Infinity: Part Two
Lumin raised his eyebrow at the Acara. "...You work with machinery?"
"No. That sort of thing doesn't interest me."
Every answer she gave only seemed to puzzle Lumin even more. "Then why are you called 'The Engineer?'"
She stayed silent. Eventually, The Engineer spoke up again, eager to change the subject, "Anyways, you appear to be someone who is carrying a great burden. I'm simply interested in knowing what that burden is." She held her paw out and motioned for Lumin to sit down. "Tell me about your problems. I might be able to fix them."
Lumin hesitated for a moment, but he eventually took a deep breath and walked to the side of his bed facing The Engineer and sat down. He still eyed her cautiously. Her tone of voice and mannerisms were of a pleasant nature, but the things she said came across as odd to Lumin. Lumin wasn't as nervous as he was when she made her sudden appearance, but he knew better than to let down his guard around strangers.
But The Engineer spoke of solving his problems. In the face of that, he couldn't ignore her and tell her to leave. He knew that he couldn't be picky about his options when so much of the kingdom was in peril. Lumin didn't know how The Engineer intended to help him, but he knew that he at least needed to give her a chance to see what she offered.
He told her about the issue. Lumin spoke of the poison contaminating their water supply and of the illness that followed. He mentioned the plant that was so important to them at that point, but had so far eluded them. Not that long ago, Lumin had managed to ease his anxiety enough so that he would be able to fall asleep. But after repeating the sequence of events to The Engineer, all of those efforts were undone and he was just as uneasy as before.
"Everything is falling apart. My people are suffering with no way to take the pain away. Families are crumbling and being broken into pieces." Lumin began to choke on his words as tears started well up in his eyes. "I lost my Queen. One of my Royal Guards is ill. I have a child that's due to hatch in two months, and I don't know if I'll be able to give it the life that I wanted it to have..."
The Engineer listened to Lumin intently, never once looking away or interrupting him. Unlike Lumin, her composure was very much the same all through his story. She seemed to take in his every word in order to understand the position the kingdom was in. "So the main problem is that you can't find the cure. It comes from a plant growing on the island above, you say? What does it look like?"
Lumin had never seen the plant in person. He had never personally seen any plants aside from the edible roots that grew through the cave ceilings. All he knew about the plant was what he had read in books. He took a few moments to dig within his memories to recall the information about the plant. "From what I know, it grows on a small bush that produces red berries. But the berries are useless to us, it's the leaves that we need. The leaves..." He paused, trying to remember the pictures of the plant that he has seen. "...they're small, thin, and are shaped almost like arrowheads. They apparently make the entire bush look like it's covered in spikes. I'm sorry... I don't know much about these sorts of things, and I'm not sure if that was accurate or not..."
"No, no. I think I know what you're talking about," The Engineer said. She made direct eye contact with him and leaned a little closer, urging him to take note of what she was about to say. "Gather plants of any specimen from the surface, and plenty of them. If you present them to me tomorrow at this same time, I'll give you your cure."
The Engineer didn't give Lumin any time to reply or ask questions. The moment she finished speaking, she instantly vanished, disappearing just as quickly as she appeared. Where was once an Acara sitting in one of Lumin's chairs was occupied only by air milliseconds later. It gave Lumin another jump as he watched The Engineer leave so suddenly right in front of his eyes. His legs shook as he stood up and scanned the room for her, part of him refusing to believe that what he just saw was possible.
He stayed awake for a while longer just watching the room. After some time passed, Lumin was convinced that he was alone again. But even when he got in bed and pulled the covers over himself, it took him a while to close his eyes and actually go to sleep.
* * *
It was quite a few hours later before Lumin felt rested enough and woke up. But for a long time, he just sat in his bed and thought. He thought about The Engineer and their meeting. Was it all just a dream? Was it a product of his sleep-deprived mind? Or did it actually happen? He remembered the event clearly, causing Lumin to lean towards the third possibility. But it just seemed so surreal. Even if he was to accept that it actually happened, the thought of somebody materializing out of thin air just to hear about his problems and offer a solution still sounded strange.
Lumin remembered the last thing she had said. He didn't know why she wanted various plants in exchange for the one he needed, but he realized that wasn't important. She had access to the cure and that was all that mattered. Lumin gave a heavy sigh, forcing the part of himself that was still skeptical over The Engineer's existence to believe it. An option was presented to him and he couldn't just withdraw his hand and refuse it.
Lumin quickly got dressed and left his room. He moved through the halls as fast as he could without actually running. His eyes darted back and forth, looking for someone that could do what he needed them to.
He eventually ran into Neon, the youngest and newest of the Royal Guards. Neon was an average-sized Buzz with an unsure and almost nervous demeanor. It was probably from his inexperience and the fact that he was still learning how to be an efficient Royal Guard. After all, he had only joined about a year prior. But since Lumin still knew little about him, Neon could have just been like that naturally.
