The White Rose of Fiorazzurro
Chapter 20 (or, “The Dealey Five (Four?) Arrive”)
Just one more drop, Calimero said to himself. One more drop, and then the base mixture will be perfect.
He had already added three cups of water, two tablespoons of cinnamon, an entire bag of sugar, two ginkgo leaves, and three teaspoons of moonseed. He was now adding the pomegranate juice, slowly pouring it in. If you poured it in too fast, the pomegranate juice would mold with the sugar, and the mixture would become too solid, meaning Calimero would have to start over.
He took a deep breath and got the last drop in, then covered it with the pot lid. No sooner had he done this than somebody knocked on the door.
Calimero let go of the breath he had been holding. He sat the pouring cup down, glad that whomever was knocking on his door waited until the perfect moment to do so. Walking over to the door, he stuck his eye through the peephole to see whom was there.
He opened the door and there was a man — a boy, really — standing in front of him. Asian in height and race, he was wearing a long Japanese robe with pants and wooden sandals. A pair of goggles was in his short hair. “Are you Calimero Pineiro?” he asked in perfect Italian.
Calimero was skeptical. Another magic user? “What about it?”
“My name is Matsumoto Tamasine. I have been sent here by my associate, Rifka Ivanovna Moscavitz of the Quintessential Works for Everyday Reasons to Yield. I understand that you are the assigned guardian of world Y-MH-1027-B, and therefore I have come to collect you and reunite you with the rest of our team. We are under Code Colemak circumstances at the moment —“
“Woah, please wait for just a moment. I do not understand what you are talking about.” Calimero finally noticed the goggles on the boy’s head. “Though nice goggles, samurai.”
“I could say the same for you, but I’m not a samurai.” The boy pulled out a device and flashed it at Calimero. “Have you seen a girl using one of these?”
Calimero gasped. “That looks just like Milaya’s magical device!”
“Milaya?” The boy suddenly smiled. “It’s been a while since she used that one. I’m Milaya’s friend. You’ve been hanging out with her?”
“Yeah. You — you are friends with her, right? Are you from Russia?”
“Something like it. You’ve seen this device before. You know that she’s from QWERTY, right?”
“Uh…” Calimero looked around. “Shouldn’t we be having this conversation inside? Cendrillon’s guards will hear us.”
Tamasine cocked his head in confusion. “What’s a Sendo-leeon?”
“Just get in here before somebody hears you. You and Milaya aren’t exactly safe here.”
“Sounds good —“ Tamasine walked three steps into the house with his geta on and tripped on the cords. “Itai!” The communicator went skitting across the floor, toward Calimero’s collection of beakers.
“Probably should have told you to watch out for that,” Calimero noted.
He sat the boy down in the living room, near the mattress that he had set up for Milaya, and told him everything. This Matsumoto boy didn’t know the magic word, but he had a communicator just like Milaya, so he felt like he could trust him. He told him about how Milaya had come and asked him to be the guardian of his world, and even though he didn’t fully understand what that meant, he accepted. They had then met Daisy, the faerie princess whose family had once ruled over Fiorazzurro. Tamasine had, at first, refused to believe that faeries existed, but Calimero had proven that magic was very much real on this world.
“We’re gathering magic users so that we can overthrow the Queen and restore balance to this world,” he told Tamasine. “But we’re also gathering magic users because Milaya said we have another person to fight against, and that our world will be destroyed anyway if we don’t.”
“That’s accurate. I was hoping you two would be together, but at least Jason confirmed they found her. Something about a faerie village.” Matsumoto tucked his device away. “Have you ever heard of parallel universes?”
Calimero told Matsumoto about the legend of King Arthur, how Merlin the magician had traveled to another world and had learned how to use magic there. Matsumoto explained to him that there were two worlds, side by side. “These worlds are about to collide and mix together. The components of our worlds will mix at random, creating an entirely new world. Our job is to make sure that happens to the best of our ability. To do this, a guardian for each world is chosen, and you are our guardian for this world. Milaya chose you. That much is certain.”
Calimero nodded. “I will do anything I can to help.”
“There should be a guardian of the other world. Then, you two are supposed to meet and decide how to merge the worlds properly. But that isn’t happening. One of our deepest, darkest enemies has decided he’s going to be the guardian of the other world instead, and it’s messing everything up. Milaya was right to prepare for war. It will be all-out war, both against your Queen and against Dvorak.” He stood up. “I need to know where she is.”
There was a small chime; Tamasine looked down at his communicator. There was a new message from Jason. “Dvorak was here. He bugged out Rifka’s communicator. Headed back. Stay put. Where’s Rosa?”
“I thought you had Rosa,” he typed back and sent the message. That would explain why they couldn’t find Rifka. Why had she been sent here by headquarters, not to world A like the rest of them had?
"It would be best if we all got together and I explained this once," Tamasine continued. "You mentioned before that there's a faerie princess, and a space cowboy with a robot?"
