The Alchemist and the Bard CH.1

Alone in a dark room, the only light came from the glow of a cybernetic hand. Some of the wires in the hand glowed as it flipped through a large book. The hand stroked a chin, illuminating the owners features. Green eyes stared down at the pages, light tan skin and a small scar above his right eye. He ran his hand through his hair, exposing the chip and three tube like holes on the right side of his head. 

“Need more materials.” He groaned. With that he shut the book and adjusted his sleeve to hide the cybernetic arm. He walked over to the window and pushed the unkempt curtains aside to look out. Across the street was a person huddled over, watching where he was. “She’s still there…” His voice expressed his annoyance. He took another glance at the book he had left in the dark and sighed. “No choice.” With that he walked to the door and exited, walking hastily down the sidewalk. He took a peek behind him to notice the person was keeping their distance but was following him. “This is why you don’t pay the homeless mind… they don’t leave you alone.” He made the walk to a shoppe; entering while being greeted by a chime.

“How are you today, Edain?” The shopkeeper asked, arms resting on the counter.

“Fine… Do you have Snow Hops or Wesse?” Edain returned with a question. 

“Might have some on the back wall.” The shopkeeper replied with a smile. While Edain made his way to the back the shopkeeper looked out the large storefront window to find the person staring in through. “She hasn’t left you alone yet? How long has it been?”

“Too long.” Edain sighed, looking at the flowers hanging off the wall. 

“Tried talking to her?” The shopkeeper asked, waving to the girl. Her mouth opened in surprise and she turned around to lean against the window.

“Why would I?” Edain returned to the counter with one of the flowers. “Tell me when you get Snow Hop.” He quickly scanned his card as payment before the shopkeeper could respond and then left without another word to the shopkeeper. As he left the girl followed behind at a distance. Upon returning home Edain was confronted by a man. Edain sighed annoyed. “What do you want?” 

“Mr. Avison is wanting his money.” The man said to Edain in a low, threatening tone. Edain shrugged. 

“Well, I don’t have any.” He retorted, looking behind him to the girl which had stopped a good distance behind him. He turned his gaze back to the man who seems to have spotted the girl. “Is she one of his that was sent to keep an eye on me? That is pretty pathetic.” The man grunted.

“He wants his rent.” The man rephrased, cracking his knuckles. Edain put up his hand as if to stop the threat.

“Look, you can tell him when I have money I will give him his rent. For now, however, I will be going into my home and working to make said money.” Edain then pushed passed the man and went into his house.

For some time he ground the flower, adding water occasionally, until it was paste. For a moment he felt something as he remembered the thug look at the homeless girl that had been following him. Uneasy he put down the mortar and pestle then slowly walked to the window. For some reason he found himself relieved to see her sitting in her usual spot across the street. He then returned to his work.

A few days passed since, Edain was adding the last of the paste into a flask with blue liquid when he noticed a green flashing light connected to uncovered microchips. He reached over with a free hand and pressed some computer keys. The screen turned on and a box popped up asking if they wished to answer the call. Edain clicked in yes before continuing with his project.

“Hello? I can make your pain go away with ju-” Edain was interrupted by the familiar voice of the shopkeeper. 

“Yea, not interested, Edain. Your flower erm… Snow Hop came in today.” The voice told him. Edain smiled slightly for a moment then frowned when he looked to his work. The liquid was just starting to bubble. 

“Um….” He looked towards the window, remembering the girl. “I will send someone over.” He hung up and walked quickly to the door. “Hey!” The girl perked up. “Come here.” The girl wearily stood up and slowly crossed the street. A dark scarf wrapped around her head and neck, covering her hair. She wore black goggles, masking her eyes. Edain sighed to himself then dug into his pocket. “I am going to give you some money. Can you go pick up my order from the shoppe you follow me to all the time? You can keep the change.” Edain then held a fist out in front of himself. The girl held out her palms to receive the coins he dropped. “Think you can do that?” The girl looked up at Edain and nodded. She took off running fast down the street. “At least she came in handy.” He returned to his experiment as the liquid went from one flask into a tube which connected to another flask. From outside Edain could hear someone listening to the news. 

It has now been three years since the Wildner’s only child went missing. The Wildner’s own the Wildner Cybernetics corp in East Granger. There is still a reward of- Then a crash of glass filled the room with sunlight. Edain covered his face with his cybernetic arm, glass shattering against it. He looked up to see three men, recognizing one from a few days ago. His eyes widened, seeing what was about to happen.

