Chapter 3 - Just her luck
In a town very close to the one where our heroes broke their
fast – that’s oldschool for ‘had
breakfast’ - before setting out on their conman hunt, and a little while later
as far as timelines are concerned, an unlikely alchemist was trying to do what
was her business, mixing liquids with a purpose.
Midori wore a blue sleeveless shirt, it had a turtleneck, and simply had purple shorts. All and all, she was showing way more skin than an alchemist ought to when going about their business. Though that wasn’t exactly true, like any other Lan of the rabbit race, she actually sported a thin layer of white fur over her skin, but unlike the common member of her race, she had unusually long ears. They dropped behind her shoulders and reached half-way across her back, they were far bigger than her hair, which didn’t even reach the start of her neck.
Big light-green eyes beamed from behind goggles as she joined a purple liquid, bubbling discontent, to a vial filled with a white one. The purplish was a yummy looking slime, tree sap. The white was her own compound, the product of three other merges.
She licked her lips in anticipation as one drop slowly let go from the slime, falling off and into the vial. It rumbled for a minute, and her hands wavered a bit, frightened, but nothing happened except for what she had hoped for. It boiled, and exactly in a cooperative mood. She winced and leaned back her head a bit, in hopes that would motivate the chemical reaction to take pity on her and not explode.
But then the white turned purplish too. She waved the vial around to confirm the liquid was not the least bit slimy, and then leaned it straight to her mouth, tasting the liquid. It tasted like tree sap.
“YES!” She raised her arms, still holding the vial, in celebration. She span around, “woo! It worked, yes yes yes!” But as she came to a stop, she kind of lost her footing. Her body wavered and she leaned all the way down, past her waistline.
“Whoah!” She jerked her hands to keep the vials from spilling while she tried to also not completely fall. She did manage to steady herself.
“Ha ha, not this time,” she commented, putting the vial with the sap down on the table. A moment later she heard a crash right there by her feet, which made her hop away from the noise, fully startled and more than used to chemicals trying to hurt her.
She looked to see what happened, finding the vial burst open on the ground, the slimy goo glowing happy and free. She then looked at the table and realized she had merely missed it. She had let go of the sap in the middle of the air.
“Argh,” she slapped her forehead in annoyance, “I’m such a klutz…,” she eyed her other vial, however, the real success. “Not stupid, though,” she complimented herself, “not stupid at all.”
She looked around, holding on to the vial with both hands,
“Where’s my Xenia…? Ah, there it is,” she found it with but a glance. The Xenia was a wand that doubled its job as a fighting staff. Hers was made of white wood with a silver rock-looking stone, built into one of its tips, naturally widening it. It was the top tip, and it reached as high as her chest. The Xenia was mostly shaved clean, glowing bright when hit by light, but the rock itself reflected it as a mirror; the rock also had dents in it, little holes to let the wind pass through.
Midori was a Night Songstress. Her voice had magical properties, it was her weapon, and this one accessory amplified and strengthened that weapon. She grabbed it excitedly and hurried out of her the laboratory which had, the day before, been a simple room.
She was excited about her success. She had traveled a very long way only to find out that Fairgrifen was too much of an expensive place to just immigrate too. One needed more backup, a more economic spine before stepping into the city. But with that success, she believed she would have that and more.
Fairgrifen was one of the great states, a city as large as most islands. It was an Aristocratic society, and since it was a city which had been erected, for some reason, in the midst of beast-ridden deserts, it had focused its production on all the basic needs of a warring populace: blacksmithing, carpentering and culinary, which included alchemy!
The city had been founded by the most un-remarkable of all races: the Jun, who had no fur, no ears, no tails, no physical attribute of note. They were what another race would be if stripped off their characteristic. And the Pan, sure, they basically looked like Jun if they never physically grew up past their childhood.
That was the thing about the Jun. As Midori looked at one who sported short dark green hair, yellow eyes, brown jerkins, shirt and pants, over a well-tanned skin... she couldn’t help but think about it.
