A/N: Just something I wrote after finishing Luminous Arc a long time ago. The time period is during the short while that Heath is separated from Alph and the others.
I have a thing with the name Lady Noir; I pulled it from this story and used it in another one.
"Hi." Heath looked up. Normally he didn't spend time in bars, so this was... new. The female bartender was gazing at him contemplatively, as if he was a new type of animal. She was a bit odd herself- dark skinned with sleepy, golden eyes and very long dark hair that seemed coppery under the lights of the bar- and he had to admit that he'd seen very few people with such a distinctive look to them. "First time?" She asked, tipping her head to one side. He smiled.
"Is it obvious?"
She winked and brought a finger to her lips. "Only to me." She promised. With a smile, she said, "Something's on your mind, which is why you wandered in here. Bars attract people with heavy thoughts." She tapped the counter. "Solid tables and dim lighting... a bar is the perfect place to unload your thoughts." She pushed a menu towards him.
Heath nodded. "I agree." He said, and she smiled again. It was very pretty, her smile. "It helps that you're here too," He decided. "A friendly face behind the bar..." Picking up the menu, he looked it over. So many drinks…he wasn't sure if he wanted something mixed or strong.
"Well..." She chuckled, drawing his attention. "You place your thoughts here and I must prescribe to you medicine. A healing balm for heavy thoughts... a doctor for the mind. That is what I do as a bartender." She smiled. "So, first-timer. What should I call you?"
He laughed lightly. "Heath." He said.
"Heath?" She murmured. "...Have you ever raised children?"
"Hmm?" He blinked. "Yes... why?"
She laughed. "Ah, your name suits it. Heath... and Hearth. Just a letter apart. Also, Heart..." She nodded. "I used to wonder if people lived up to their names, and sometimes these kinds of things pop up."
Curiously, Heath asked, "Do people live up to their names?"
"Coincidentally." She responded, "In the same way as you have."
Amused by her observation, Heath gazed at her thoughtfully. "And what can I call you, Bartender?" He asked, smiling at her.
"Bartender's fine," She smiled, "But my name is Loki."
"Yes, it means "trickster"." At this, Heath raised an eyebrow.
"And do you live up to your name?"
"Ah, isn't that the question." Loki murmured, turning her attention to the row of glasses before her. "Perhaps I do. Or... maybe I don't?"
"That sounds vague." He said. She looked up at him.
"It is! I could never know." She grinned. "I could never know if I live up to my name. If I tried, it would be because of a conscious effort, and that's not the same."
"Since we're talking about names, may I ask why you named your bar Lady Noir?" He asked.
Loki looked surprised, but then her sleepy eyes drifted to the door. "Most people don't ask," She said, chuckling lightly. He wasn't sure if she was going to tell him or not, but then she said, "When you order, I will tell you."
"Oh?" He smiled. "Is it a secret?" Loki laughed and shook her head. "What do you recommend?"
"You don't seem like a heavy drinker…" She said, observing him closely. "…What about Black Velvet?"
He looked at the menu again. A mixed drink, beer and champagne… "Why?" He asked.
She chuckled. "Why? Because you asked." She said. "And it seems like you're mourning. Have you witnessed the ceremony for funerals?" He nodded. She rested her elbows on the counter, leaning towards him. Her dark hair spilled over her shoulder slightly and she brushed it back. "This drink is the color of the garments you wear on those days. Deep blacks and purples..." She smiled lightly. "Perhaps you're not mourning, but even still, tonight this drink suits you."
Heath looked at the menu again. "…I…" He murmured, "I think I'll have that, then."
As she got her things ready, she asked, "Do you have regrets?"
She smiled. "...When you make a decision, do you regret it?" She set a champagne flute before him and took some bottles from the wall. He recognized a dark beer that he was accustomed to seeing his men drink. He barely drank because of the children, but… He did like that particular brand of beer. The other bottle was a champagne. It was slightly tinged gold.
Realizing he hadn't answered her, he turned his eyes to her. "Sometimes." He admitted. She looked at him seriously for a second, her hands resting on the counter.
She leaned forward. "...I never regret my choices."
He blinked. "What...do you mean?"
"I mean just that. I never regret." She said, leaning back. "... But I know why people ask, when they see the name of the bar. If they remember, they find it odd. After all... There was a person who went around killing people under that name." Loki nodded, as if remembering. "A mercenary."
"Yes," Heath agreed. It had surprised him when he'd seen the bar's sign, to see that name plastered so easily on a business.
"That person never regretted, either." Loki said with a smile. The smile was too sneaky... too knowing.
Heath tensed slightly. "Are you saying that you are Lady Noir?" He asked lightly.
Her laugh was light and cheerful. "I am nothing of the sort." She said, waving her hand. "Do you think me capable of such a thing?" She opened both bottles and gave him a bright-eyed look. "Watch." She said, softly, as if her voice would break the bottles.
He smiled again, hesitant. "I'm not sure." He answered her question in a hushed voice. Their eyes locked and she lifted both bottles at once and began to pour. Dark brown beer and golden champagne tumbled into the flute in even streams. He began to worry that the drink would bubble over the top, but she stopped pouring and the fizz rested at the top of the flute, like a soft cushion.
Loki sealed both bottles. Quietly, she chuckled and said, "Of course, the reason could very well be that I just like the sound of Lady Noir." She paused, her sleepy golden eyes zeroing in on him. "Don't you?"
He laughed. "I can't associate it with much good." He said.
She turned to put the bottles away. "Oh? But you associate it with evil?"
