This was a project in joint writing; I began the story and we each
wrote a short segment until it was finished. My sections are in
normal script and Omni's are in bold. Enjoy!
By Griffinkhan and Omniflyer
Luke walked sleepily out from his room in the inn, running a hand through his tangled red hair. He grumbled slightly as he made his way down the wooden steps. Last night had been rather irritating—though Luke knew he would deny it up and down when he awoke, Guy had spent most of the night snoring and keeping the other two men in the room up. Jade had looked ready to murder the blonde in his sleep by the time Luke decided it was useless to try and keep napping and left to have breakfast.
The inn's dining area was mostly empty, a few other early morning patrons sipping coffee and reading the local Chesedonian newspaper. Luke ordered an omelette, and was looking for a place to sit before he noticed a familiar face in the corner. Tear was sitting by herself, a plate of food untouched before her. Mieu was curled up happily in her lap, munching on some mushrooms Anise had bought for him the day before.
Luke walked over to the pair, and Tear glanced up as he approached. "Mind if I sit?"
"Good morning, Luke," Tear whispered in reply.
"Good morning, Master," Mieu replied, in a similar, yet higher pitched whisper.
Luke blinked. "Uh... good morning to you too," he whispered back, sitting down. "Um... why are we whispering?"
"I've... lost my voice this morning..." Tear admitted. "Mieu's just figured that misery loves company, I suppose."
The cheagle bounced up and down, hopping from Tear's to Luke's lap. His eyes squinted in a cheerful expression. "I'm being helpful, Master!"
Luke gave the cheagle a slight smile, but was more concerned with Tear's troubles. "How did you lose your voice?" he asked, somewhat uselessly.
Thankfully, Tear was more than patient enough to tolerate the replica's less intelligent questions. "Just from overuse," she croaked quietly. She gave him a smile, and added, "Don't concern yourself too much, Luke. It happens all the time to a hymnist that fights frequently. I'll be all right, soon."
"Okay. Rest up well, then," Luke advised her. From the corner of his eye, he saw Guy stroll slowly into the room, looking exceptionally refreshed. Luke lifted Mieu onto the table from his lap, saying, "Mieu, watch over Tear for me and make sure she rests. I want a word or two with Guy."
Luke strode over towards the blonde swordsman, who approached him cheerfully, unaware of his impending doom. "Hi, Luke!" he said with far too much enthusiasm. "You're up early this morning."
"Yeah, about that..." said Luke, folding his arms. "We need to have a little talk."
"Indeed we do," said a smooth voice from behind. Guy nearly jumped five feet in the air as Jade materialized behind him, red eyes glinting menacingly.
Luke was rather startled as well. "U-uh, Jade, where did you come from?" he asked, surveying the area and not finding anything the tall man could have been hiding behind.
"That doesn't matter now," Jade replied offhandedly. "Luke, would you mind assisting me for a moment? Guy has volunteered to be the subject of my next experiment."
"W-whoa, I didn't agree to this!" Guy exclaimed as he took two large steps away from the pair. "What are you talking about?"
Jade shrugged, smiling widely. "Oh, nothing in particular. I've been looking forward to this experiment for some time, and you're the prefect person to help me."
"...what experiment?" Guy asked warily, his curiosity barely getting the better of him.
"To see if I can perform proper experimentation on the human body when I am without sufficient sleep," Jade replied quickly. "Luke, can you rummage up some rubber gloves for me?"
Luke had to act quickly to grab hold of Guy before he made a break for the exit. "Hold on, Jade, stop scaring him! I need his help for a minute!" he grunted, struggling to hold the man in place.
"Oh?" Jade asked, feigning interest.
Luke turned to the other swordsman and dropped his voice low. "Tear's lost her voice," he mumbled. "I'll make you a deal. If you can find some suitable ingredients around here for us to make a good remedy for her..." He lowered his voice even more so Jade didn't hear him, continuing, "I'll keep you out of Jade's hands."
"Deal," Guy said immediately.
"Luke, I hope you are not making any untoward negotiations over there," Jade said, his voice sounding frighteningly sweet. "I would hate to have to use you as a subject of my experiments instead of an assistant..."
"No, of course not," Luke said quickly. "H-hey... look, isn't that Anise?"
Jade frowned, but turned as footsteps began to clatter down the stairs. The little pigtailed girl appeared, a very deep scowl on her face. Tokunaga dangled from her right hand, bumping against the ground with every step.
"My, my, you look chipper this morning," Jade said, momentarily distracted by the arrival of his favorite minion. Guy began to edge towards the door.
"Hi, Colonel," Anise said, still scowling. "Hi Luke. Bye Guy."
