Tahlea Grande scowled down at the collection of alchemical equipment, at the blue fluid spiraling through the curved tube, at the bubbling amber reagent in the beaker over the flame, at the racks of test tubes, and at at the round-bottomed potion flask whose contents stubbornly remained pink.

"Why don't you add three drops of the red stuff?"

Tahlea glanced to her right, where the fairy Hibiscus sat. She didn't actually have a chair, just the rapid fanning of her dragonfly-like wings keeping her aloft, but her posture was somehow the same as if she had been sitting, one leg bent, the other crossed over her knee.

"Hibi, why would I do that?"

Hibiscus shrugged.

"Heck if I know. You just always add three drops of the red stuff when you get that scowl on your face."

Tahlea giggled. It was quite true that, like most fairies, Hibiscus had little interest in the mysteries of magical science, and especially not in alchemy, which was antithetical to the magic of glamour that made up so much of a fey creature's nature. Tahlea, on the other hand, had been so interested in such things that she'd willingly allowed Chartreuse Grande to use her soul as the core of an artificial body crafted from alchemy.

As a new-made homunculus, Tahlea didn't have any memories of her past life, but it hadn't taken her friend's remarks to let her know that she'd been considered a bit eccentric among fairies.

Okay, maybe not "a bit." "Somewhat," perhaps. "A good deal," maybe. The modifying phrases might not even be necessary.

Actually, "stone crazy" covered it better than "eccentric" once they'd learned what she'd done.

"You know, now that you mention it..." she mused aloud, then took a pipette from the lab table. She drew some of the distilled essence of habaneristo from a test tube and let three drops fall into the beaker. A puff of smoke rose with a soft "whoomp" and the amber reagent turned a darker shade. Steam rose, was collected in the hood, flowed into the spiraling condenser, and dripped out the other end into the flask.

The liquid inside shimmered, and turned a watery olive green.

"It worked!" Tahlea cheered, clapping. "Thanks for the suggestion, Hibi!"

"Um, you're welcome?"

"This is the first time I've been able to get this to turn out right!" She could barely contain her excitement; successfully completing this experiment was Dr. Chartreuse's condition for moving on to the next lesson in alchemy.

"Ah, but I knew all along that two such fair ladies would surely succeed at whatever they try."

Tahlea and Hibiscus whirled around.

"Gah! You stupid dandy!" Hibi gasped. "You nearly scared me half to death!"

In all fairness, the newcomer didn't look like the dandy she'd named him. In fact, he looked like pretty much all male fairies, with a green kilt around his hips, lace-up sandals on his feet, and a leather sling across his bare torso to hold his sword on his back without interfering with his wings. And if his golden-blond hair was tousled just so and he could occasionally be checking his fine-featured reflection in a mirror or forest pool when he thought no one was watching, well, the choice of insult still had more to do with his name being Dandylyon.

"Oh! Would that I have suffered a thousand cuts rather than bring a moment's discomfort to the most beautiful of fairy maids."

Tahlea blinked.

"Is he always like this?"

"Pretty much. Once in a while, it doesn't seem quite so crazy to me that you gave up your memory."

"Hibi, be nice," she said, but it was hard to sound chiding while suppressing a giggle.

"Anyway, Dan, you're completely wrong on all counts, since I'm not a maiden—and not interested in cheating on my husband—and as you might have noticed, Tahlea isn't a fairy."

Flitting over in front of Tahlea, Dandylyon let his eyes travel up and down her figure (which was, by human standards, fairly spectacular; Dr. Chartreuse was no more interested in romance than a rock but he did have a sense of aesthetics).

"Do you think I am so poor a creature as to be put off by something as inconsequential as species? A beautiful woman is a beautiful woman!"

Tahlea glanced at Hibiscus.

"In its way, that's almost noble."

"Yeah, in a backhanded, twisted-up, getting around to it sideways kind of way. Tell me you're not taking his blarney seriously, Tahlea."

"Oh, please, I may have sacrificed my memories to be reborn in a new, artificial life that's anathema to the very nature of my previous existence, but I'm not so much a fool as that."

Hibi smirked.

"Good one."

It was not, however, good enough for Dan, who hefted Tahlea's hand between his.

"My dear, please let me warm the cold and forlorn nights of the unnatural existence which traps you, and let your soul fly free with our shared passions."

"Um, no thank you, Dan." She could, after all, tell when someone loved her, and the feelings Dan was experiencing did not come precisely from the heart. "I don't really know a lot about that sort of thing, but speaking from a purely scientific standpoint...I think it's one of the areas where size does matter."

~X X X~

A/N: A "habaneristo" is a variety of mandragora used in alchemy mixes in the Vanillaware game Odin Sphere, which is similarly awesome to GrimGrimoire. And like Hibi, Dan's name is based on a type of flower that wine can be made from, keeping my fairy naming pattern intact.