There are some debts that have nothing to do with money.
Those tend to be the hardest to pay back and can even follow you to your next life.
Putting aside if you even believe in the existence of multiple lifetimes, most if not all will agree that every action carries within it the seed of consequence(s).
Often you can even predict the consequences. Like a failing grade on a test you did not study for. Or a life sentence for murdering someone.
Even if there weren’t immediate consequences, every action will eventually leave an impact, whether good or bad.
It is just a matter of when the consequences will make an appearance, like a snake coiled in the grass and waiting to spring on its next meal.
While the first thing one might connect to debts would be money, there are actually quite a lot of different kinds of debts one can incur beyond the obvious.
And perhaps the trickiest of them all are debts of love.
If one was to be unfortunate enough to incur such a debt, and even have it follow you to a new life, there is no knowing what form repayment will take.
And to be sure, the universe has a way of assuring debts are repaid, one way or another.
That being the case, had Clarence Light known exactly what repayment entailed, perhaps he would have paid more attention to his mother’s lectures on the rules an Alchemist must follow.
The first rule: Never engage in secular affairs.
The early morning sunlight streamed in through the bay windows of The Magpie and lit up the various curious and whimsical objects on display.
Decorative glass bottles of all shapes and sizes that contain liquids in varying colors. Pieces of jewelry and watchpieces made from different types of metals. Retro wooden musicboxes, paper umbrellas and parasols, leather handbags, porcelain dolls with animated glass eyes – the array of objects was wide and varied.
Clarence shuffled down the spiraling stairs that connected the three floors of the brick house that also acted as a shop. Running a negligent hand through blue-black waves, he blinked unfocused silver blue eyes at the morning sunlight and peered out the windows of his shop to see pedestrians already up and about.
“Leila.” A clear, cool voice that bring to mind a trickling mountain stream or the sound of falling raindrops. The lazy drawl only emphasized its owner’s naturally serene and mild disposition.
A dark ponytail swing into view as its owner popped up from behind the shop counter. Large reproachful brown eyes stare back at him.
“Oh, you’re early. Thanks for opening shop for me, sweetheart.” Clarence averted his gaze from those condemning eyes and stealthily tugged on a wrinkle in the button down shirt he had on.
“You got carried away again, up in your lair.”
A petite girl of 20, Leila barely reached Clarence’s chest but still the latter could not help feeling small, like a little boy when she gave him that look.
“I prefer Elixir Chamber. Or laboratory if you insist.” Clarence attempted to divert the attention.
Leila gave him an unimpressed look but she knew she was just wasting her breath.
The young man in front of her looked not much older than herself but from head to toe, voice to unconscious gestures, there was a subtle and casual charm about him that can inspire even the most unfriendly or wary to let down their guards.
Like the water that flow over rocks in a babbling brook or the pattering of raindrops in a forest, it was as if the Creator designed him in such a way as to soothe yet captivate the minds and hearts of all who met him.
But despite the subtle charm or mild disposition, Leila knew just how very aloof and willful he can be. Just as water can manifest as a gentle stream or light drizzle it can also turn into a violent torrent or tumultuous storm.
It was easy to be beguiled by his gentle and amiable side, easily persuaded by their perceived influence on the man who in truth rarely stop or change course for anyone. Rarely does he ever do things not according to his own pace and desires.
Egocentric and living in a bubble of his own world, unable or perhaps unwilling to truly understand from another’s perspective.
Though he was damn good at making people forgive these personality flaws.
“Leila, have you seen my occulars? I’m quite sure I left it beside this musicbox.” Clarence weaved through the shelves of curio and trinkets for sale. “Aiyo-!”
Leila peered around the shelf and encountered Clarence doing a strange palms to floor position with one leg lifted into the air.
“Are you doing yoga, Mr. Light?” Leila smirked in amusement as she caught sight of the culprit responsible for Clarence’s undignified position bent over with his ass sticking in the air.