"That was rather unenthusiastic," Jade commented, pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose. "What seems to be ailing you today?"
"It's nothing really important, Colonel," Anise grumbled, taking a seat and sinking into it. She scooted up against the table and placed Tokunaga on it, using the doll as a pillow.
"Oh, I figured that much, but I figured you'd like to say it, anyway," Jade remarked, tongue firmly in cheek.
Anise scowled deeper. "Boo. Fine. I was up all night because there was some loud, grating, rumbling sound coming from a room or two over."
Jade smirked, closing his eyes as he fixed his glasses up the bridge of his nose. "Ah, I do believe I have an idea what that might have been. Oh, Guy?"
But when the colonel and Anise turned to address the nobleman, he had already vanished from sight. The two of them instead focused their glares on Luke.
Luke blanched. "W-what?"
Anise leaned back into Tokunaga, grumbling, "That coward. Colonel, we'll get him later."
"So it would seem," Jade sighed. "Luke, it appears you've been replaced as my aide."
"...what a shame," said Luke.
"Anise, fetch the gloves. I'll prepare Luke for the experiment."
"Hey! I didn't do anything!" the redhead yelped immediately. "Leave me alone!"
"And I suppose you call allowing our subject to escape as not doing anything," Jade returned.
Luke backed up a few more paces and sighed. "Okay, fine." He glanced towards the corner of the room, but Tear and Mieu did not seem to have noticed the ruckus their traveling companions were making. "Tear's feeling sick, okay? She's lost her voice. I needed Guy to help find something to make her feel better, and I think he'd be more up to the task if he still had all his organs intact."
"...Is that so," said Jade, sounding only slightly disappointed. "Well, if that's the case, then we ought to assist, shouldn't we, Anise?"
"Of course, Colonel," said Anise, now finally beginning to perk up. "Tear can't fight if she can't sing."
"Indeed. So it would be prudent to help our valued companion to recover." Jade's glasses glimmered.
"I really don't like where you're going with this," Luke shuddered.
"Why, Luke!" Jade said, a note of false surprise in his voice, his pitch a bit louder than was required. "I don't believe you! You're against us finding something to help Tear's voice?"
"...what?" Tear blinked, her ears picking up Jade's comment. "Luke, what are you..."
"That's not what I said at all!" Luke said desperately. "Stop putting words in my mouth!"
Tear coughed hoarsely, then walked over to Luke, finger pointing dangerously. "I can't believe you'd..."
"I didn't!" Luke defended himself. In the lover's spat, Jade and Anise slipped out of the room unnoticed.
"Are we going to find ingredients, then, Colonel?" Anise asked.
"If not for a remedy, then at least for a poison," the colonel replied, relaxed.
"Of course. If he's in a deep, dreamless sleep for a few weeks—or forever—he can't continue to snore, now can he?"
She shook her head, hiding a smile. "You sound way too serious when you say things like that, Colonel..."
He smiled back, his voice completely sincere. "Well, that's good, because I am."
She rolled her eyes and latched on to his arm. "Come on, let's go find some ingredients—and Guy."
Anise and Jade strolled leisurely through the Malkuth-side marketplace, listening to the sounds of the merchants screaming for their business and the babble of customers picking out their wares. Anise kept an eye on the nearby stalls selling fontech, but there was no sign of a familiar blonde head. Apparently Guy was cunning enough not to hang around his obvious haunts.
She let out a slight sigh, which ended up turning into a yawn it progressed. She snapped her mouth shut at the end, and blinked at the Colonel, "You'd think with hair that bright, we'd be able to pick him out from anyone else..."
"Yes," Jade agreed. "Similarly, please stay by my side so I don't lose you forever."
"No fair!" Anise griped, and she was about to complain when an idea rang out in her head. "Oh, wait. Was that a request for marriage, Colonel?"
The soldier chuckled quietly. "My apologies. Malkuth soldiers have a policy regarding marriage. You must be at least this tall to marry a soldier." He raised his hand a foot over her head.
"That's just mean, Colonel," Anise grumbled, grabbing his arm to bring it down to her level, where she promptly took hold of it warmly. "But I guess I'll just have to stay by your side until I am."
"Oh, unfettered joy," Jade commented in his dry and sarcastic way, but his calm grin told her he was joking.
"Hey, look," Anise said, suddenly throwing out her free arm to point ahead of them. "It's Din's shop, and it says she's open. Think she has anything we can use?"
"Possibly," Jade said noncommittally. "Though considering I was unable to find anything illegal last time I searched, her selection might not be suited for our needs..."
"Oh, come on," Anise said, tugging at his hand. "Let's go see her. We at least need to say hi."