“Avison…” Edain breathed, lowering his arm. The man he recognized smirked with a shrug.

“Got tired of waiting.”Was the response. “We couldn’t find that girl. Lucky for her I guess.” Edain slowly reached for a hidden mace but the man shook his finger. “I wouldn’t. See, if we end up beating you to death that will only make trouble for us.”

Down the street walked the homeless girl, happily humming to herself when she heard the crash and some screams. The girl tilted her head as people ran passed. The girl started running back to Edain’s and saw the men enter. The girl stumbled a little and the glass case the flower was put in fell out of the bag. She tried to catch it but was unable to as it shattered on the sidewalk. Everyone looked behind them to find her standing there.

“Looks like she came to us.” The man mused. The girl reached into her pocket and pulled out a short baton with two glowing lines on it. “Look, she is so adorable that she thinks she can fight us.” He nudged one of his guys.

“Wait, no. Don’t fight her. She’s defenseless.” Edain pleaded as he ran over to the man. Two men looked back at Edain. One punched him in the stomach; Edain hunched over in pain to grab his stomach and was restrained.

“And now you get to watch.” The leader said to Edain. The thug walked out to the sidewalk to meet the girl. He took out a knife that the girl eyed for a moment before watching the man. He came at her quickly. The girl pressed the glowing lines and swung her baton. It extended, a blade forming at the end. The weapon made impact with the man, cutting his arm.

“Gah!” The man screamed, dropping his knife to hold his arm.

“What?” The leader exclaimed. The girl then walked over to the broken window and pointed her weapon at the leader. Edain stared wide eyed at the girl in amazement. “Heh. Want to play in the big leagues?” The man tugged on one of his gauntlets. “Let's play, little girl.” The girl did not move from her stance. The leader slowly took a stance, ready to jump at her any time. The girl suddenly stuck her glaive in the ground and vaulted over the leader. She kicked the two men by Edain in the head and landed behind him with a grunt. Edain looked over to her but noticed the sizzling sound of his experiment as the flasks shook.

“Oh no.” Edain jumped at the girl and tackled her to the ground. “GET DOWN!” He shielded her, covering his head with his cybernetic arm. The explosion knocked the leader out of the building and blowing out the wall the table was against. Edain and the girl coughed hard a few times, all they could hear was ringing. Edain grabbed the girl’s arm and pulled her up to her feet. She touched the glowing lights and the weapon retracted. He grabbed her hand and took off running through the new opening. They ran down an alleyway and into a main street with lots of people. “Don’t let go of my hand!” He shouted but wasn’t sure if she heard him. They crossed the street and Edain looked behind him to see if they were still close behind. With no sign of the goons Edain let go of her hand to look around. He saw a fire escape. “ I don’t know if I can jump that high.” The girl handed him her baton. Edain hesitated but took it. He looked at it closely then touched the glowing lines. It extended and Edain smiled. “Ok. Got a plan.” He jumped up and smacked the ladder with the blunt side. It shook then fell down. He touched the lines again to retract the weapon. He handed it back to her then ushered her up the ladder. Edain followed suit after her. After rushing to the roof the two finally stopped, bending over to catch their breath. Edain looked over at the girl, her brown hair escaped her scarf as she bent over and he could tell that the cut was choppy by the different lengths that fell out of the scarf. “Why… did you help… me? I ignored you until today.” The girl shook her head.

“You didn’t.” She said, straightening up while staggering. She lifted her goggles off her face, revealing brown eyes. “You gave me food and money when we first met. I wanted to repay you but um…” The girl looked away shyly. “I didn’t… I didn’t know how to talk to you.” Edain slowly stood up too, regaining his normal breathing pattern.

“So you stalked me for a month? That seems rational.” Edain rubbed his neck and groaned. “Oh my experiments….” 

“I.. I’m sorry…. It doesn’t seem like I was much help… you just ended up saving me after all.” The girl looked down at the ground, sullen from not having done anything. Edain looked over in surprise to see her looking so down. He blew some hair out of his face and patted the girl on the head awkwardly. 

“Well… you did save my life.” Edain said as he looked away from her. “But are you really just going to leave after that?” The girl blinked then looked up at Edain. “I guess I am going to need some help now… after all… everything I own is now.. Ash.”