She looked like a Jun, but with fur and a tail, while lacking a finger in each hand, and with 4 toes instead of four fingers and a toe, in each foot: the characteristics that made her a Lan.
But she wasn’t there yet. Again, she had been sent back and had instead settled on the nearby village of ClearPebble. It was walled off, like most villages, but its size paled in comparison to the great city-state. She walked across the dusty streets, crossing through a couple of people here and there. Some were heading out to hunt, others to get water from a well a couple of miles away. Others were just hanging out in the shade. The town was mainly inhabited by Juns and Pans.
She saw a couple passing just then: the little boy with his curly black hair and dark skin, giggling and amusing himself while walking hand in hand with his little friend, a tanned little girl with almond eyes and brown hair.
That’s what they looked like, but they were most probably husband and wife, and with decades of their marriage. Luckily, any Pan had three dots on their foreheads, shadows upon their skin that formed a triangle. Because of that, it was easy to tell them apart from Jun younglings. The couple in question sported such dots on both their foreheads. They were little people, but they would surprise anyone with how swift and agile they could move.
Her mind stopped wandering around at that point as she came found out she had reached her destination, the general goods store. Feeling the vial against her chest, she took a breath and went in.
“Old man Jin, I did it!”
The Pan who ran the store had lived in the big city state for years on end until his business finally met with bankruptcy. Then he left and took up shop at ClearPebble. He had a thick black mustache trailing from one cheek to the other, emphasized by a bald head that made the dots on his forehead easy to discern. He looked young and boyish even though she knew he was easily fifty years old.
But he wasn’t alone. The man he was with was tall, obviously also in his, let’s call it, veteran days. But he looked a giant when compared to Jin. He was a Lan, a bull. His horns were wide and black, like his eyes and cloak, which was a tent upon his huge and wide build; at a first glance, she imagined she could lie down on his shoulders and there’d still be room for his hands to pet her.
He had a bull’s strong snout, one made of nostrils that flared with a snort as he looked back at her in anger. Thankfully, it was mucus-free.
“Oh,” she winced, “I see you’re busy!”
“Yes,” the bull said, breathing out a bit threateningly. He had glanced back at her slightly startled, as if expecting a fight, but once he gave her a good look-over. He relaxed his gaze and placed each hand inside the opposing sleeve of his cloak. His hands were particularly massive, his thumbs large and fat.
He then turned his back to her.
“She raised an eyebrow, curious.
“Should I wait outside, then?”
“Best do, bunny-lass,” Jin responded, friendly if not a bit nervous.
She crossed her arms, pouting, “don’t call me that!”
Jin laughed at that, “wait outside, Midori, then we’ll see what it is you did.”
He winked at her and she grinned, happy. She hopped outside, feeling the hot sun on her face. She breathed in, again hugging the vial to her chest while the door closed behind her.
That was her way in. She had made a compound that would replicate into itself the flavor of whatever it got mixed with. So instead of having, for example, to produce barrels of wine through the normal process, a single cup could produce barrels of it! If the barrels were filled with her compound. It wasn’t that cheap to make, true, but something of that size would already be enough to produce a house filled with something else. So it paid off big-time to use her invention!
Old Jin still had contacts, he told her that if he had a viable product, they would spread the welcoming mat: for him, and for whoever supplied said product, which case in point, would be her.
That would not only get her inside, but she wold also get admitted into the academy, now able to pay the tuition fees. She would excel, and in a couple of years, she would have a seal of approval to work as an alchemist, and that itself opened a whole new world of rich labor for high-class individuals…
No more crazy adventuring. No more standing in the hot sun.
“Uck.” She stepped back under the shade, grinning loosely. She leaned back and closed her eyes, picturing the amazing future, she giggled silently. It took a few seconds more for her to notice she had leaned against the store’s door. And she only noticed because it pushed against her very abruptly.
It hit her in the head and effortlessly pushed her away and into a tumble.
A clumsy tumble that got her a shaved knee and a bruised elbow, both injuries she really didn’t feel due to how hard her head was ringing.
