The White Rose of Fiorazzurro
Chapter 9 (or, “Begin the Breakdown”)
Calimero thought that his relationship with Milaya would change for the worse when he became this so-appointed guardian. He didn't even know what that meant. But he knew that he would do anything Milaya asked of him. Such a pretty girl asking him to help her? Of course he would take the reins, move mountains, make whatever potions were necessary.
Surprisingly, though, Milaya seemed to soften around him more now. It was like a switch had been flipped, and she trusted him more. Before, she had seemed so aversive, confused, lost. But now...Calimero considered it might be because she now had an ally in this world. From another Moscow? Calimero didn't know what to think of it yet, but there had been theories as of late about alternate universes, mostly studied in London. There had been rumors of people in strange jackets monitoring all of reality, and a strange alien in a police box who kept kidnapping people, but those were all just rumors.
Or so he had figured, up until now.
He gave Milaya the rest of the eggs and picked up all of his clothes, finally depositing them into his sleeping space. Those could be washed later. All of the mixing instruments went back into the cupboard, and the mixing pots underneath the sink. Then, he picked up the five size A beakers he had and put them back on the shelf, where they belonged.
Milaya took one of the beakers from the shelf, coming over to investigate. "Has anybody told you that you have too many of these? You probably get that a lot."
"Actually, I don't, but I really don't have that many friends here. So nobody sees this lab." Calimero sat all of the size B beakers in a row, starting on the C size. "Be careful with these ones. They're skinnier and made of less glass than the bigger ones."
"Understood. Do you always do inventory on Monday?" The word Monday translated weird for Milaya, coming out as 'day-of-one.'
"I do. I mean, I was. I haven't done it in three Onedays or so, which is why my lab is a glorious mess." Calimero swept up all of the extra beakers on the table and put them near the sink. "You have to be careful sometimes when cleaning up, because you never know when something will blow. I'm good enough that I put away all of the chemicals and clean those parts after I am done with every batch. It's general maintenance that I'm no good with."
Now that most everything was put away, he reached up behind a cabinet and pulled down a huge binder, stapled together with three rings. He grabbed the small screwdriver from where it had been fastened to the front cover and, opening the book, unscrewed the opening mechanism. The binder popped open, and he grabbed a fresh sheet of paper. He twisted the screwdriver until the screw part disappeared and the ink pen came out the top. He then scrawled in long writing: OL 1994 Oneday 8.
"Is that your inventory?" Milaya asked.
"That it is. Can you just wash those beakers out with water and put them to dry?"
"Okay." Calimero still didn't know the meaning of that word. Milaya reached for the beakers on the first shelf, getting the smallest ones first and rinsing them out with basic water. Calimero had already performed the cleaning ritual with each glass, making sure magic residue was long gone, but they still needed a good cleaning out. Besides, it gave Milaya something to do.
It reminded him of the strange device in Milaya's pocket. "That thing you have -- does it run on electricity?"
"It's supposed to. Battery power. I don't think you guys know what a recharge is -- you essentially plug it into the wall, like any regular electrical device. Like your television. And you can use it while it's plugged in like a regular device, but there's a battery inside of it that recognizes the electrical current and holds some of the power inside of it. Then, when you unplug it, it uses that stored electrical current to operate off of. It's commonplace in my world, but even I had to get used to it at first. We didn't have a lot of devices like that in Moscow."
Calimero understood, for the most part. A battery could hold a stored electrical charge, but he had never heard of properly recharging it so it could be used again and again. He wondered how Collodi's robot worked. Probably by magic, as Daisy had said. "It's actually really strange. Up until a few years ago, electricity wasn't even prevalent in Fiorazzurro. Master Rossini had this television for years back in Italy before moving here, and he used to power it with magic
Milaya nodded. "What year is it, anyway? I think the gestation period of our cultures is a bit different."
"Our Year of our Lord, one thousand nine hundred and ninety four. Why?"
Definitely different than 1994 in Russia, Milaya thought to herself. Her research had proven that this world was similar in many ways to the late 1800's of her world, back when Queen Victoria had been on the throne in England. But electricity hadn't become widespread until the 20th century, and television didn't blossom as a form of entertainment until the 1950's. Seemed as if the Industrial Revolution was just happening in this world, and times and places were all out of order.