"She would probably rather be without my company," said Jade, but followed the little girl inside the shop anyway.
The inside of the store was dark, dusty, and cluttered as always. Din seemed to have acquired a new selection of trade goods since the last time they had visited, and the front counter was packed with odd trinkets and items.
"Din!" Anise called, when the shopkeeper was not immediately present. "You in here?"
The girl appeared from the back area, smiling upon seeing the former Fon Master Guardian. "Oh, hello, Anise! Brought some more trade goods?" Her smile wavered only slightly as she saw Jade standing behind Anise, in full Lawman mode. "And good morning to you as well, Colonel Curtiss."
"Good morning, Din," Jade replied easily. "I trust you are having a pleasant and law abiding day?"
"O-of course," Din replied, smiling winningly. "Actually, I was wondering when you would show up. Your blonde friend was just in here a few minutes ago."
"Guy was here?" Anise gaped. "What did he want? Where did he go?"
"Let's see..." Din trailed off, thinking. "Yes, rafflesia pollen and out of my shop, respectively." She shrugged, adding, "He didn't give me a destination."
"Rafflesia pollen?" Anise blinked. "That's the stuff we used against the Behemoth in Inista Marsh...?"
Jade actually chuckled. "In low concentrations, rafflesia pollen can be used to make beverages that serve similar purposes to throat lozenges. I suppose," he continued, scratching his chin before returning his right hand to its pocket. "Guy seems to be one step ahead of us, Anise." Anise just stared at him, incredulously, but he didn't take notice of her gaze.
"Are you serious?" she exclaimed. "He's that far ahead? I don't want to lose out to Guy..."
Jade stayed quiet while the girl seethed. Din filled in the gap in conversation by saying, "There's some pollen left, if you'd like it. I'm afraid I have nothing else in stock at the moment to make a throat formula, though."
"What else do we need?" Anise asked, looking up at the colonel with her big-cute-eyes look.
Jade didn't look at her, instead adjusting his glasses. "At the very least, Gel Base."
"I'm all out of that, unfortunately," Din said apologetically. "I'll probably have a new shipment tomorrow..."
"That's too late!" Anise said, stomping her foot.
"We'll take the pollen," Jade said placidly. "Anise, the tool shop will probably have gel base. Don't worry."
"I'm not worrying, I'm just irritated," Anise replied. "That jerk Guy is going to help Tear and then she won't let us torture him anymore..."
"Torture him?" Din asked warily.
"Nothing!" Anise said sweetly. "How much is the pollen?"
The pair left the store with a small bag and a few hundred Gald less in their wallets, heading for the tool shop. "Guy is probably taking the same route we are," Jade commented as they walked. "If we hurry, we may be able to catch up."
"Just... slow up a little!" Anise complained, breaking into a jog. "My legs aren't as long as yours!"
"Well, you could ride Tokunaga through the town," Jade suggested, slowing down only slightly.
"I've tried that," Anise admitted quickly. "People always scream..."
The two came up to the tool shop, Anise leaning against the counter to catch her breath. Jade smiled slightly, but said nothing.
"Can I help you two?" the merchant called, a little loudly to be heard over the din of the crowd.
"We're looking for Gel Base," Anise replied. "Do you have any in stock?"
The merchant nodded his head. "Yeah, you're lucky," he answered. "Some guy just came by, and he bought almost all I had a minute ago."
"That jerk!" Anise shouted. "Now he's trying to stop us from making the medicine!"
"Medicine?" the patron asked. "Is this serious?"
"Very," Jade replied solemnly. "It's for a very sick patient in Grand Chokmah. The Gel Base is going to be used to make a very important medicine more palatable for a sick child."
"Is it that serious?" the merchant said softly.
"Very," the colonel said seriously. "May we have it?"
"Of course!" was the reply, and he handed the Gel Base over immediately. "If I can help you in any other way, please, come talk to me."
"Thank you," Jade said. "Let's be off, Anise. We'll have this medicine ready for your little brother in no time."
"Oh, thank you," Anise giggled cutely at the merchant, and he blushed furiously. "We won't forget this!"
They left the stall and continued their trek through the marketplace. "Did we really need to lie like that, Colonel?" Anise asked, as they passed more multicolored booths.
"We're going to need a lot of gald for this next little item," Jade replied.
"The poison, of course," Jade said easily. He took Anise's hand and half led, half dragged her through the bar and across the border, heading into the Kimlascan side market.
"Where are we going, Colonel?" Anise asked, as he turned into a side alley. "The only thing down here is..."
"Soft. Squishy," the Ant Lion Man said imperiously, wobbling back and forth in his almost hypnotic dance in front of his lair.