“Um.. not everything.” The girl muttered then reached into her bag. Edain looked down to watch her pull out a large alchemy book. “You uh… dropped it… a while ago… I wanted to give it back but…” She pressed her lips together then offered it up to him. Edain took it and looked through the pages.

“These are…. My notes for plasma.” Edain looked back down at the girl. “What was your name?”

“Operal.” The girl smiled up at Edain and he could feel himself smile back.

“Ok, Operal. Want to be my assistant?” He put the book into his bag.

“Can I?” Operal’s eyes lit up as if she got a present.

“Sure! First things first though…. We need a place to stay.” Edain sighed, looking around the rooftop.

“On it!” WIth that the girl headed to the fire escape and went down. Edain’s expression became blank.

“I wonder… if this is really a good idea.” Edain whispered as he touched the scar above his eye. “Or will it end the same again…”

When Operal returned it was night. Edain had fallen asleep waiting for her return. She walked over slowly, adjusting her goggles. She could see breath partials as he exhaled. She lifted the goggles off her head and bent over, putting her hands on her knees.

“Hmm….” Operal squatted  down and rested her head in one hand. She pressed her lips together and her brows pinched her forehead in thought. Operal pulled out something wrapped in tin foil then peeled the top. Steam escaped from the foil. She then held it under Edain’s nose. Breathing in the steam and smells, Edain moved his head. His eyes resisted opening though gave in. When he found Operal staring at him he backed up further into the wall.

“It’s a sweet potato. Want it?” Operal offered with a smile. Edain looked at the potato then back at her.

“Is it poisoned?” Edain eyed it again suspiciously. Operal blinked and brought the potato to her face.

“The one I ate didn’t kill me…” She mused, turning the potato as if a different angle would reveal a secret. Operal looked back at Edain. “I can test it for you.” Edain sat in silent contemplation. Operal smiled at him again then took a bite of the potato just before Edain could protest. “It’s yummy.” She offered the potato to him again. Edain sighed and took the offering, taking a small bite.

“Do you ever consider that eating something could kill you?” Edain asked, picking at the potato in his hand. 

“Not eating could also kill me.” Operal replied with the same smile. Operal played with the scarf that draped over her head. Edain eventually finished his food and kept the foil wrapping, putting it in his pocket. 

“So, did you find somewhere to lay low for a bit?” He asked, slowly moving to get up. Operal followed his movement. 

“Yes, sir!” Operal responded enthusiastically. 

“Um, don’t call me sir.” Edain told her as he placed his hands in his pockets. 

“Erm…” She stared up at him seeming at a loss. “What… do I call you?” Edain now realized he never introduced himself.

“Uh… Edain is fine.” Edain replied, shrugging.

“Mr. Edain!” Operal’s enthusiasm returned.

“Just… Edain.” He eyed her as if she were sprouting another head. “Where is this place?” Operal pulled him to the edge of the building. 

“See that train?” Operal pointed to a monorail where a light from a train was coming close to the building.

“Yes. Do we need to get on it?” He asked as he looked over to find she was climbing on the ledge. “Hey! What are you doing?” Operal blinked in confusion.

“Catching the train.” Operal stood up straight with a smile. “Ready?” The train was about to pass under them. 

“Wait!” Edain shouted, trying to grab her leg but it was too late. She was already free falling towards the train. “Son of a..” He swung over the ledge with ease. The wires in his arm glowed dark purple. Once his hand touched the train he stuck, smacking his face against the steel plates. “Fucking….” He looked up to see Operal ahead. She waved to him though he wasn’t quite able to see it. Not seeing him wave back Operal pouted. She  looked at the edge of the train she was hanging on to. 

“Cleite.” Operal muttered and feathers appeared around her. She let go of the edge and waited for the cars to pass until she was able to get closer to Edain. She grabbed the ledge above him and the feathers got lost in the wind. “Hi Edain!” She called down and waved. 

“Why are we…. on top of… the train?” Edain shouted up at her, hoping she could hear him over the passing air. Operal tilted her head in confusion.

“Isn’t this how you catch a train in the-...” She stopped herself from finishing her sentence.

“No!” Edain shielded his face with his spare hand from oncoming birds. 