Though it was an admittedly good looking ass despite how abhorrent of exercise its owner was. Leila could not help giving it a second look despite her own immunity to the man’s charms.
“A little help would be appreciated, thanks.”
“Sorry.” Leila kneeled down and picked up the culprit that nearly caused its owner a neck break. “Here you are, Miss Maggy. Come back from a morning walk have you? You’re a much earlier riser than your owner.”
Clarence narrowed his eyes at the girl and the long-haired black cat in her arms. Dictated by their natural color, his eyes could not be characterized as warm on a normal day but they look particularly cold with irritation coloring them the mercury blue of a stormy sky.
But neither girl or cat were affected.
“It seems Miss Maggy made off with your occulars again.” Leila lifted the chain on which a pair of shiny gold minature sized spectacles that look quite similar to binoculars were hanging from Miss Maggy’s neck.
Clarence sighed and rubbed Miss Maggy’s ears. “She must have been a magpie in her previous life.”
“Magpies don’t actually like stealing shiny things.”
“Yes, well, in the folk tales they do. Now go make something to drink. I need it after that scare Miss Maggy gave me.”
“Yes, yes. You’re the boss.”
A loud unpleasant sound rang across the shop as Leila cranked up the Guzzler. It was a rather monstrous looking machine with pipes and openings, buttons and levers that was a coffee machine, blender, ice maker and boiler combined in one.
Pushing a button, fresh fruit juice filled two glasses that Leila held to the opening after the Guzzler finished blending oranges, raspberries and kiwis.
“When will you fix the Guzzler so it doesn’t make that awful sound anymore?” Leila complained as she handed a glass to Clarence.
Clarence raised a brow, “It’s called the Guzzler for a reason. It mimics the sound of someone guzzling a delicious drink.”
Leila rolled her eyes.
“It sounds more like someone belching or vomiting something up.”
Clarence ignored the snarky reply and waved a hand, “Be a sweetheart and go man the counter for me. I am at a critical point in the process of my next great invention.”
“Oh, what is it?” Leila asked with curiosity despite her doubts.
Clarence held up an unfinished metal contraption that look like a half gutted bird and declared with a pleased tone, “The Avis 1.0 will replace the postal service when I’m done with it.”
Leila rolled her eyes again and could not help asking, “How many did your last ‘great invention’ even sell?”
“I made 10 sells if you must know. The Bouncy Bow was a hit.” Clarence slipped the occulars down his nose and peered at her with annoyance, “And I am your boss. You should be nicer to me.”
“Yes, yes. Please do forgive your lowly servant – I mean employee.” Leila muttered.
“I heard that.”
There was only silence for awhile but the light clinking of metal tools on metal and the turning of a book page.
“How are things at the dance troupe?”
Leila looked up from her novel and towards Clarence. The other was not looking her way but still focused on his tools and the mechanical bird under his hand.
It was a casual question asked in a similarily absentminded way. But Leila smiled at the show of concern from her boss and benefactor.
She truly can’t make sense of the contradiction that was Clarence Light.
Amiable charm masked an aloof indifference of people and the world outside his own. But one cannot accuse him of putting on a charming pretension because it was just as true as the apathy.
Therefore, often would others fall under the impression they were more significant to him than they truly were only to realize the man treated everyone in the same fashion.
Leila liked to call it his ‘surface solicitude’, which while delightful when the illusion had yet to shatter, was nothing compared to when those distant eyes truly focus and see you, appearing to show genuine interest beyond the normal mildness.
Leila thought that the most captivating quality was not his physical appearance but the occasional display of true attentiveness and concern from such a normally disconnected person.
It was comforting to know he was not just a beautifully carved statue that happen to be able to move and talk or a distant otherworldly observer just passing by the mortal realm.
Even so, it was hard to imagine Clarence Light, distant and indifferent as he was, being the turning point during her confused and delinquent teenage years. The one to snap her out of the spiral of bad choices and decisions.
“Everything’s fine, of course. I even have the lead role in the next show.” Leila replied with a brilliant smile.
