|Harena 2 |
Things were going slow for Professor Ng. During the particular time of year, the lava in Heartache Rift was at its highest point, causing her to cancel plans to trek back down to continue her search (which initially was halted due to the sudden attack from those sinister dragons). Fortunately, the lava was showing signs of decline, though the Rift would be too dangerous to explore for a few months still. Not much could be done in Risa for the knowledge-hungry scientist, either, because of Ingrid’s constantly growing informational library. Overall, Agatha Ng was stuck; her last truly big assignment was during the devastating disease outbreak, which nearly cost her her life. “The best discoveries are to come,” Agatha kept telling herself, despite the grim outlook that the next “big” thing could possibly be in a future generation.
This day, though, Ng had planned to have lunch with Callie like she did once every week. The subject of such dinners differed with each week; though they nearly always had topics relating to Callie’s past. Even though Agatha knew Callie was growing frustrated of the constant hammering of details of her past, the professor was desperate to find something about Cruithne that she didn’t know yet. Callie, like every time before, ordered some lemon pancakes to eat, along with a cold glass of milk. One day, Ng tried to order for Callie, since Callie orders the same thing each time. However, Callie wouldn’t allow it. This puzzled Agatha, but since Callie has ordered her meals for herself.
This particular meeting, however, would prove to be slightly different than those before. As Kouren approached Agatha and Callie’s table, Agatha sensed something different about her friend. “Well, hello, ladies. I assume you both want your usual orders?” Kouren asked, never letting go of that homely smile she used so perfectly.
“Actually, no, Kouren,” Callie said softly. “Today, I’d like only a glass of water, please. I’m actually haven’t worked up a good enough appetite to eat just yet.”
Kouren scribbled down some notes on the slip of paper she held in her hand, and looked to Agatha for a reply. Agatha, being started by the change of routine, decided to order only a glass of water, as well. “Coming right up,” Kouren proudly exclaimed.
Jokingly, Ng said, “Those pancakes are finally getting to you, aren’t they?”
Unfortunately, Callie seemed to not respond to the professor’s humor. “I just don’t feel like eating, is all.”
Ng nodded, and after a short, awkward pause, decided to break the silence. “So, last time you were talking a bit about your crew, would you…?”
“Please, change the subject, Agatha. It’s getting incredibly tiresome to have to explain every detail of my life here over to you each week. Besides, I think perhaps I hold control of today’s conversation, if that would be okay with you?”
Startled, Agatha nodded quickly. “I meant no offense to you, Callie.”
“Oh, old friend, I know. Sometimes your never ending thirst for knowledge about the same subject gets a little… Well, boring.” At this time, Kouren arrived with the two glasses of water, along with a handful of candies.
“It isn’t like the both of you to not order something on the menu, so take these complimentary sweets instead,” Kouren said quickly. Both Agatha and Callie accepted the sweets happily. The candy wrappers were extremely colorful beyond any means. Kouren could make anything look enticing. Settlers say that she could make a can of black sludge look scrumptious – though the skilled cook was not about to mess with such a dirty material.
After a sip of water, Callie continued. “Well, Agatha, I wanted to ask if you knew about Harena…?”
“What about Harena?”
“Well, surely you know of the folklore about the place. All I’m saying is that perhaps instead of hounding me for more information you’ve heard about a dozen times, why not take your studies there?” Callie began to unwrap on the candies that lay in the center of the wooden table.
“Last I heard, the Harenian leader, Brandhardt, wasn’t about to let anyone conduct studies in the city, especially me. Since the disease outbreak, he’s been somewhat hostile towards me.”
“That’s certainly true. Maybe someday he will come to his senses on things. We just need to find something different to talk about during our little talks here. I mean, come on Aggie, you have got to have something new to talk about. You are Cruithne’s only professor, that we know of.”
Ng frowned. “That’s just it, Callie. There is nothing. There has been nothing for months, and it is getting slightly depressing. I need something to keep my mind focused. Otherwise, I’ll be an ex-adventurer, selling goods like Veles.”
Callie did catch Agatha’s humor that time. “Ah, ol’ Veles. I haven’t heard from him lately. But that really is beside the point. Maybe you should head back down to Heartache Rift. I’m confident that you could discover something new there.”
With a piece of candy rolling in her hand, the professor chuckled. “Did you not see my face after my last failed attempt to travel to the Rift? Those dragons got the best of me. And, frankly, even if those dragons do let me pass, I’m afraid the lava will be a hindrance to explore any deeper.”
Callie stood up, and walked over to her friend. With a hand patting Ng’s back, Callie said, “At least you could look around on your way there, you know. You have more of a chance to find something worthwhile if you at least try to head back up to Heartache Rift. Sitting here sulking about it will get you nowhere… not to mention it'll give me a headache!”
“I guess you’re right. I do need to get away, even if it is for a short while.” Ng popped a piece of candy into her mouth. “Would you care to go out there with me? I’m sure Veles is too busy with his store, otherwise I would ask him.”
Callie shook her head. “Sorry, friend, I already have plans with Ingrid back in Risa. We’re starting a book club up there.” She looked around to find Kouren humming in the back, bringing out some fresh doughnuts. “Kouren, how much do we owe you?”
Kouren laughed. “Don’t worry about it. It just makes me happy when you both pay me a visit.”
Both Agatha and Callie put a few DP on the table, anyway. “Well, take a little DP at least, Kouren. It could help pay for the other things you’ve let us get out of paying,” Callie said.
Kouren couldn’t hear now, as she had her head near the oven, ready to put another batch of food in.
Callie pointed a finger at Ng. “If you need anything, just let me know.”
“Alright, I guess I will give heading out to the Rift another try.”
“Good! And if you ever want to join the book club, you know where to find me!”
And with that, Callie exited the café. Agatha let out a sigh of relief. Maybe, she thought, just maybe she would find something to spark her interest yet again. Finally, Ng walked out of Kouren’s shop, heading towards her lab to gather the needed supplies for exploring.