Chapter 2: Fruitless Efforts
The next day turned out to be a warm, sunny, glorious morning. Rabbits hopped around in their usual, gallant manner; the flowers all bloomed effortlessly to create an earthly rainbow. It was the type of morning that enthralled the eyes of children and adults alike to come out and play. And that's just what Alex planned on avoiding. She shut herself away in the lapis lazuli filled kitchen, or at least as much as she could. Seeing as she didn't have any materials that could aid her in barricading herself off from the other two souls in the house, she resigned to hiding in the corner of the room, unseen by what ideally would be a fridge. Unfortunately, if one were to break the fridge 'door' open, they would only find the outside world. Most of this kitchen was simply for display, aside from the food chests.
She heard a ruckus outside in the living room. Two bodies were moving around. That must mean that Ace was mobile and well enough to speak.
"I'm so happy you're really okay!" The girly voice of Cadence spoke gratefully.
"A simple explosion wouldn't send me off that easily," The slightly deep, but clearly going through puberty voice of who Alex could logically determine as Ace replied.
Cadence giggled. "Such big talk for a guy who would have died without me."
"Okay, so maybe I need a bit of outside help. Where are we going, anyway? Also, don't walk so fast, it still hurts a little..." The quick footsteps of Cadence slowed to meet the rhythmic timing of Ace's.
"I'm going to introduce you to the girl that saved us last night. She let us into this amazing house!"
"Oh, cool. Did she make this all?" Ace seemed to be marveling at the handiwork.
"No idea. Alex! Where are you?" Cadence called. Alex shrunk down into her corner. She wasn't up for any more social interaction for a good ten days. The cap to her tolerance of human beings had overfilled maximum capacity. She heard Cadence sigh in annoyance.
"I don't know where she went," she said irritably. "but I can say with a hundred percent sure-ness that she's in this house."
"How can you be so certain?" Ace questioned. Alex heard Cadence hesitate before she answered.
"Well, it's hard to explain. Do you know how you just get this...vibe about someone and it's like you just know a thing or two about them?"
"Er..." Ace clearly had no clue what she was on about. "Yeah," he said anyway.
"That's what it's like," Cadence stated. "She just comes off as the kind of person that doesn't seem to enjoy going outside. At all." Alex felt a nerve in her brain twitch. Sure, she was right. But hearing it said out loud didn't exactly help matters for her. She knew that she was going to have to make herself visible sooner or later, and huddling in the corner didn't seem like the greatest first impression a girl could make for herself. Alex grudgingly crept out from the corner, relieved to see that they hadn't trod into the kitchen yet, and opened a chest to pretend that she had been preparing breakfast all this time. A couple seconds passed and Alex was relieved she had thought of such an incredible plan.
"Here she is!" Cadence's gleefulness came back in full force. "Alex! I know you saw Ace last night, but...here he is - conscious, even!" Alex stared at the boy, his dark, penetrating eyes looking so much like...she turned away to the chest, refusing to gaze into those strikingly similar sockets.
"Hello," she managed, reaching into the chest and grabbing out a couple pork chops for them all.
"Go on, introduce yourself, you cowardly mouse!" Cadence hissed at Ace, giving him a push forward. Alex almost smiled at the gesture.
"Uh," Ace started nervously, a chill seeming to have slithered its way up his spine like a slippery snake. "I'm Ace. But you know that already...it's er, good...to...meet...you." He struggled on the last words. Alex rose from the chest, chops in one stub and the other stub pushing down the lid of the chest. She forced herself to gaze into his eyes, her eyes as cold as diamonds themselves. She walked right up to him and shoved some pork into his chest.
"Eat," she said simply. "you're both probably starving." Alex handed the rest of the pile to Cadence as Ace's eyes widened at the food. He began to devour the chops, his stomach eager for food.
"The more the merrier!" It would have said, if stomachs could say such things. Alex strutted through the duo, averting her eyes from the various things in the room that were a little too familiar for comfort. She instead directed herself to a nearby chest, and began to rummage through it.
"But what about you?" Cadence asked blankly. "Don't you need to eat?"