“Oh. Well, that’s good.” Clarence continued fiddling with the mechanical bird.
“And how’s The Dancer? I hope you’re taking good care of her.”
Leila huffed out a laugh. If ever she needed a reminder on just how awkward her boss can be on showing any kind of concern for others it was a moment like this.
“She’s fine too. You don’t need to worry too much about us. I am no longer the irresponsible delinquent teen you picked up.”
“I’m not worried. You’re a grown woman with her life on track, what’s to worry?” Clarence retorted.
“Why did you bother with me anyway? You aren’t exactly the meddler type as far as I know.” Leila asked in curiosity. “And it was your shop I was trying to shoplift from.”
“Maybe I just have a habit for strays. I found Miss Maggy that way.” Clarence quipped.
Leila stared, unconvinced.
Rolling his eyes, Clarence said: “Precisesly because it was in my shop.”
Leila raised a brow, “And that makes a difference?”
“Of course. I can’t very well watch a 13 year old girl ruin her own life right in front of me.”
“That’s why you didn’t call the police on me?”
“That and I rather doubt a fine and mark on your record will do any good.”
“So how does forcing me to take dance lessons and audition for a dance troupe help?”
“You look like you have dance talent.”
Leila tilted her head in thought. Thinking it over, she could understand Clarence’s reasoning. She had been an angry delinquent girl with parents who were more concerned over fighting than over their only daughter. She ended up with the wrong crowd at school and picked up bad habits.
Clarence likely wanted to get her away from all that and focus her energy on something more productive and positive.
What she had thought to be a ludicrous condition for not being handed over to the police or letting her parents know had ended up changing her life for the better.
Leila pressed her lips together and looked unseeingly at the book in her lap.
Suddenly she looked back up, “Then why did you give me The Dancer in the end?” The musicbox had been the first and last thing she had tried to shoplift.
Clarence paused as if thinking it over. “As a reminder? It also suited you, both being dancers and all.”
“Oh.” Leila blinked.
She looked at Clarence from the corner of her eyes. Despite his youth, her benefactor often gave her the impression of possessing perception and insight only gained with years.
Though she had known him for nearly a decade, there always seem to be a misty shroud around him that obstructed any efforts to fully discern his person.
Even with the immunity that came from being aware of his true nature, it was hard not to be irrevocably attracted to Clarence Light and the mysterious puzzle he represented.
She was soon interrupted from her musings with the first customer of the day.
“Welcome to The Magpie, how can I help you?” Pasting on a polite smile Leila picked up the slack on customer service because the actual proprietor sure as hell wouldn’t.
She casted a sideway glance at Clarence holed up in the resting nook of the shop, completely immersed in his own world of tiny gears and cogs.
She looked back in the customer’s direction and her eyes widened slightly.
Two men walked in and headed to the counter. The younger one comported himself in a controlled and serious manner hinting at a strict and martial living environment, expression cool and unreadable. But viridian eyes like the first leaf sprout of early spring glinting with interest hinted at a playful side.
He was tall and slender imbued with the deadly grace of a sword dancer or carnivorous predator and walked – no – stalked in like a lazy lion surveying its territory. A waist length mane of long bright gold pulled back in a low tail only emphasized the resemblance to the predator.
In contrast, the rather solemn older man in a impeccable butler suit following just a step behind appeared more low-profile but had an equal air of strict and contained violence under the civil veneer.
They were Feras, one of the four Eximius races of their world. The wild, almost violent energy that surround them hinted at something beyond the ordinary.
The older man spoke first in a polite manner, “I am the head butler of the Fitzroy clan and this is my young lord, Major Ariel Fitzroy.”
Pausing, the older man looked discretely in Clarence’s direction before continuing, “Apologies for the sudden and unexpected arrival but we have come with sincerity to discuss a business proposition with your esteemed shop.”
It was quite obvious that the two strangers were aware of the actual proprietor of The Magpie and the burning gaze from those bright greens was rather difficult to ignore.