It made her think of a part of this world that was decidedly 19th-century in its execution. "We took the train back here from the Traders Market, didn't we?"
"That we did. It's unique to Fiorazzurro in that it's built just under the ground. It had to be, because the ground here is so shallow. They had talked for years back in the day about building it elevated, but Prince Len wanted to invest in the new technology."
"The ruler of Fiorazzurro before Queen Cendrillon. He was definitely pro-magic, but there was a huge plague, and nobody's immune to those attacks."
"That's horrible. How did you survive?"
"Oh, I wasn't living in Fiorazzurro at the time. I was still in Spain, for the most part. I arrived towards the end of the plague."
"Spain." Milaya smiled, and then, she spoke with amazing clarity in a language Calimero hadn't heard for years. "He oído hablar de España." It was a little off in parts, and he could definitely tell her dialect wasn't the same, but it was still his home language. It made him tear up. Italian was similar but so much different.
"Regardless," Milaya continued, oblivious to the memories he had brought back for Calimero, "I'd love to see this train system again. I visit many different worlds, and I like to take notes on all of the ones i find my way to."
"You speak Spanish."
"A little bit. One of my associates is from Mexico. Have you heard of Mexico?"
"That I have. But the Mexican Empire is on the other side of the world, and we don't talk about that." Calimero made a note to tell Milaya about the other side of the world, someday, when he got the chance. She'd probably find it interesting and would add it to her collection of notes from this world. But now was not the time and place to speak of such things. Perhaps Daisy or Collodi could help with that conversation. "Right. The train."
Milaya finished cleaning the rest of the beakers, and Calimero started his inventory in the meantime. There were twenty four weight loss potions, thirty sleep potions, and fifteen face washes in the lab right now. Rana and Luka would arrive at some point today with the rest of his stock, but he figured he had at least ten more of each of those. He sighed. He also didn't know how many magical potions he had been storing in the back of the booth, and he'd have to wait on his friends for that as well. They probably wouldn't be here until late, as Luka had work and Rana was watching Luka's two-year-old son all day.
Well, he would just do what he could with what time he had. There were forty-six Canary Nightlights; he knew he hadn't taken any of those with him to the market yesterday. The Nightlights would glow if you uncapped them, which made them a safe flashlight alternative. Pretty inexpensive and really easy to make, which was why he had so many. In the back were ten Scent Blockers, which enabled the drinker to stop smelling for twenty-four hours. This was particularly effective if you were working with magical beasts, or if you had a real life mess to clean up. Calimero hadn't sold a lot of them since summoners had been banned from Fiorazzurro, but you never knew when you would need one.
There were four Transformation Potions, which Calimero only had for example and if someone wanted an incredibly generic one. Typically, Transformation Potions had to be made very specific to the person or thing you wanted to become, and so you usually needed a piece of the person to go into the potion. These potions wouldn't change your actual appearance but would make you the opposite sex for a week. Calimero considered that Daisy might want to buy one of these, and he reshuffled the stack so that the female-to-male potions were right in the front. That would remind him if he ever saw her again.
There were a few energy potions -- based off the same concept as electricity but used for giving people that extra boost they needed to get through the end of the day -- and two Firebreathers, useful if you wanted to breathe fire as a stunt in the Traders Market but also helpful if you were a Fire mage and needed help controlling your art. Healing potions were a dozen a bit, the small clear bottles all in a row. Calimero often heard jokes from his older clientele that the healing potions looked like something else entirely, but it wasn't his fault the mixture came out looking like white-colored snot. That's just how the mix worked.
Then there were his magnum opi, the potions he loved to make but never had the right supplies for. He had one left of the Poison Healer, a very specific brand of the healing potions he made that targeted both regular and magical poisons, expelling them from the body within two minutes (or your money back). The Euphoriasa made the drinker seem happy and light as a cloud, inducing mania for up to two weeks. It took forever to make but was only really popular with Calimero's songstrummer friends, who would use it when writing a new song or perfecting a new dance, to stay up all hours of the night practicing. Exploders were like poof chalk, but on a grander scale. If you really wanted to cause some damage, you would throw the bottle of Exploder down and it would react immediately, detonating and setting fire to everything within a hundred meter's radius. Definitely dangerous, which warranted the high bit price.