“Oh… this is always how I caught it.” Operal pulled down her goggles with one hand in a quick motion then held on tight. “Keep your head low. We are going into a tunnel.” Then they were cased in darkness. Edain struggled to see light ahead. Before long the space enlarged and they were underground. Operal took out her baton. “See that rod up ahead?” 

“Not really.” Edain replied, squinting to try and see. 

“You have a robot hand right?” Operal called, eyeing his cybernetic arm that was pressed against the train car. 

“It’s not a-”

“Use it now get the cable that’s connected to the rod and slide down.” Operal cut him off then jumped up and swung her baton over the cable then started to slide down.

“For the love of… really?” Edain retracted his hand from the car and jumped off the grab the the cable with his cybernetic hand. Sparks flew as he slide down. He could hear the giggles from the girl in front of him. Down below were old buildings some of which had been reduced to rubble.. Operal watched the buildings below, waiting for the right one before she let go of the baton. She prepared herself and started rolling on top of the roof to a stop.After watching Operal drop Edain sighed, seeming to have given up on being angry. He let go to drop on the roof, rolling to a stop. Operal wobbled over to Edain, taking off her goggles and re-adjusting her scarf. 

“You alive?” Operal gasped with a smile on her face. Edain scowled up at her.

“How the hell did you think… this was all a good idea?” Edain asked, gesturing to the scenery around him. Operal’s smile disappeared and blinked a few times in surprize. “You think that helping me out is jumping on moving trains, doing… stunts in mid air and free falling everywhere?” Edain stood up abruptly, patting dirt off his coat.

“I um… didn’t…” Operal trailed off, looking away from Edain.

“Didn’t what? We could have gotten arrested or died!” Edain asked with exaggerated arm gestures. Operal eyes fixated on Edain’s face. “Well?” 

“Did… did I do that?” Operal pointed at the right side of his head. Edain’s eyes widened and he touched over his augments. A chip and one hole in his head where it looks like a small tube could insert. Edain quickly moved his hair to cover the augments. 

“No… I did those.” Edain muttered, looking away from Operal. After a moment of silence Edain looked back at Operal who was staring with a sadness in her eyes. “So…” Edain breathed as he felt the tension evaporate. “How did you find this place? Seems like the trip we made was….. Out of the way.” Operal looked up at the cable they had fallen from.

“Um… I asked around and someone told me about this place. No one comes here anymore.” Operal said, then walked over to the door. She started yanking on the handle, putting a foot on the door frame. 

“Wait… you were told to come to this place?” Edain rubbed his eyes and sighed. “Couldn’t this be a trap?”

“Trap?” Operal asked, putting her other foot on the other side of the frame and pulled the door knob.

“Yea.” Edain walked behind her and watched her attempts at opening the door. “Like someone waits for us behind the door then mugs us or kills us then mugs us… or worse I suppose.” Operal pulled hard, arching her back til her head was facing Edain upside down.

“Um… No. I didn’t think it would be a trap. If it was why wouldn’t they do that when I was alone?” Edain bent forward slightly to make eye contact with Operal.

“Get off the door.” His voice was blunt. Operal immediately obeyed, letting go of the door knob though fell on her back.

“Ow.” Operal groaned, rubbing her back. Edian stepped over her, grabbed the knob and yanked the door off it’s hinges.  The sound echoed underground. Edain walked so he was no longer standing over Operal then turned to offer her a hand. With one hand she held her scarf on top of her head and with the other she took his hand. He gently pulled her to her feet.  

“What’s with you and that scarf?” Edain asked, watching Operal adjust her scarf.

“... What’s with your head holes?” Operal returned to look up at him. Edain scuffed and relaxed his shoulders, seeing that she might have secrets like he did that were not meant to be shared.

“Fine.” Edain turned around to walk inside, greeted by stairs. “How old is this place?” Operal walked up behind him and looked at the ceiling. 

“I was never good at history but… I want to say… before the I-bots.” Operal replied, pressing her brows together as she thought. Edain and Operal strolled down to the middle level of the building. They wandered the halls, looking in rooms and exploring the area. Edain stopped when he found a chemistry set, leaving Operal to wander around on her own. Edain walked up to the table. Not all the flasks were usable as some had broken but it was more than nothing. He tried to turn on the burner but all it did was click as it tried to spark. He sighed and turned it off. When he entered the hall Operal was not there.

