Keep Smiling: Part Three
Lumin's apartment consisted of three bedrooms, a bathroom, and a common room with the kitchen attached to it. It ensured that anyone living in it was going to come in contact with one another on a daily basis. That was, unless they holed themselves up in their rooms, only coming out when absolutely necessary.
Which was essentially what Lampyri had been doing ever since she arrived and was still doing a few days later. Had Lumin not knocked on her door and suggested that she come out, since locking herself in her room was not going to do anything positive for her state of mind, Lampyri might have kept it up for a long time.
So she decided to take his advice and leave her room. Lampyri reclined herself on one of the two couches in the living room, clasped her hands together, and thought, Now what? She had never had this feeling before: The feeling of not knowing what to do with her time. It wasn't that she never had free time before. It was just that she never had so much of it and hardly anyone to spend it with.
There was Lumin, sure. And she had made casual conversation with him even back when he was a king. But she still couldn't look at Lumin and not see him as the person she used to take orders from.
Dimitri... Well, Lampyri still didn't know what to think of him just yet. She really didn't know anything about him –aside from coming from the surface- and she hadn't really bothered to try to learn. It probably wouldn't have been the best idea to ask Dimitri questions at that moment anyways, as Lampyri noticed during the few times that she saw him that he was still a bit annoyed at Lampyri over their first meeting. Then again, not speaking to him nor making any effort to get to know him couldn't have been helping matters either.
On the subject of Dimitri, there was an awful lot of activity coming from him in the past couple hours. Lampyri had been hearing him go back and forth between his room and outside the apartment. Now that she was out in the living room, Lampyri actually got to see what was going on. She saw Dimitri sling a couple bags of nuts and bolts over his shoulder with one hand while carrying a toolbox in the other. He closed his bedroom door shut with his tail, indicating that this was his last trip.
"Moving out?" Lampyri asked as he began to walk by.
Dimitri glared at her, as if taking her question to mean that she wanted him to. "No, I'm not," he replied flatly. "I have a job on the other side of the cavern and I'm staying down there until it's done."
Lampyri raised her eyebrow. "What kind of job do you have that requires you to travel like that?" As a member of the military of the City of Lights, there were times that Lampyri had to go on missions that meant being away from home for several days. But Dimitri didn't exactly look like soldier-material to Lampyri.
"He's a freelance mechanic. He gets hired to do work all over Central Cavern and some of the surrounding caves. It's simpler and more time-efficient to stay near the job if it's particularly far away," Lumin explained from the kitchen. He was inspecting something in particular on one of the walls; whatever it was, it prompted him to inquire, "Dimitri, how long do you think this one will take to complete?"
"A week or two, probably," Dimitri answered with a sigh. He then scratched the back of his head and began to apologize, "Sorry I can't look at the clock for you. This job just came up. It's too bad, I was actually looking forward to seeing how Moltaran clocks work."
Lumin took his eyes off of the broken clock and said with a small laugh, "Then I'll just have to make sure that no one else fixes it until you get back. Have a safe trip."
Dimitri returned the laugh as he held his hand up to Lumin and walked towards the door. "I will! See you in about a week!"
It wasn't until Lumin was certain that Dimitri had left did he enter the living room and say to Lampyri, "Dimitri's a good person. Which is why –as far as he knows- you and I are just simple refugees from a fallen kingdom. He doesn't know who we really are and what actually happened. I didn't want to force him into such a mess. To tell you the truth, I'm not sure he would even believe me if I did tell him."
Lampyri began to think about the fact that Dimitri was in the dark about the Fireflies, but another thought was suddenly brought up. It had just dawned on her that something wasn't quite right. Hearing Lumin talk about his living situation reminded her of it, but she couldn't believe that she had forgot to ask about it in the first place.
"Sire... Is it just you and Dimitri that live here?" Lampyri questioned him.
Lampyri could feel her heart start to sink a little. "Where's Flicker?"
The question caught Lumin completely off guard. He tightly shut his eyes as he adopted a despaired expression and sighed, "I don't know."
Flicker was Lumin's son. The last time Lampyri saw Flicker, he was a scared little boy being carried out of the City of Lights by his father before the rebellion got the chance to do anything to them. Flicker hadn't been in the City of Lights for three years and now Lampyri was just learning that he wasn't with Lumin either. Just the thought of little Flicker completely alone with nowhere to go gave Lampyri a sickening feeling.
Although Flicker probably wasn't so little by that point. Flicker was the first Firefly whose life had been damaged by The Engineer, and he hadn't even left his egg when she cursed him. He was four-years-old when Lampyri brought up the subject of him, but The Engineer caused him to age much more rapidly; Lampyri figured that Flicker would be an adolescent by now. It wasn't something she liked reminding herself about. She and Glowstick were the ones that were guarding his egg when The Engineer got a hold of him and therefore were the ones that failed to protect him from harm. Even four years later, neither Lampyri nor Glowstick could get over that.
Lampyri could see that the mere mention of Flicker was causing Lumin a considerable amount of pain. But she believed that Lumin still deserved to know what little she had heard about what happened to Flicker and explained, "Infrared said that he and Flicker were ambushed after you had split up. He protected Flicker, but he was knocked out in the process. When he woke up, Flicker was nowhere to be found." Lampyri groaned in distress, "We... We all hoped that he had caught up with you..."
Lumin sat down on one of the sofas, nearly letting himself fall onto it. "Infrared and I had agreed that Central Cavern would be our rendezvous point and that he would bring Flicker here. I waited for them. Infrared never showed up, and neither did Flicker. So I started looking for Flicker myself. I searched all over Central Cavern. I started to look in the neighboring caves, but I still couldn't find him," Lumin told Lampyri as he held his head in his hands. As Lumin spoke, he moved his hands further over his eyes. It was no coincidence that Lumin's voice began to break and shudder at the same time. "Flicker's gone, isn't he?"