“Ooww! That huuurt,” she complained in a moan, massaging her head back into sensible consciousness.
She was still sitting down when the situation came to her head, brought up by the bull’s one contemptuous snort.
Startled, she looked at her hands, and they were empty.
She looked at the door, she saw the bull’s legs carrying him away to the side on top of his massive hoofs, and there it was crashed on the floor. The liquid was already evaporating.
Along with her dreams.
“No no no no no no,” she repeated clambering onto it in denial of the tragedy that was upon her.
Acceptance came next, it was indeed lost. The moment it came into contact with the dirt on the floor, it lost its viscous property, and thus all hope of being retrieved.
Dreams shattered, sixtieth time.
She lifted her arms up into the air dramatically,“Nooooooo!!”
She heard a laugh and noticed some people were finding that funny. She curled up her arms in reaction and snatched her Xenia in embarrassment. She ran inside as quickly as she could.
“Jin, you’re not gonna believe what’s happened!”
“I heard the shouting… let me guess, you dropped it on the floor?”
“No…” Midori reacted, sulking, “that old bull threw it, you gotta believe me.”
“I believe you, Midori. Just do some more and we’ll see about our deal,” he smiled, welcoming.
But she just opened her eyes in preoccupation.
“What? Another one?”
“I told you how much the supplies cost, Jin,” she said, helpless, “I don’t have enough to make more, and even then it’ll take days, I have to ship in the garlic flowers and the--”
“Midori,” he crossed his arm, “I don’t mind investing in a business, but I’ve lent you enough money for your wild goose chases.”
“Jin, please, I’m telling you, it worked. I dropped a really slimy sap, from a tree, you know?” She nodded him on, “Sugary and tasty. I dropped it into a vial of this stuff, and it took on the sap’s taste, without adopting its consistency. So it’s basically fresh water that tastes like sugared honey. And you can do that with anything! Anything at all!” She nodded more profusely, she wanted her nodding to give him certainty. “And it’s not poisonous or harmful or anything, it works with sauces as well as beverages, it’ll make you a fortune, I promise, I--”
“Midori,” he raised his hands to stop her, “I like you, I do. You’re funny and really young and spirited, and seem to be quite bright, but you know how much money I’ve lost on promises like that? Not just with you, but with other people too. And I’ve given you money once before, even! But you dropped that vial too.”
She blushed, bringing her arms behind her back, her staff held between them. She couldn’t wag a tail like a cat or a dog so the staff would have to do. She waved it, ashamed.
That was actually a mistake. It didn’t work and I was so nervous about you quitting on me I dropped it in front of you…but you don’t need to know that… Her right ankle was also turning side to side, unbeknownst to her.
“One more time, please,” she eyed him with her cute bunny eyes, from a bowed head “you won’t regret it.”
“You’re a capable young woman, Midori,” he said, under a kind but responsible gaze, “get the money yourself and make the product, I’ll be here for you.”
“Come on, that would take me ages, Jiiiin…”
“It would take you some jobs.”
“Some jobs?” She opened her arms in disobedience, “I can only take, like, adventuring jobs, Jin, you know that. And most of the money from those things go into food and rent, that’s sometimes the actual currency!” She turned around, mimicking a person talking to her, “Oh, you saved our city from this monster, here’s a trout!” She steadied, ignoring the near-snicker on Jin’s face. “And I’ll need to leave this town, too, it’ll take me months if I had all the jobs here, let alone when I have to travel to other islands.”
“Midori, try and understand things from my standpoint.”
“Jin.” She grabbed at the counter, crouching so she’d be looking up at him, chin down enough to be covered by the counter itself. She eyed him desperately sad, her expression hung down almost as much as her ears. She needed to convince him!
“It would take a complete miracle for me to make that much money anytime this year. Jiin…”
That is the sort of thing she should know better than to say. On cue, the door to the store flung open behind her, and a commanding voice sounded out, frustrated, demanding, female, but more importantly, that of a familiar squirrel Lan who Midori actually knew.
“Hey! Have you seen an old bull?!”