“Oh my-.... Where could she have gone now?” Edain muttered to himself as he walked down the hallway, checking the rooms as he passed. “Operal! Hey! Stop getting into tro-” As he was about to pass a room he noticed a soft blue light on the wall. He stepped back and looked inside. Operal was on the ground, sitting and using a holographic screen from something in front of her. The screens rapidly changed until it disappeared. Edain cautiously stepped into the room to get a look at what she had been doing. A light came back on and soft humming could be heard. Floating up Edain was finally able to see what Operal was messing with.

“Is that…” Edain asked, making Operal turn her head to see him.

“Hello.” The orb said, floating above Operal’s head. “I am a FRIEND.” 

“Why did you reactivate a Friend here?” Edain started over towards Operal but she put up her hands.

“Wait! I reprogrammed it. It won’t transmit anything to anyone.” Operal protested. Edain studied the orb and noticed that it just hovered over them.

“How can you do that?” Edain questioned. Operal nervously looked around. “Look…” Edain sighed and rubbed the back of his neck. “If you don’t want to tell me that’s fine but please for pete’s sake stop trying to kill us? I kinda was really excited about not dying this morning.” Operal nodded and got to her feet. “Ok then… We should get some rest. I get the feeling that I was the only one that got a nap recently.” Operal smiled and nodded again before skipping to the door with the Orb following her. 

“Hmm… I am going to call you…. Apple! ‘Cause you are now a red orb.” She told the orb that followed her out the door.

During the days that followed Edain found a fire source, collected some plants and moss then used water to put them together with the chemistry set.

Operal sat behind him, tossing the orb in the air like a ball and catching it again. Edain was reading one of the recipes in his book about the plasma. 

“To finish this one… I need…. Magma rock? I only listed one place to get it though…” Edain sighed and dropped his head onto the page. “And I can’t even go there anymore… because of Avison…” Edain lifted his head from the book and rested it on the back of his seat. “Magma rock…. How obscure of an ingredient.” He tilted his chair back, not realized Operal’s back was resting against it. “How to get -”

“Edain~ You are hurting me.” Operal’s whine broke his concentration, losing his footing he fell back out of the chair. Operal sat up straight, pushing the chair back on it’s legs. She crawled over to the groaning Edain who was curled up on the floor. Edain rolled onto his back. When he opened his eyes he was greeted with Apple who had Operal’s goggles on. “Wait… I’m not alone right now.”Operal hovered her head over him, blocking Apple from his view.

“Why would you be? I’ve been here the whole time. Well, except when I go out to fetch food. I guess I am not here then bu-” Edain covered Operal’s mouth with his cybernetic hand to get her to stop talking. 

“Operal… You said you would be my helper right?” Edain asked, looking up at her. Operal nodded as Edain hadn’t let her go yet. “You want to find something for me?” Operal nodded faster. “Ok, I need Magma rock… not a lot but at least as big as the palm of your hand. Think you can find me that?” Edain finally let her go, knowing what her next move was. Operal bounced up to her feet.

“Yes s- I mean. Yes Edain!” Operal shouted then started running towards the door but when she noticed Apple was following her she stopped and pointed at Apple. “Now Apple. Stay here and make sure Edain eats the food I brought him.” She then took the goggles from Apple and ran off. Edain watched from the floor as Apple turned towards him and floated over.

“Ms. Operal wishes you to-” Apple started but Edain waved it away.

“I know, she wants me to eat.” Edain sat up and looked to the table, noticing the random food Operal had brought him during the day. “You are going to tell on me if I don’t eat, aren’t you?” He leered at Apple.

“Yes.” Was the simple response. Edain got to his feet and walked back to the table. He took some of the berries and popped them into his mouth. 

“Not poison.” He breathed as if reminding himself. He sat at the table and looked at the potion that was bubbling in the flask. The drips turned a blue liquid yellow. “Almost done.” In a separate book from the plasma book he wrote down some notes. He turned on a radio he had found in one of the rooms and listened.

“Everyone is wondering if your child is really missing, how come they have not found the signal from their augment?” The reporter asked.

“Well… many reasons could have been the cause. Like it could have broken or malfunctioned.” The voice of Wildner echoed the room.

“Where is your wife to support the search for your only child?” Before the rebuttal  Edain turned it to some music to continue work.