The situation had only put him even more on edge. He greeted Lumin with a stutter. "G-Good day, sire."
Lumin nodded to Neon and listened as he gave his reports. While Lumin was asleep, Infrared had left to go to another city to find out if they had the cure while Lampyri was preparing for another expedition to the surface.
Once Neon finished, Lumin pushed all the remaining doubts out of his mind. He looked around a bit before he dropped his voice to a whisper, "I need a favor. There's something I want you to do for me..."
* * *
It was close to the same hour that Lumin went to bed the previous day when Neon met him outside his bedroom door. When Lumin saw Neon coming down the hall he noticed a metal box in his hands. Neon handed it to him, assuring Lumin that it was filled with as many plants as the small team he sent to the surface could find. As he placed it in Lumin's hands, he wore a look of confusion.
"...I'm still a little confused, sire," Neon stated nervously, scratching the matting of dull green hair on his head. He took a pause, breaking it only when he appeared to have figured out what he wanted to say. "I-If you don't mind me asking, what do you want these plants for?"
I'm not quite sure, either. Lumin admitted to himself that he still had no idea what The Engineer was planning to do with those plants. But he shook his head and tried to ignore those thoughts. "Don't worry about it. Thank you, Neon."
Neon didn't look like Lumin's reply satisfied him, as his eyes were still puzzled. Nevertheless, he said, "You're welcome," before leaving Lumin be.
Lumin locked his bedroom door behind him, even though he knew that it wouldn't stop The Engineer from coming in. He sat the box beside him as he waited on the edge of his bed. Lumin found that his eyes constantly glanced at the clock. He watched the two circular objects connected to each other; both had a single hand, but the larger one had twenty-four notches while the smaller one had sixty.
At the top of the hour, both parts of the clock made a faint ring. And with that sound, Lumin saw The Engineer reappear in the same exact place that she spent the entirety of the previous day's visit. She still startled Lumin; there was no way he could get used to that.
The Engineer didn't seem to pay much heed to the jolts that she gave Lumin, though. Instead, her eyes focused on the metal box. "I'm going to assume that's it?" she asked, still possessing the soft and calm tone she had before.
"Yes," Lumin replied once he had settled his nerves. He took a hold of the box and opened it, revealing many varieties of small plants pulled from their roots. He showed it to The Engineer, who eyed them keenly. She took a handful of them in her left hand. At that point, Lumin couldn't go much longer without knowing what her plan was. "But I don't understand. Why are those plants important? Those kinds won't cure my people."
The Engineer lifted her head up, giving a small smile. "Not yet."
She turned her attention back to the plants in her hand. It was only for a moment, but it still caught Lumin's eye. While she held them, he swore that he saw part of The Engineer's hand glow faintly. But soon that would be the least important thing on his mind.
Suddenly, the plants began to move. They shook ever so slightly, but completely on their own. The Engineer never moved a muscle as she held them. Lumin saw the shape of each plant begin to shift, their leaves changing their appearance. No matter what the plants looked like before, they all morphed into the form that matched the description that Lumin gave The Engineer: A thin, arrowhead-shaped leaf; the cure. Right in front of Lumin's eyes, he saw The Engineer turn common plants that were useless to the Fireflies into the kind that they desperately needed.
Lumin's breath became short and his eyes wide. He couldn't believe it, it simply wasn't possible. But he saw it for himself. He watched The Engineer produce the cure that nobody could find. Lumin had been told stories of magic as a child. As an adult, he believed that such things were just fantasy. But what The Engineer did... It wasn't like magic, it was magic. There was no other explanation. Nothing else in the world could have done what he saw.
His vision shot to The Engineer herself. She saw Lumin's astounded expression, causing her to form one of amusement. Lumin realized that this was probably nothing new to her. She just created a miracle, and Lumin began to believe that she had done that before. The Engineer held her left hand out, allowing Lumin a better view of the plant and simply asked, "Is this it?"
"Yes... Yes! That's it!" Lumin managed to stutter, overcome at the sight of the cure. He took the handful from The Engineer's hands, looking them over. While he had never come in contact with any part of a plant other than the roots before, he was quickly convinced that what he now possessed was real. The materials available in Moltara couldn't possibly allow for a fake as convincing as that to be produced and the appearance of the plant looked exactly like the pictures he saw. But he was still curious and he still needed to know more. "How... How did you do this?"
"It's a power of mine," The Engineer –as usual- gave a short reply and gave Lumin much less information than what he had hoped for.
"The power to change plants?" Lumin questioned. Even if he had to come to terms with magic being real despite his life experiences saying otherwise, it seemed like such a simple ability compared to what tales of the supernatural and extraordinary had told.