"Misfortune." He corrected. She didn't respond, instead looking at him with a serious expression again. He didn't take his eyes off of her, trying to figure out what she was thinking.
After a couple of seconds, she gave him another small smile. "Have you heard the story of the man who ate the world?" She asked. Heath blinked, surprised.
"No, I can't say I have."
She chuckled. "There was a man who could consume great deals. He was always looking for the best thing to eat. In the end, it turned out the best thing to eat was evil." Loki wiped down the counter before her languidly. "You see, evil... it's saturated with emotion. Apparently that was most delicious." She looked at Heath. "So he began his search for evil, so he could eat the evils of the world. Slowly, the world became a better and better place, until one day it was perfect. The people of the Earth rejoiced, but that man couldn't see the perfection. He still saw evil, within those good things. So he continued to eat and eat until he devoured the world." She chuckled again, covering this laugh with her hand. "In all things there exists a possibility for evil. But... there also exists a possibility for good."
Heath nodded, trying the drink. It was delicious- he knew, somehow, that it would be- and he smiled at her. "So you're saying that this bar is the good possibility for the name Lady Noir?"
"Oh, who knows." She said, waving her hand. "The man who ate the world was looking for evil, so it was all he saw." Setting her hands on the counter, Loki watched him drink. "If you look for good, that's all you'll see too. People like to say that objects are neutral, like nouns and so forth..." She continued quietly, "But do you notice how no one ever wants to live where a serial killer lived? They see evil in it." Heath nodded. "If a saint lived in a house and passed on, people would be lining up to live there. They'd see good in it. What you seek, you find."
"Hmm..." He murmured. "You don't find all things that you seek."
Her laugh surprised him this time; it sounded as kind as ever but he hadn't been expecting it. "You can't find what doesn't exist, can you?"
He looked at her, setting the half-done drink down. "What doesn't exist?" He asked. She looked amused—maybe even pleased.
"What is it that you're looking for?" She asked, chuckling. "And are you sure that it's real?"
He blinked. Slowly, he responded, "I'm looking for the Witches. The Witches who killed my comrades... All of that is real."
"Is it?" Loki wondered aloud.
"It is real?"
"Of course it's real!"
"All of it?"
"..." He nodded.
She chuckled. "It's that kind of thinking that makes it impossible to find the truth. Are Witches real? Have you seen one? Or met one?"
"No, but because I haven't doesn't mean anything."
"That's true." She nodded. "It is, but... that isn't proof they exist either."
"..." He blinked. He knew that! Of course that wasn't proof they existed, but the Church had met them before, hadn't they? Then again… the Church, though he did offer up his life to protect it, had seemed strange recently. Of late he'd been suspecting corruption in the ranks of the Church, but he couldn't prove it. Still, there was no one in the Church corrupt enough to kill their own men. Not in the way that the men had died, anyway.
"Say they didn't exist. Then what could've killed your comrades?" Her voice startled him from his thoughts.
"...A... A lapister, most likely?" Heath murmured as he tried to gather his thoughts again, raising an eyebrow.
"If it's the case... If it's true that Witches are real, maybe they really did kill them..." Loki said, dreamily. "But if they aren't real, then is that the only option?"
"Yes, but humans can't use Lapistier, so..."
She laughed. "Is that true?" She asked, smiling slightly.
"..." Heath stared at the bartender, who shook her head at him. Did she suspect the Church too? He wrestled morally with this issue for a while, so maybe talking to someone other than Kai who suspected the Church of corruption would prove useful?
"Tell me, from where do you get your knowledge?"
"From the Church." He answered honestly. She set her hands on the bar's counter, leaning towards him and frowning slightly. It was perhaps the first frown he'd seen on her for the whole night.
"Do you think they know all that much about Witches and Lapistier?"
Surprised, it took him a little while to answer. "... Maybe not Witches..." Heath said. "But Lapistier are natural. So they must know a good deal."
"Only about their creation, most likely." Loki murmured. "If you don't question what you're told... you might also perish, you know... Heath." Her smile was suddenly feral. "Or worse. Your children might." He quietly finished his drink. For a while, it was silent in the bar and he wasn't really thinking of anything. His head was empty, devoid of any trace of activity. "And so... Heath." She said, her cocoa colored fingers resting on his, which startled his thoughts anew, "Has Lady Noir been of any service to you, tonight? Have I changed your mind about the name or simply reinforced the evil nature of Lady Noir?"
He frowned. "I'm not sure." He said. "I can't tell."
She laughed, moving her hand off of his. "Do you regret coming?"
"No..." He murmured. He realized he was still holding the flute and set it on the counter. For a while, they didn't say anything. The bar, which had been a little noisier when he'd entered, was quiet now and stiller than he remembered it being. The silence made him think about the children, though. The bar was so dusky and warm, like the bedrooms where the children slept.
Her voice startled him out of his thoughts again. "No?" She smiled, recapturing his attention. "Ah, well then. That's good."
He pushed some gold towards her. "Tell me something." He said.
"Do you think that the Church would lie about the Witches?"
She laughed. "How sure are you that Lady Noir the mercenary was a woman?"
He frowned at that. What a silly question. "I… well, I think it's obvious." He said.
"That's my answer to your question, too." She said, still tittering. He smiled warmly at her, somehow feeling a sense of camaraderie. He got up and went to leave. "Have a good night, Heath." She called to him.
"Good night… Loki." He said, turning back to face her. She smiled at him again and he hesitated before saying, "I'll come again."
She nodded, bringing her hand to her lips in an attempt to cover up a smile. "I'll be waiting."