Jade adjusted his glasses, then slipped his hands into his pockets. "Good day, sir. We're looking for some ant lion pincers. Do you happen to have any we could buy?"
"You give soft, squishy, me give pincers," the Ant Lion Man replied.
"Soft and squishy?" Anise asked uncertainly. "Like a lemon gel?" She rummaged in her bag and offered one to the man-creature.
"Not gel. Soft and squishy and fabric," the Ant Lion Man replied. "Like thing on back."
"Whaaaaat?!" Anise cried, immediately snatching Tokunaga from her back and clutching him protectively. "No! No way! You're not getting Tokunaga!"
Jade smiled at her. "Come, Anise, it's for a good cause."
"No way!" she said shrilly, darting behind his back and hiding from both his gaze and the strange man's. "Tokunaga's mine! And he doesn't like creepy sand pits!"
"Well, it doesn't seem she's willing to part with him," Jade said apologetically to the Ant Lion Man. "Would you be willing to accept anything else?"
The man looked as discouraged as he could behind the mask, but nodded. "No give squishy soft, then give gald."
"How much?" Jade replied.
"126,547," the man replied immediately.
"What is it with these guys and insanely specific prices?" Anise sighed.
"Oh, don't let it bother you too much, Anise," Jade said cheerfully, which was really more disturbing than anything. "Let's just pay and be on our way." The man handed over the precise amount, and the strange costumed man returned the favour with the ant lion pincers.
"Wonderful," Jade said, eyeing it up and down. "Ant Lion Pincers are excellent for inducing a temporary state of unconsciousness. The victim can be knocked out for anywhere from twelve hours to two days."
"Really?" Anise gasped. "Do you just grind it up and put it in food?"
"Yes," Jade said, and it was only with mild shock that he noticed how he didn't hate explaining things to the girl. "Now, let us return to the inn. Guy might have arrived before us, but with two of us working, we should be able to prepare the medicine before he can."
"All right!" Anise exclaimed, suddenly full of life, and she, this time, grabbed Jade and dragged him off to the inn.
The inn was fairly quiet, which led to Jade and Anise working quickly and efficiently. They ground up the pincers and melted it into a liquid gel base, then used the remaining gel base to mix the pollen into. "Now," Jade said, "we have two cups of what looks like normal tea. One will cure Tear, and the other will knock Guy out soundlessly for the night, so we can all get a good night's rest."
"I like that plan, Colonel!" Anise chirped cheerfully.
"As will the rest of us," Jade quipped sardonically.
The two entered the room to see Luke and Natalia sitting on either side of Tear. They were close to her, so she didn't have to speak above a whisper to be heard. Mieu was perched carefully on her lap.
Anise placed the cup with the pollen in it before Tear. "Tear, we've brought you something!" she smiled. She placed the other cup on the opposite end of the circular table, nudging the table accidentally as she did so. The tabletop rotated slightly, but she rested a hand on it to stop it.
"What's this?" Tear whispered.
"Yeah, what is that?" Guy asked, appearing behind Jade and Anise with sneakiness similar to what the colonel had displayed earlier.
"Oh, it's just a medicine we cooked up for Tear's voice," Jade replied, smiling. "We made you something as well, Guy."
"Yeah, so you'd better like it!" Anise frowned at him.
"O-oh?" Guy laughed nervously. "Well, that's... um... great!"
"My, Guy, you do seem a little nervous," Natalia commented. "Is something the matter?"
"N-no, not exactly," Guy replied. She was just so trusting...
"Surely you're not going to put their efforts to waste," Natalia admonished him gently. "Take a drink." Jade and Anise smirked, and each turned away from the table to congratulate themselves on a job well done. Surely he couldn't refuse drinking it, now...
"Yeah, I... I will," he replied, reaching for the drink. As he reached for his and Tear hers, a sudden cramp kicked up in Luke's leg, and the redhead found himself having to bounce up to shake it out.
"Ow, ow, ow!" Luke complained. "Muscle spasm...!" As he rose with such speed, his other leg slammed into the table, sending the top spinning around. The liquid in the cups sloshed, and a little spilled over, but not enough to render the cups empty.
"Luke, be more careful!" Natalia frowned. "You almost ruined Jade and Anise's work!"
"Sorry," Luke smiled. "Go ahead, you two."
Anise gaped, and Jade stood with an expressionless look on his face. They didn't know which cup was which, anymore! As Guy and Tear took deep drinks from their cups, only time would answer the two most important questions of all:
Would they get a good night of sleep that night?
And more importantly, would Luke live long enough to enjoy it?