Lampyri became crestfallen to hear Lumin say that. She had always known him to be somewhat of a pessimist, but this was on an entirely new level. "Sire! Don't say that! Don't give up on him!" When Lumin removed his hands from his eyes, Lampyri gave him a smile. In the past, that smile was always able to lift his spirits up when they were at rock-bottom. "There's no proof that Flicker's gone. You can't give up so easily! He could still be alive!"
This time –however- Lampyri's efforts were futile. Lumin wiped his eyes, but continued to hang his head. "Thank you for your concern, Lampyri. But... I don't want to talk about this any further," Lumin murmured before he stood up and walked to his room.
Lampyri sat in place as her smile went away. After some time, Lampyri got up and left the apartment, figuring that she needed some space to herself too.
* * *
Central Cavern was a strange place in many ways for Lampyri. The streets and roads felt cramped; Lampyri was used to flying from place to place with plenty of room around her, as was the case in the City of Lights. Lampyri saw sections of the city that were separated by their different architectural styles as she flew by. That, and there was so much variety in the kinds of Neopets that lived around her, whether they were surface-dwellers or Moltarans. For as long as Lampyri had been alive, she had never been to any place in Moltara that was so diverse.
After flying above the city for a while, Lampyri landed on the rooftop of a building not terribly far from the light shop. She sat down, watching the Neopets below walk by and listened to the gears within the building spin. Lampyri stayed there for a long time, reflecting on the past few years.
Lampyri had launched an innumerable amount of failed attempts to save the Fireflies from The Engineer. But even in the face of that, she still didn't want to stop trying. There had to be a way. But she didn't have any ideas that she hadn't already tried.
The plethora of species and colors living in Central Cavern continued to amaze Lampyri as she watched them. It reminded her a little of the range of colors and species that lived in the City of Lights after The Engineer had her way with it. Lampyri laughed humorlessly; three years ago if a Firefly was stuck in the middle of the crowd she saw below her, Lampyri would wager that they'd stick out quite well. Now, a sample between the inhabitants of Central Cavern and the City of Lights would be nigh-indistinguishable.
It was like a light switched on in her head.
Lampyri rested her chin on her fist and scrutinized the crowd even more. Her eyes grew bigger as she returned to the thought she just had. She mulled it over as she sat there and would continue to think about it even after she returned to the apartment.
* * *
As the days went by, Lampyri slowly realized that the idea she had wasn't a passing thought, but the first stage of a possible solution. She worked it out in her head, elaborating on it and forming the rough outline of a plan. But before she proceeded any further, she needed feedback, as well as assistance.
Lampyri walked into the light store and went into the workshop in the back of the building. Lumin was working on a lantern and didn't look up at Lampyri as she entered. He knew that Lampyri was there, but he still didn't take his focus off of his work. There was still a mournful expression on his face; his fixation on working was likely a deliberate attempt to force his mind to avoid certain memories.
"Sire," Lampyri said, trying to get Lumin to look at her.
"I told you not to call me that," Lumin reminded her bitterly.
Lampyri gave a heavy sigh. She thought briefly about coming back when Lumin was in a better mood, but she decided against it. "I think I've figured out a way to save the Fireflies and I want to know what you think of it."
Lumin stopped working. Lampyri had seized his interest.
"I've noticed that I haven't seen The Engineer since I came to Central Cavern. And am I to assume you haven't encountered her here either?" Lampyri asked. When Lumin replied with a negative, she continued, "That's strange. Even though there hasn't been much we could do against The Engineer, you and I still have a lot of reason to try to figure out a way to get rid of her. And now that we're no longer in the City of Lights, you would think that she would come looking for us. I'm wondering... is that because something's preventing her from searching for us? Is it because Central Cavern is too big and populated?
"I've also noticed that there's a huge variety of Neopets living here in Central Cavern. It's like the way the City of Lights is now. The Fireflies would be able to blend in so easily here! What if we went back to the City of Lights and convinced the Fireflies to move to Central Cavern where they could hide from The Engineer?"
Lumin turned in his seat to face Lampyri directly. He took what Lampyri told him seriously and gave it a lot of thought. Eventually, he said, "Even if I'm no longer a king, I still want to do something to help my city. I don't want to sit here while so many people suffer."
Lumin stood up and walked over to a shelf. He picked up a box and opened it in front of Lampyri, revealing a large amount of Neopoints. "I've been saving these Neopoints in the case of a bad day. But if we're going to bring Fireflies to Central Cavern, then I'll use whatever savings I have now and in the future to help them get on their feet."
Lampyri gave a weak smile, relieved that Lumin had supported her idea. But the white Buzz wasn't done giving his thoughts and had more to say on the matter. "However, I hope you realize that this would only be a temporary solution. If we move too many Fireflies out and too quickly, The Engineer is bound to take notice and act on it."
Lampyri nodded. "I know. But it would allow us to save even just a few Fireflies while we try to figure out something more permanent. And once we do that, then we'll be able to save everyone."
"But before we do anything, we're going to need to plan this out in regards to how we're going to get them to come here and what to do afterwards. Dropping the Fireflies off in an unfamiliar city and leaving them to their own devices would be foolish and inconsiderate," Lumin stated. Lampyri agreed with him; she needed to figure each step of the plan out before proceeding.
Lumin already appeared to begin thinking it over. "I know of someone that can help us out with that."
To be continued...