"Mm, that's one part of it," The Engineer hummed. She glanced over at the metal box again. "I doubt that small handful will be able to cure your entire kingdom, though. I would love to make more for you, but I can't very well do that when you have the rest of the plants."
Without hesitation, Lumin eagerly gave her the box. From that point on, Lumin just watched The Engineer produce more of the cure from ordinary plants. With each handful that she set aside, more and more emotions piled up inside Lumin. All he needed to do was deliver those plants to the doctors. He was just one step away from ending the entire problem.
The Engineer finished the last of the plants. She gave the metal box that was now filled with the cure a look and then gave one to Lumin. "Will that be enough?"
Lumin nodded. "That should be more than enough. We should have plenty to cure the sick with and have some left over for any future outbreaks." The Engineer handed the box back to Lumin, and at that point relief surged through him. He felt like crying. Not from sorrow, but from the happiness of knowing that the dark time the Fireflies went through was over. Lumin smiled and lowered his head, genuinely glad that he didn't need to fear for the future any more. He could barely speak, and anything he did manage to say was with a stammer, "I-I am extremely grateful for what you've done. I... I don't think I could ever thank you enough..."
"I wouldn't say that," The Engineer said, her previously small smile widening. "I'll be back for my payment later."
Lumin lifted his head up once he heard what The Engineer had said. "Your pay-"
But all he looked at was an empty chair. Once again, she left without any chance for Lumin to ask questions. He didn't know what she meant by "payment" or what she was expecting. She had never mentioned anything of the sort up until that point.
Lumin's focus shifted to the box in his hands. What The Engineer had said before leaving made him wonder a little, but he decided to deal with and worry about that later. He stood up and left the room to attend to the matter at hand. Breaking out into a full run, he urgently made his way to meet the doctors in the infirmary.
* * *
The doctors could hardly believe their eyes when Lumin handed them the box full of the cure. But nevertheless, they happily accepted it without much of a second thought and prepared it for the patients. Before long, it had been administered to all of the ill Fireflies in the kingdom. Lumin watched as the ill began to calm down from their symptoms for good. He saw children hugging their previously sick parents and parents tearfully smiling with their recovering children. It was amazing how a little plant raised the spirits of the entire city.
Lumin had sent Fireflies to catch up to Infrared to tell him that the cure had been found, hoping that he wasn't too far away. Since Neon was close by when Lumin delivered the cure, he announced the news to the rest of the city. He managed to get the information to Lampyri just before she left on her own expedition. Lampyri didn't waste any time and immediately went to the infirmary. She and Lumin visited Glowstick as he was starting to recover while Neon was in the city hospital visiting his own family.
"So... All that noise that I kept hearing... That was just in my head? And that is a typical symptom of the poison, right?" Glowstick drilled Lampyri on everything that happened while his thoughts were still muddled and distorted. He was thinking much clearer at that moment and looked a little stronger than before, but his memories of his time battling with the poison were vague. When Lampyri nodded, he exhaled in relief. "Alright, good. I was getting worried that I was going crazy." Glowstick realized what he had said moments after the words left his mouth. When he saw that a sly smile began to form on Lampyri's lips, he flinched and closed his eyes.
"'Going crazy?' I had always been under the impression you were that way in the first place," Lampyri teased Glowstick, not wanting to waste the opportunity. As usual for the bantering that went on between the two, she got a sarcastic laugh from Glowstick in response.
Even Lumin couldn't help but crack a smile and give a small laugh under his breath. "You did walk right into that one."
"Humph, I guess I'm still not feeling like myself," Glowstick groaned while rubbing his forehead. "But just you watch. Give me another day or so and I'll be back on my feet."
Glowstick wore a confident smile, never one to doubt himself. But that expression was quickly wiped off his face when the head doctor walked up to Lumin and grumbled, "Oh, don't listen to that braggart, sire," He turned to Glowstick. "The cure may have eliminated the poison, but there's still the matter of repairing the damage to your body that it's already done. That will take at least another week of bed rest."
"Come on! I'm sick to death of just lying around! I want to actually do something!" Glowstick retorted. He sat up in defiance and looked about ready to actually stand up.
"You most certainly will be sick to death if you don't do what you're told," the doctor replied, unfazed by Glowstick show of annoyance. He took a single hand and lightly pushed Glowstick back down, proving the doctor's point as he didn't even have the strength to resist. "You're staying in bed."
Realizing that he couldn't fight it, Glowstick stayed put, but his frown and scowl made it clear that he still wasn't happy with the doctor's orders. Seeing his annoyed mood, Lampyri spoke up. "It's alright. Even if it'll take a little while, I'm just glad you're going to be okay," It seemed to have done the job, as Lumin saw the irritation gradually drain from Glowstick's face and his smile reappeared.
Watching those around him start to get better, Lumin's smile reappeared as well.
To be continued...