"Of course," Alex agreed. "but we will need more food for me to do that. I'm going hunting." Cadence was quiet. Alex took it as an opportunity and headed for the door without looking back. However, just before she exited, she felt a tug on her sleeve. She turned to see the concerned face of Cadence overlooking her, the giant, verdant orbs scorching her heart.
"No," Cadence said. "take some of this. You'll need it more than I will." She offered three-quarters of her portion, three chops.
"I can't take all of it," Alex refused, startled by the sudden offer.
"So just take a bit. It'll keep you kickin', right?" she insisted. A reluctant Ace approached her as well, begrudgingly holding out his last chop without making eye contact. Alex sighed, taking both offers and stashing them in her inventory.
"Thank you," she said. "I'll be back soon."
"Oh, no." Cadence held out a stub in protest. Alex raised an eyebrow.
"Don't you get it?" Ace blinked. "We're coming with you."
"Keep with me," Alex said calmly, internally screaming. They walked along the plains, across an artistic meadow to where Alex knew livestock would be sooner or later. She didn't intend to have taken them out at all. She actually wanted to have a bit of solace in the glorious hours of the day that remained. Alone. But the two clueless slackers that trailed a little ways off behind her was company she never expected to have, ever.
"Oh, but can't we just stop and take a moment to look at it all?" Cadence said with wonder.
"No. Keep up." Alex took a couple more steps, and with great exasperation, knew that the two had come to a standstill. She turned and stomped to where Cadence was gazing around with a smile on her face. Ace seemed happy just to be alongside her. Cadence looked at Alex with a dreamy expression, sending a small twang of grief to Alex's heart. A flash of a curly mane of hair and happy emerald eyes came into her vision, and she had to stop for a moment to grasp herself.
"Alex, aren't the flowers beautiful? There's tulips, lilacs, and even roses...Alex?" Cadence stopped in her observing when she saw the horror-struck look on Alex's face.
"Yes, they're pretty," Alex said, wiping a lock of hair out of her face hurriedly and trying to compose herself, the sweat running down her neck. "We can always look at them when we come back. Let's go. Just a little ways until we find the food, okay?" She turned around abruptly, her heart beating faster than a hummingbird's wing. She trod on, oblivious to the glances that were exchanged between Cadence and Ace.
"Here we are," Alex stated, not stopping to observe the pasture. Everything within the fields was contained behind a sturdy, oak fence. There was only the one gate that they came through, meaning it was also the only exit. Cadence and Ace, on the other hand, really couldn't get enough of the world surrounding them. Alex ignored their gawking, striding over to where the pigs were located. They all looked at her with crossed, dumb eyes. Though she had to admit the pigs were pretty cute, all things considered. Alex sighed, pulling out her sword and raising it over her head.
"Stop!" Alex halted her motion mid-swing, narrowly missing the pig, and luckily not cutting Cadence in half. She had sprung forward in an instant, shielding the pig and giving Alex a look of utmost horror. "You can't kill them like this!" she exclaimed.
"Step aside," Alex said.
"No," Cadence persisted.
"Do you want to eat or not?!" Alex yelled, fed up with her. Cadence stood firm in her ground, a pale, delicate hand on the pig.
"There has to be a different source of food than innocent animals," Cadence stared at Alex with a steely eye. "If there is in the real world, then there has to be here." Alex stuck her sword into her inventory, and then squatted down to eye-level with Cadence.
"If you want to grow your own food, you can do it yourself. This is an easier way for me to get sustenance. So step aside, I want my dinner." Cadence flinched under her cold stare.
"Fine," she agreed, getting to her feet. "But only if I can keep this one." She gestured to the pig she had been protecting. Alex stood, a glare in her eye. Keeping a pet would make their food stock plummet, for sure. But arguing with this girl was meaningless and impossible to achieve a winning position.
"Take care of it yourself," Alex said coldly. "Now, if you excuse me, I'm going to go get food for myself." Without another word, she went to where a section of cows grazed peacefully, brandishing her sword. Cadence averted her eyes from what she knew Alex was going to do, and desperately tried to deafen her senses to the cries of the slaughtered animals.
"Cadence?" Ace gazed at her with concerned eyes. His hands were shaking.