Then there was Calimero's favorite, and one he only really made for himself. The Memorium tasted like pineapples in summertime, but its effect was to make a person's memories so vivid that it was actually like they were back in time. Calimero used it every once in a while, after a particularly hard day at work when all he could think about was sleep. He would ingest a small shot of the potion and then go to bed, able to be immersed in Spain, sleeping by his mother while she listened to her radionovelas, lulled with the memory of the summer heat and playing in the Plaza.
He wondered what would happen if he made Milaya take a shot of the Memorium. Would she remember Moscow in the same way?
"Done for now," he said. "We have to wait on my friends for the rest. They still have my stock from yesterday, and they'll be here this afternoon. Would you like to go out for lunch? I've got a bit of extra money from yesterday."
Milaya nodded. "Show me your best in Fiorazzurro, Calimero."
They exited the lab after that, Calimero reminding Milaya to pull her hair out of the bun she had put it in. They went down the alley and across two more streets before finding their way back to a bustling hub of activity. Strada Pianure Bianche -- White Plains Way -- was where they had gotten off the train the night before, and was a street filled with shops, restaurants, and even a small park where children could gather. It wasn't a plaza, but it was a good place to find food nonetheless.
Calimero took Milaya around the way, stopping at a traditional deli to get some sandwiches for lunch. It wasn't anything fancy, but he didn't want to give the wrong impression to her. They sat for a while and she listened to him talk about his upbringing in Spain, how he had lived with his mother and how peaceful it had been there. He then spoke of Master Rossini and coming to Fiorazzurro to learn chemistry, whispering under his breath that they shouldn't speak of magic in public. Milaya nodded her understanding.
He spoke of Master Rossini, how he had always smiled behind faded glasses, and how he would quickly whisk the materials needed for a potion, stirring it together so that it all mixed before you could identify the singular elements. He gave mention to Irma, the glassblower who made his bottles, and how she 'knew' about his gifts but wasn't a user herself. He spoke of Luka and Rana, how Luka had made the quilts he slept in and how Rana was a basic spell caster in addition to a wand maker. "There's a small community here," he said.
"There are...so many different people. We'll need to gather them all. We'll probably need all of their unique skills. I'd like to start by finding your friends from the other day -- the cowboy man and Daisy. Is there any way to contact them or to find out where they live?"
"Hmm. Daisy said she was new to the neighborhood, but Collodi should be listed in the directory. I can check it when we get home. Do you want to check out the train?"
He led the way for her, and she scanned in again using her device. This time, the device lit up as it scanned over the machine, and Calimero shook his head. He still didn't know how the blasted device worked. He inserted his ID card, and the gates opened for him after reading the grooves. Electronic information in the gate would trace him back to this gate in the event of an emergency -- or if the Queen wanted his head for treason -- but otherwise the gates were strictly for show. People jumped them all the time.
They got on the next train headed to the center of town, and Milaya stepped in, seating herself. "Moscow doesn't have trains like this, but there was another place I traveled with an extensive train network."
Calimero nodded as the doors closed behind them, and then, without warning, the lights went out. "It's okay, it does this sometimes --"
A voice ran over the loudspeaker in a language Calimero couldn't identify. It sounded an awful lot like English, but the accent was horribly off, with stresses in the wrong places and words he straight up couldn't identify. Many languages were spoken in Fiorazzurro, especially in the Market, even though the only official language was Italian. But what was this?
He turned to Milaya, but her eyes were wide, intently listening to the message being broadcast. "What is it saying?"
She turned to him. "It's for me. It's my -- it's my boss. I can hear her, in the speakers. We have to get off this train. Now."
She had just wanted to see the train, and now she wanted off it? "Um, all right. There should be a stop in --" Calimero watched as the train sped through the next local stop without even stopping. He looked around, but nobody else was fazed by this turn of events, just him and Milaya.
"And what about you, Calimero Pineiro?" the voice said over the loudspeaker, this time in Italian. "The one who has been chosen. You have so much to give this world and so little time to make it all right again. Follow the girl. Release the survival tactics." Then, the train lurched to a halt, the lights snapped on, and the regular conductor's voice announced there was a train ahead.
Calimero clung to one of the doors for dear life. What was going on here? Why had the train just done that? And what did Milaya have to do with it? He looked back at her and remembered what she had said. "Get off the train. Gather the magic users. Sooner, rather than later."
He finally understood...there was something going on, and if he didn't do as she said...they were all doomed.