451 The Botanist
Sitting there with the quietness of his own thoughts, something caught the corner of his eye; between a grouping of trees, he saw something move. He didn’t sense anybody else in the garden until that moment, getting up as he found himself following the briefly seen silhouette.
Though he had no idea why he felt so drawn into pursuing the mysterious figure, passing by the trees as he walked through the grass, for some reason, it made the accursed right eye heat up.
‘This feeling…It’s familiar. I don’t like it very much,’ he thought.
As he passed through the trees, he left the bounds of the Desim garden, entering a new section of the city that was surprisingly quiet and empty.
There was a single shop hidden behind the wall of trees beyond the threshold of the garden; a simple, small establishment that looked like a wooden lodge at first glance, but was a shop indeed.
“Hm,” he glanced around.
It was odd that there was just the one, single store, tucked away behind the public garden. There was no doubt it would be impossible to find if he didn’t stumble upon it, seeing as the many trees hid it away.
There were a few plants sitting on the window sills of the shop, inhabiting soft-orange pots. Of course, it became clear what sort of establishment it was–a florist shop.
‘When I look at this place, my eye…it gets warmer,’ he thought, covering his right eye for a moment.
Approaching the front of the shop, there wasn’t any way to actually look in, as potted plants on the other side of the windows obscured any view and the door itself was completely made out of wood. Deciding to go ahead and enter the shop, he turned the handle and opened the door as it released a small jingle.
Entering the shop, he let the door close on its own as he entered, immediately taken by surprise by the fresh, natural air residing within the florist shop. There were dozens, if not hundreds of potted plants, each being unique in their own right; flowers that bore bright-blue petals, and some of a fiery red shade.
“Hello?” He called out to anybody in the shop.
It was an odd shop; some of the plants were “alive”–more than the bare minimum definition of living. He passed by some plants that swayed and moved their vines like limbs.
Just as he passed by the shelves of lively plants, his guard was raised by the voice that spoke his surname, causing his hand to instantly reach towards his sword.
“Calm yourself. Do you sense any hostility?”
A man spoke with a voice as soft as silk, yet it hardly felt welcoming.
After pausing for a moment, Emilio relaxed his guard as he got a better look at the owner of the florist shop, who was tending to a potted plant.
The owner had soft, almost transparent, white hair with pale skin and light-gray eyes. There was something oddly familiar about the man, though he swore he’d never seen him.
It was a feeling; one that exemplified itself as he found his right eye heating up again.
“Nnh…” Emilio quietly grimaced, covering his eye.
‘My eye…It’s reacting to this guy—why?’ Emilio questioned.
“That eye does not deceive you,” the florist spoke softly, “You know who I am.”
Standing there for a moment, he didn’t want to take a guess as it felt all too unbelievable. After a minute, he finally uttered out the name he was afraid of cementing into reality:
“…Adam,” Emilio guessed.
The only confirmation was no response from the white-haired florist, who continues watering the plants by his desk.
Emilio was taken aback that his guess was right, “Why’re you here? How—in this form, are you..?”
The presence of the Primordial in the form of a mortal was nothing short of worrying to Emilio. Despite the tranquil nature of the shop with the subtle, translucent man calmly tending to his menagerie of plants, it was a concerning sight.
“Worry not. I did not possess the man you see before you. This entire shop and myself, in fact, are an extension of my original being. I’ve created it to reach out to you,” Adam assured him.
“Then what is it?” Emilio asked impatiently.
“You’re running out of time, Dragonheart,” Adam told him, speaking with utter truth in his damning words.
“…Running out? For what?” Emilio sounded worried.
Adam walked around, rolling up the sleeves of his buttoned-up, snow-white shirt as he moved some pots around, “Those troublesome worshippers—the Children of Chaos. Ah, it’s a bit misleading to refer to them as such.”
“What’re you talking about? What do you know about them?”
“Careful now. You know better than anyone that my knowledge comes with a price—for now, I’d hold your questions lest you’d like to begin paying,” Adam warned him.