"It's kind of weird," Calimero noted as he gathered up the rest of his supplies and hid the crucial elements behind the cabinet. He had made great progress in this potion, but the rest of it would have to wait until he returned from Gallathia. "We'll have to take the train."
"Actually, I'll be able to get us right there. Are you ready to go?" Tamasine's communicator sounded again; he pulled up the text from Jason.
"Never mind. Get over here. She's still around here somewhere."
He sent one back. "Do you have your coordinates? The guardian and I are going to jump."
Fifteen seconds later, Jason messaged Tamasine with the necessary information. "Cool. Hold onto me, Calimero," he said, turning to the other boy. "We're going to go for a ride."
Calimero reached out and took the boy's wide kimono sleeve. He didn't even have to blink before he was standing in a well-sized faerie hut, leaving the lab behind. Normally, when people used spells to teleport from one place or another (usually only able to be done by spell casters), there was a huge flash of light and then magic sparks. But Tamasine had made them teleport without any of the special effects. The hut was one room, with beds in one corner and cushions in another, where people were seated.
"You really are good at that," he said.
"Yeah, well, Milaya should have been able to do the same, except Dvorak messed with her phone. I'm going to find Rosa and your faerie princess friend. Make yourself at home for now."
Calimero nodded, and then Tamasine was gone without another word. He saw Collodi, Blue, and two other people seated around Milaya. There was a black boy with his arm around here, and an oriental kid much younger than either of them looking at another one of those devices. Tamasine's brother, maybe?
He walked over to the seating area, drawing attention to him. "Who's that?" the black kid asked as Milaya got up from her seat.
She ran toward Calimero and wrapped her arms around him, emitting a sob. "I'm so glad you're okay."
Calimero felt his face flush. "Uh..."
The oriental kid giggled. "Rifka, I think you're cutting off his circulation!"
"Rifka." Calimero pulled away from Milaya. "Is that you?"
It was Milaya's turn to blush. "We have codenames that we go by. It helps us keep our distance from our assignments. That's why I told you to call me Milaya. But my real name is Rifka Ivanovna Moscavitz. I'm sorry I didn't tell you before."
"You had your reasons." Calimero tried to smile. "Rifka Ivanovna Moscavitz. It's as long as Calimero Antonio Pineiro. Good to finally meet the real you."
Rifka introduced the black kid as Jason, one of her friends from her world, and the oriental kid as Jen. Jason was dressed in regular Fiorazian wear, with suspenders and pageboy cap, while Jen was in a long Chinese robe. "Our wardrobes sometimes change depending on what world we go to," Rifka told Calimero, "but my regular dress fits in pretty well anyway."
"Liking the corset, though," Jason chided, and Rifka blushed.
"That would be why your friend was wearing Asian wear as well," Calimero said. "He was Asian. What was his name...the kid with the goggles?"
"Just call him Tama," Rifka said. "It's kind of a mouthful. We have another friend from Mexico -- uh, do you know what Mexico is? You're originally from Spain. In our world, Mexico was owned by Spain for a while, so the languages and some basic culture is the same."
"Don't know where Rosa went, though." Jason thumbed through his communicator. "She's probably blowing up Cendrillon's castle at the moment. Oh, Tama's headed here with the princess."
No sooner had he spoke than Tama arrived, Daisy by his side. "I will never understand you," Daisy said, ruffling Tama's hair and walking into the middle of the group. She was dressed as a boy again, but removed her cap to reveal her hair and ears. "I need everybody's attention, please."
Blue had been in sleep mode up until this point; Collodi reached over and pressed the wake-up button on the back of her neck. With them still missing her permanent power charge source, he was trying to conserve as much energy as possible. "I'm lost as a tumbleweed," Collodi said. "Let's clear this up as much as we can."
Tama pulled Rifka in for a quick hug, then motioned for Jason and Jen to stand. "We don't have to wait for Rosa. The important thing is that all of you are here. The four of us are from an organization called the Quintessential Works for Everyday Reasons to Yield. We are here to help with your world, but we are also here to combat our greatest enemy, who keeps ruining things for a lot of universes. Rifka has mentioned that she has gathered forces to fight him."
"Actually, he keeps trying to talk to me," Rifka pointed out. "Haven't caught you up on that yet."
"That bast --" Jason caught his tongue, forgetting that he was in the presence of royalty.
"You have dealt with this man before?" Daisy noted. "Who is he?"
"Dude." Collodi spoke up. "He just showed up in the middle of Milaya's speech today and performed a freezing spell. Like he stopped time or sumthin'."
"You have mentioned having an enemy before, and while I knew we didn't share a common enemy, I haven't seen him in action." Daisy crossed her legs. "I demand to know who this man is."
Rifka tried to keep from crying. "His name is Dvorak."
Sarah Dealey ran a hand through her long brown hair. "Seriously. You four should have anticipated this by now."