And it wouldn’t do to offend the heir to one of the most affluent families in the American Federal for such a minor offense like ignoring him. He still wanted to live and run his shop in peace after all.
Finally deigning to put down his tools and focus his attention to the situation at hand, Clarence looked up and met the burning gaze of the young Fera.
He may be a young lion still but was already in possession of the same authoritative air of a person used to occupying a position of power.
The other stepped forward first, almost too eagerly reaching out a hand for a shake though his facial expression remain cool and composed. “You must be the proprietor, Mr. Clarence Light. It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance, I am Ariel Fitzroy.”
“A pleasure. May I ask what Major Fitzroy-“
“Just call me Ariel if you like.”
Clarence continued as if the interruption had not occurred, “Could Major Fitzroy explain what you mean by business proposition?”
The other’s full pink lips tightened minutely in a thin line.
But the disappointment lasted only just a second before his lips quirked slightly in a smile, “I am here to personally thank Mr. Light for saving my life.”
Clarence tilted his head in bewilderment, “Major Fitzroy must be mistaken. I do not recall meeting before today…..”
This time it was the Fitzroy butler to reply with a grateful tone, “Mr. Light is too humble despite possessing such talent in alchemy. Our young master in fact, had been saved by one of the merchandises bought at your esteemed shop.”
Clarence raised an eyebrow and examined the young Fera closer before looking at Leila who had been silent the whole time.
Leila shook her head. She would have remembered a customer like this Fitzroy guy if he had visited the shop before.
The butler coughed into a gloved hand and cleared up the obvious confusion, “Our young master’s older sister, the Lady Regina bought a perfume from The Magpie some weeks ago as a coming of age gift for our young master. We discovered afterwards that it was the perfume that saved our young master from a rogue Cruor attack.”
Clarence suddenly realized what the other meant. One of his failed experiments had yielded a substance that would react to sweat and a raised heartbeat. In a whimsy he had added it into a new perfume, the Lethal No. 6.
The Lethal No. 6 was a unisex perfume that could also be used as men’s cologne and react to the wearer’s skin to create a unique body fragrance. But most importantly it could also react to sweat on the skin or hightened heartbeat from fear or anxiety by emitting colorless vapor that can cause illusions and incapacitate.
As a self-defense product that was both subtle and effective, it was quite popular among his female clientele.
“I examined the things my sister bought from here and noticed the clever hidden traps and weapons that you have innocuously incorporated into objects people would normally dismiss as harmless trinkets.” Ariel said with eyes bright with interest.
“Mr. Light has a gift for alchemy that inspires admiration. By any chance, do you take commissions?”
Clarence raised a questioning brow, “What sort of commissions do you have in mind?”
“Something concealed and innocuous would be best and preferably equal in power to a Fera transformation.”
Both Clarence and Leila were surprised at the actual nature of the business proposition.
But it was quite understandable that a member of one of the ruling Fera clans to be interested in alchemical weapons.
But Clarence had no intention of actually using alchemy to create destructive or offensive weapons.
“I’m sorry to disappoint you Major Fitzroy but I only make silly trinkets for my and my customer’s amusement.” Clarence demured with a half-smile.
The young Fera Major was not offended or deterred and smiled, “I understand Mr. Light’s concerns. We are after all living in a world that had experienced the disorder of the Early Machine Age.”
Clarence nodded. He was quite aware of what a threat New Alchemists can pose despite the monitoring of the Alchemist Council. They can be no less dangerous than the Eximius races with their inventions and creations.
If they truly put their minds behind it they can indeed cause or even elevate the destructive level of wars and conflicts that can impact on the world scale.
“But as Mr. Light has already turned me down once surely you won’t refuse a thank you lunch? This weekend?” The young Fera Major smiled in an unexpectedly endearing combination of confidence and shyness.
Well, if the young Fera Major put it that way, what could Clarence do but accept the invitation?Previous ♪✧♡TOC❀✧♪ Next