"I'm okay," she said. "I managed to save one of them. We can find our own way to make food - there must be some way to grow food here!" She flashed him a smile.
Ace sighed. "Okay. I'm sorry I didn't do anything. I was...scared." He stared at the ground, ashamed.
Cadence gave him a small nudge. "Don't worry about it. I was scared, too." A faint smile crossed Ace's face. The two stood together in silence, gazing out into the oncoming sunset. When the last of the horrific cries had died down, the presence of Alex brushed past them, already leaving. She said nothing, and acted as if they weren't there. Cadence and Ace followed her closely anyhow, Cadence's pig following at her heels. The route home seemed to be quicker than the way there; the duo didn't focus so much on their surroundings and instead thought of their destination. By the time Ace and Cadence had gotten themselves sorted when they arrived back home, Alex was nowhere in sight.
"Ace! Come here for a second." Cadence called, her back aching already from the heat of the day. His soft footsteps signaled his approach.
"What is it?" Ace asked, his face strewn with dirt. His hands weren't safe, either, for they were coated in a fine layer of earth.
"I found some seeds! I was looking around on the ground, but it looks like I was doing it wrong the entire time. I thought I saw a monster out of the corner of my eye, but it turned out to be grass, and when I broke it - seeds!" Cadence explained her story with mixed expressions, first starting with happiness, then to slight embarrassment, and ending with the same, giddy look that made the dimples in her cheeks crinkle.
"That's awesome!" Ace grinned, all-knowing of how eccentric Cadence's stories could be. He had known her so long that the initial shock of her oddness had worn off completely. "I finished digging up some dirt with the hoe I found in one of the chests...do you think we can really do this?"
"Of course!" Cadence sprung up, plenty of fresh, budding seeds in her hands, ready for planting. "Show me where you dug, and we can plant them right away!" She ran off ahead of him, ignoring her own statement.
"Cadence! Wait up!" Ace called casually, slowly maneuvering his way over to where he had dug. He had dug up a large square of land, all of the empty spaces boxed in with each other. They could fit about twenty-four seeds in the land that was tilled so far, and Cadence took no time to wait.
"Here," she said, handing him half of her seeds. "Let's get planting!" The two started at opposite ends, gingerly planting the seeds, covering them in a blanket of dirt. Just above the hill, her presence a secret to them both, stood Alex, calmly observing their attempts. She gazed at their efforts with the eye of a professor, assessing it and instantly knowing where they went wrong. She knew she couldn't stand there forever and let all of their hard work go to waste, so she sighed, cracked her neck, and leaped into action.
"Stop," Alex said, startling them both.
"You scared me!" Cadence laid a dirty hand over her heart. "Anyway, there's no way that we're stopping now. Besides, you're the one that told us to grow our own food."
"I know that," Alex scoffed. "But you're doing this all wrong."
"Really?" Cadence drawled disbelievingly. "Then why don't you show us how it should be done?"
"Cadence," Ace warned, noting the glint in Alex's eye. Alex paid no mind to him, a mischievous grin crossing her face.
"What a brilliant idea," she said. "then how about we make a deal? You try and grow food with your garden, and I'll try and grow some with my own? Call it a competition."
A glimmer of zeal shone in Cadence's eyes. "Oh? A competition, huh? You're on. Whoever can produce more food in, let's say, three days, wins."
"Wins what?" Alex questioned. By this point, Ace was desperately trying to reason with either of the girls, but such attempts to do so were wasted. Neither of them would listen to a word he said. Cadence stopped for a second, thinking.
"Here's an idea! If we win, Ace and I, then you need to agree to never harm another animal again! No more killing only to supply yourself with food!"
Alex grimaced, but recovered quickly. "Fine, that seems fair enough. However, if I win, you two need to consider me your leader. For example, listening to any commands I say, following instructions to the point, and not following your own reckless desires."
"Unfair!" Cadence exclaimed. "We already consider you a leader! You can't treat us like slaves!"
"That's not my intent," Alex said irritably. "Do we have a deal?"
"You'll find out what I mean when this is over. Do we have a deal?" Alex extended her stub. Cadence, after a moment of hesitation, extended hers, and the two fist-bumped, sealing the deal.
