this "database" was.
         Alright, so fix the problem and he could go home. Sounded easy enough, right?
         His thoughts were interrupted by Hitoshi's voice. The boy was calling him inside.
         Tobias, though reluctantly, obeyed the boy, leaping down from the roof via a wall of some sort next to one for the houses. He trotted along the worn road, finally coming back to where Hitoshi stood in the doorway. The boy smiled at him in greeting, but closed the door behind him, and took a seat on the small porch that mostly served as a place to remove shoes before entering the house. He held out a hand and Tobias rubbed the palm with the top of his head and purred.
          "The world is so complicated," he heard Hitoshi say. He looked up at the boy. He seemed distant, thinking about something. It was rather strange considering he was so young. It was usually the older folks that did all the thinking. He turned back toward Tobias and smiled half-heartedly. Tobias mewed softly and rubbed against the boy's hip. "We have to travel to the capitol and make the bakufu pay for what they have done." He almost sounded regretful, like he didn't want to fight, but it was something that had to be done.
         The capitol? Tobias thought about the information the orb fed him through the brief connection he shared with it. It seemed to be where the Diet was located, but not yet. That was a while into the future. He looked at Hitoshi with questioning eyes, wondering if the boy could tell him more.
          "It will be a long journey," he explained, still talking mostly to himself, but looking at Tobias. "We may be traveling for more than a week. But I think it will be worth it if things get better." He secretly hoped there wouldn't be a lot of fighting, but at the same time he hoped to end what was going on now. If what Otou-san said was right, the Choshu would get a voice in the government instead of the bakufu telling them what they must do all the time. This would be something that would make everyone happy in the end, wouldn't it? 
          "People say the samurai there are really strong despite not being able to carry swords around. Some day they can never die." Tobias' ears perked up at this strange statement. Was this the thing that was wrong the orb indicated?
         He mewed and put his front paws on the boy's arm. Hitoshi smiled and scratched Tobias' head with a soft chuckle.
          "Soon we'll have to fight," he added wistfully. Images of samurai filled Tobias' head. At the same moment, he wondered if Hitoshi would be one of those. Wasn't he too small to do that?
          "That's right, but someday I will!" the boy said, almost as if he could read the cat's thoughts. His expression went blank and he looked down at Tobias, his hand frozen mid-pet. "Did you say something?"
         Tobias mewed. Of course I didn't. I can't speak! He sat down and wrapped his dark tail around his haunches, then licked Hitoshi's finger. 
         The boy shook his head, dismissing the thought. He looked back at his new feline friend with a smile. "I wonder what you will do if we go to the capitol."
         Tobias knew he had to go with him. If there was something wrong there, then he had to fix it, or he could never go home. He purred anxiously, thinking of how long the journey would be without the boy's help.
         Hitoshi blinked, still watching the cat. Something had appeared in his mind - a picture of Tobias walking a long road alone.
          "Why did I think of that?" he asked. "I saw you walking on a road by yourself, Tobi-kun. Why would I think of that?"
         He saw that, too? Tobias blinked. Quickly, he stirred up an image of himself riding in a covered cart full of supplies next to Hitoshi. He knew the boy saw it, too; his expression changed to an even more surprised one.
          "Was that you, Tobi-kun?" he asked, leaning toward the cat. "Did you do that?"
         Tobias sent him an image of himself nodding, the human gesture he knew meant "yes." Hitoshi gasped, then covered his mouth. "You can communicate?" Tobias sent him another yes, and Hitoshi gasped again. He then sent the boy a picture of him following all the people going to the capitol.
          "Why do you have to go to the capitol with us?" Hitoshi asked, still in shock he was actually talking to a cat. Tobias sent him a picture of a clock, trying to say it would take a long time, but Hitoshi just blinked. 
          "What is that round thing with numbers?" he asked.
         Tobias was about to explain, but then he remembered there were no clocks here. Instead he sent an image of the rising and setting sun.
          "You mean it will take a long time to explain?"
         Tobias mewed, finding this mental imaging exhausting.
          "Well, let's go inside first. I don't want to be caught out here in the dark," Hitoshi suggested. Tobias couldn't agree more.

         That evening, Tobias filled Hitoshi's mind with so many images, the boy's head almost appeared to have started spinning. Through them, Tobias explained that he was from a place called Philadelphia Avenue and lived in a house with Food Plop Lady. But this was in the far future, and it was not in this country. This in itself was hard to graps, let alone he was talking to a cat. But, Tobias continued all the same. He showed Hitoshi the orb and how it made his collar glow, how he could speak to it, and that something was wrong here and in order to get home, Tobias had to fix it so the orb would take him away from here.
          "You're leaving?" Hitoshi asked, his eyes full of sadness.
          "Who's leaving?" Hideki asked, sticking his head into the bedroom where all the futons were laid out in preparation for rest. 
          "Oh, no one, Otou-san," the boy said quickly. "I'm just talking to myself! Gomenasai."
         Hideki raised his eyebrows, but said nothing and returned to helping in the kitchen. He would have asked the boy's help, but they were almost done. Tomorrow he vowed to make sure the boy got extra chores.
         Tobias nodded, and sent pictures of sadness. He would miss the boy, too, but this was not his home.
          "I understand," Hitoshi said quietly.
         Tobias sent an image of him carrying what supplies he could. He would help any way he could if Hitoshi would take him with the troops to the captiol.
          "The problem is making sure I go with them," Hitoshi frowned. "There's no way Otou-san would take me with him."
          "Take you where?" Hideki walked in, pulling off his dirty shirt and rooted through a chest to find a clean one for bed. Hitoshi was silent for a few minutes, trying to figure out what to say. "If you mean to fight, then you're right, Hito-kun. You're much too young."
          "But I want to help! I'm old enough, aren't I?" the boy protested, making fists in his passion.
          "Old enough to help? Yes. Old enough to fight? No." His father was still not looking at him, almost as if he was trying to hide the lines of worry from his son's eyes. "How do you even know what's going on? Who said anything about fighting?"
          "Otou-san, I know there is going to be a fight soon. I have ears to hear with," Hitoshi said as respectfully as he could.
          "Perhaps your ears are too strong. There will be no fighting. Not while you are around," Hideki stated sternly. "You will stay away from katanas until you are old enough."
          "When will I be old enough?" Hitoshi demanded.
"When I say so." With that, his father crawled into bed, snuffed out the torch, and said nothing else.
         Hitoshi frowned, his brow furrowed. He wished he was old enough. He just wanted to help! Was there nothing he could do to prove that he was ready?
         His angry thoughts were interuppted by Chihiro's entry. She yawned and flopped onto her futon next to Hitoshi.
          "Hi, neko-san!" she said quietly, rubbing Tobias' neck. He purred without meaning to. Stupid habitual reactions. She giggled and crawled under her covers. Hitoshi wacthed her, but said nothing.
          "Can we leave the torch on, Okaa-san?" she asked as Akiko shuffled in.
          "Alright, but make sure you put it out when the sun comes up," the older woman yawned, crawling into bed next to her husband.
         Hitoshi frowned. He reluctantly crawled under his blanket, watching Tobias stretch in the dim light. How was he going to help Tobias get home?
         The feline sent him an image of someone patting his back. Everything will be okay. We will figure something out.

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