Those words quickly reminded him of what he lost as he looked at his mechanical arm, gulping before nodding as he listened quietly.
Adam watched him before continuing, “Good. What I meant to say is, the Children of Chaos are not a simple cult. It would be more appropriate to call them an army of a kingdom; one of a hierarchy and relationships with other lands.”
While talking, the mortal-assuming Primordial added fresh soil to a pot that held crimson spider lilies. Emilio watched the figure carefully, engrossed in whatever knowledge he was willing to part with.
“I’m sure you’re aware of it by now, but they’ve obtained the favor of a number of Primordials. It’s not all of them, though; many of us are against this partnership,” Adam explained, “—There’s no singular reason for those for or against it. For me, humans should not weaponise such powers; not at this scale.”
“So, we’ve got a common enemy then?” Emilio asked.
“You can say that,” Adam responded, “That brings me to why I brought you here—I have a proposal; a method in which you can gain the power necessary to combat that organization.”
From the mouth of Adam, such words weren’t exaggerated; whatever it was, Emilio was listening closely. The many plants that made the shop feel more like a garden itself, seemed to sway as Adam continued.
“You have to become a ‘sage’,” the white-haired figure told him with his index finger held up.
“One becomes a Sage through a completion of painstaking, arduous trials. Only one obtaining the favor of one of the Four Great World Spirits are you recognized as a sage. As a result, you will be vastly more powerful,” Adam explained.
As if presenting this offer, the mortal-assuming figure snapped his fingers as a small scale pot representing an ecosystem morphed itself. The diorama of nature switched between a thunderstorm, a hellish landscape of fire and ash, a turbulent valley of stone, and a swirling sea.
“You’ll need to reach the sacred Island of The Grand to begin this journey—however, reaching it is a trial in itself: any boats will be crushed by the warding sea and the sky will breathe away any that approach,” Adam informed him.
“I can take you there,” Adam offered, stepping to the side as he revealed a door that wasn’t there the moment prior, “However, you will need to make your choice now.”
There was no need to ask for clarification as he already knew what sort of entity he was bartering with. Conditions always existed when gaining anything from Adam; he knew that well.
‘Right now—what he’s telling me is that I need to make this choice without telling anybody. I won’t have the choice to explain it, and who knows how long I’ll be gone. But what he’s saying is true—I’ll be able to gain the strength I need. Fighting “Darkness” showed me that I’m not where I need to be,’ he considered.
It felt as though he had just reunited with his friends and family, so asking him to leave them again was a tough ask, though he knew deep down that if it was something that the Primordial went this far to tell him of, it was something needed.
‘Leaving them again…Even worse, I’d be disappearing without a word again–dead or alive, they wouldn’t know. Hold on…This might just work,’ he thought.
As though a lightbulb illuminated above his head, a refreshing thought filled his mind–a hopeful one, though perhaps a stretch.
“I’ve got a deal–one that’s too good to pass if you’re really standing against the Children of Chaos,” Emilio said.
The silken-haired figure looked intrigued, momentarily stopping himself as he tended to his assortment of flowers, “And what would that be?”
Emilio looked into the figure’s eyes, holding three fingers up, “I’ll bring three other people with me to the Island of The Grand. You said there were four of these World Spirits, right?”
“…I did,” Adam nodded with a small smile, seeming to understand what was being implied.
“Then if you only need to have the favor of one of the World Spirits to become a sage, then me and the three others can each obtain one–that’ll make four sages, not just one,” Emilio offered.
Adam put his hand to his chin, nodding before returning his offer, “You are aware that the Trial of Sages is one that results in death nine-times-out-ten…and that’s accounting only for those who reach the Island.”
“I am,” Emilio nodded.
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“I see,” Adam said, “I accept those conditions–however, who is it you’ll be bringing? I can transport them along with you–however, they will not be given any warning. You’ll all be thrown into different segments of the Island of The Grand–a masterfully dangerous land, I might say. Are you fine with those parameters?”
“Let’s do it,” Emilio accepted without hesitation, “…I’ll bring these three.”