A/N: This omake was inspired by a piece of fanart by yuiseppe, posted in the fanart thread at "Exiled to the Couch" at AnimeSuki. Yui's done several pieces of fanart based on my GrimGrimoire as well as My-HiME stories, so now I get to return the favor! Originally, I had a line in here about how I hoped that others would take up deathcurse's challenge to write a fic based on the picture, but instead I'm the last one of the four people who did to actually post their challenge at , thanks to having a schedule for these things (and the fact that I like to alternate Cressidor stories with non-Cress stories in this collection of omake).
~X X X~
Generally speaking, one does not often find fairies in an Alchemy laboratory. They were, like all the fey races, creatures steeped in the magic of Glamour—the magical expression of nature as it existed—and the way in which Alchemy bent and manipulated the natural laws to its own ends was imnical to them. Even if that Alchemy was not actually being directed at them, Glamour was so much a part of a fairy's fundamental nature that they were often disturbed by sufficient Alchemy's mere presence.
At least Hibiscus could console herself that she wasn't the most insane fairy present. Sure, she did often hang around Dr. Chartreuse's research lab, but that was out of friendship, not desire. The friend in question, though, was actually interested in studying and practicing the stuff. Tahlea had even been so enthusiastic about the field that she'd volunteered to let Dr. Chartreuse use her spirit as the core of a homunculus! Weird enough that a fairy would get involved in alchemical research, but to turn herself into an experiment!?
Tahlea was busy at one of the lab tables when Hibiscus flittered into the lab. She had to admit that her friend looked the part well enough, with an expression of intense concentration as she combined various reagents in a large beaker. With her shoulder-length blonde hair pulled back into a ponytail to keep it out of the way of her work and the protective gear covering her tunic and hose, all she needed was a pair of spectacles to complete the stereotypical image.
Hibiscus waited until Tahlea's hands were empty before making her presence known. She had a considerable respect for what accidental spills could do.
"Hey, what's going on?"
"Oh! Hi, Hibi; I didn't see you come in. Hey, that's a new hat, isn't it?"
"Uh-huh. I brought it over to show you." Fairies didn't wear hats all that often, a side effect of doing most of their moving around in the air, but they occasionally made an exception for fashion's sake.
"It looks kind of elfy."
"Yeah, it's the same basic style, but with the brim turned-up at the bottom." That formed a broad strip of brown around the base of the hat which made a nicely contrasting border between the brighter colors of Hibiscus's gold hair and the green of the conical hat.
"I like it. It's kind of, you know, like you're getting back to our roots. Especially since you've got leggings and boots on—it's kind of a traditional look, though that last part's probably just because it's winter."
Hibiscus couldn't help but chuckle.
"Hearing you praise 'traditional' as a fashion statement."
"Did I not like it before?" One of the side effects of becoming a homunculus was that Tahlea had no memories from her life as a fairy, even though the majority of her personality was the same, especially as she got more used to her new existence.
"Well, not really, but it's more hearing traditional fairy fashion praised by someone so avant-garde she got an entirely new body."
"Hey, this isn't a fashion statement. I became a homunculus purely in the name of pushing the frontiers of magical knowledge!"
"And if you don't wear one of your sister's hand-me-down outfits to the reception next week for all those cute human nobles, I'll believe you." Tahlea's blush suggested that she had indeed planned on wearing one of Amoretta Virgine's rather...eye-catching...outfits to the party in question. "Uh-huh. Thought so. So anyway," Hibiscus changed the subject to save Tahlea the potential embarrassment of an explanation, "what's Dr. Chartreuse got you doing now?"
"Oh, he's just got me keeping an eye on the golems in the next room while he's in a meeting with Professor Gammel. Father wants to use them in his next class so he prepared them ahead of time, but didn't want to leave them alone while he was out. Once in a while, you see, they can start running amok; their control functions are kind of delicate."
"Kind of like us fairies, a little bit. Wait, are you using that homunculus clairvoyance to look in on them?"
"Uh-huh. I wanted to see if I could take the next step in that experiment Father was showing me yesterday, so I thought I could work in here while still keeping an eye on them in there."
"Uh-huh. And is that next step supposed to bubble like that?"
"Eh?" Tahlea looked down at the beaker. "Oh, that's not good."
In approximately two seconds "not good" turned to "quite bad" as the reagent mix was consumed in a violent reaction. Glass shattered, thankfully mostly falling apart in large chunks instead of turning into a spray of high-velocity shrapnel, while a cloud of black smoke burst out and swallowed the onlookers. Hibiscus barely grabbed onto the brim of her hat in time to keep it from being knocked off by the rushing air.
The smoke cloud cleared remarkably fast; it was entirely possible that Dr. Chartreuse had protective Runes set up in advance to clean up common "side effects" of research mishaps. Unfortunately, that didn't do much for their now soot-stained clothing.
"Tahlea..." Hibiscus growled at her friend.
The homunculus grinned broadly back at her, an expression (often plastered on the very same smoke-smudged, surrounded-by-a-cloud-of-tousled-hair face) Hibiscus knew well from Tahlea's fairy lifetime.
"The path to advancing our knowledge is often littered with many missteps, from which we often learn more than from our successes!"
"Then allow me to contribute to your learning something that you already would have known if you still had your memories. Which is, that you suck at multitasking!"