Alex grinned. "May the best farmer win."
It had already been a day, and things were looking bad for Cadence and Ace. They had built a water system outside the square, encasing it all within a wall of water that seeped through the soil, soaking the outer plants. But, that was the problem. It only watered about half of what they had planted, and the rest were being neglected. Every now and then, Cadence would glance over to Alex, who was managing a constantly growing stream of crops. She had made rows of crops, still using the same amount of seeds as they had, and yet her crops were already sprouting. Between every row of crops was a row of water, so that the water adequately soaked the plants around it with ease and fluid to spare.
Cadence scratched her head furiously, trying to think of a way to water the inner crops. She thought of making another square of water in the middle, but was unwilling to pull up the seeds they had already planted. A course from above wasn't the best way, because all of the water would be gone before they knew it, and her brain couldn't come up with any other way.
"Cadence, maybe we should call it quits. It's clear that Alex knows more about this than-"
"No! There's still a way we can win." Cadence interrupted him, the gears turning in her head with great velocity. She sighed miserably, continuing on. "It looks like we'll have to take the chance and make a section of water in the middle. I hate to say this, but...can you help me dig up the seeds?" Ace sighed, shrugging. Cadence knew that shrug to be an agreement.
Alex watched in amusement as the couple uprooted their plants, replacing it with water. They were already losing, it was clear enough from the get go. It was interesting to see their new ideas, though, Alex had to admit. She had never seen a more creative way to try and grow wheat in her life. Mind, she was only ever taught the one way, but Cadence herself was certainly a force to be reckoned with. She was competitive, reckless, selfless, ecstatic, and...happy. She reminded her a lot of Ami. Alex shook her head. Linking Cadence with her was the last thing she needed to do. Alex gazed at her crops, watching them grow with a bored look on her face.
"Ugh, I give up!" Cadence cried desperately. "You win." It was the end of the third day of their competition, and the results were clearer than blood on snow. Alex had won by a landslide, her crops producing three times as much as theirs. All Cadence and Ace were able to produce was one measly fifty high stack of wheat. Compared to them, Alex was that of a God, having performed a miracle that could feed thousands.
"So it looks like you won," Ace said, considering Cadence was caught up in the aspect of losing. Alex nodded, staring at Cadence.
"What's the worst you're gonna do to us?" Cadence glared at her. "I really don't want to feed you grapes."
"It's nothing like that. Come here." She lead the two to her crops.
Cadence scoffed. "Wow. So you want to gloat in your victory?"
"Shut up and listen for once in your life," Alex said, ignoring the brilliant shade of red Cadence's face went. "Now, look. I have them divided into rows, with water in the middle of each. Tell me something. Why would this work better than your idea?" Cadence didn't answer, but was saved by Ace.
"The water can distribute itself to all of the crops?" he suggested.
"Right. And there's so much to spare, so they never go thirsty. It's simple, really. But I do appreciate what you tried to do. Planting in a square is what I would have originally thought would be a good idea. The more seeds you have planted, the more you should get. Have them closer together to avoid using space you don't need and trying to water accordingly. It seems like an okay plan, but it never really ends in a good profit. Know what I mean? This is the ideal way you should try and plant, okay? For the future." Cadence and Ace were taken back; this was the longest Alex had ever spoken for aside from a cold remark or a glare. Their wide and astonished looks must have been splattered across their faces like paint, for Alex glanced from one face to another, clearly confused.
"Y-Yeah," Ace stammered out. "For the future, right Cadence?" He nudged her on the arm. She snapped back into it, agreeing quickly.
"Right," Alex said slowly. "Let's go back home, it's getting late. I have something else to show you." She lead the way back, unaware of the glances exchanged between the chattering duo behind her. Wheat in hand, and with the mystery of Alex puzzling both Cadence and Ace, the trio watched as the everlasting sunset cast an aura of serenity upon them all.
(Oh snap! Minecraft returns! So again, let me know if you guys want more. I'll always be thinking of how to further this story, and I won't even abandon it. I just take a while to write it all out. //SHAMELESS EXCUSE// But hey. Minecraft. It's a thing. I need to develop a better way to end my own thoughts...)