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This article contains mature content that may be unsuitable for younger readers. Reader discretion is advised.
The drunk offers Orpiment a sample of what he calls “Dream Honey”.
It’s been a few days since Orpiment was introduced to the drunk properly by Jade and Jet. Days in which Orpiment worked his way in order to get the drunk’s trust and, to a certain extent, friendship, since asking for stories of the worst time of his life most likely wasn’t the best introduction to a new friend.
Nevertheless, Orpiment’s gut feeling strikes. Finally, he thinks it’s time to break out the questions.
Orpiment walks in the Red Crescent, ready to meet up with the drunk, who was sitting across the bar at his table. He walks to him, tips his hat and takes a chair closer. The drunk looks up from his glass of inexpensive liquor and starts to speak, already knowing that Orpiment wanted to ask for stories, judging from his excited look.
“So… You want stories from the Rebellion, huh?” he raises an eyebrow.
Orpiment’s smile grows.
“Yes! That’s why I came to you!” he sweats slightly, fearing a “no.”
“Hmph. Alright.” the drunk chugs down the last of his lager and looks at Orpiment, who was dying of happiness.
Orpiment pulls out his pen and paper.
But the drunk leans across the table and snatches the pen and notebook from Orpiment’s hands.
“Those won’t be needed.” he says.
“Why?” Orpiment asks.
“The stories you will hear… I guarantee they shall never be forgotten by those who hear them. Are you sure you want to take that risk?” the drunk asks, looking, for once, genuinely worried about Orpiment.
“I will take on anything to get the most truthful of truths!” Orpiment says, confidently.
The drunk gives a joyless smile.
“Then come on. This is no suitable place to talk about that.” he says, turning to walk towards the back-exit.
Orpiment follows hastily.
“Where are you taking me?” he asks.
“The honey-dens. Just a few blocks down.” the drunk replies.
Orpiment stays close to the drunk, trying not to attract too much attention from the individuals of the Quarter.
“Don’t worry about that.” the drunk laughs. “You’re a friend now. Nobody’ll dare lay a finger on you.” the drunk says, and to Orpiment’s surprise, now that he looks around a bit more, he sees that nobody really appears to care for his presence.
It’s almost as if.. He’s one of them now?
Nono, that’s a bad thing.
Orpiment smiles, and the drunk does too. They continue their way, yet far behind them, two people are watching.
The constable from a few days ago and another figure, dawned in a long, black coat, with a shining brass insignia on her chest, and a baton clutched tightly in her gloved hand.
Everywhere she walks, criminals steer free of her presence, retreating in either the dark alleys of the Quarter, or plainly running or climbing away. Her footsteps echo as she treads down the cobbled streets. Her voice booms as she talks to the constable.
“These are the two…?” she asks.
“Yes, they! They’re the ones, I swear!” the constable says.
“I see.” she digs in the pocket of her coat, and pulls out two red darts. “Once they stop their walking, try to stall them for time. I need each dart to hit the back of their necks.” she says.
The constable nods.
Finally, the drunk and Orpiment reach their destination. An old, abandoned cement factory.
“Is.. This the honey-den?” Orpiment says, before the drunk covers his mouth.
“Don’t say it out loud!” he shouts at him, before tugging him inside.
The long-coat smiles, and the constable looks at her, confused.
“Why are you smiling, miss?” he asks.
“The yellow one. He said something. Didn’t you hear it?” she says, covering her smile with her hand.
“No, miss.” the constable says, forcing a laugh.
“That’s a honey-den. Heh. It’s a good place to hide it.” the long-coat says, as the constable gasps.
“A honey den!?” the constable’s face turns white.
“Quite.” the long-coat says nonchalantly.
“We’ve been looking for one for ages! We’ve interrogated criminals, we’ve listened in on conversations! We’ve--” the constable continues, expressing his frustration, before being interrupted.
“Well, it appears you’ve been looking in the wrong places. All you needed to do is watch out for loose-lipped gems.” the long-coat says.
The drunk knocks on the door of the factory.
“He knocked 4 times.” the long-coat says.
“Will that be important?” the constable asks.
“Very.” the long-coat answers.
Orpiment and the drunk enter once the door opens. The long-coat sneaks her way and puts her foot in front of the door, stopping it from closing. She insists that the constable waits outside until she finds a way to get him inside. He agrees.
The drunk and Orpiment keep walking deeper into the abandoned factory, with the long-coat staying behind them, running from doorway to doorway, and hiding behind any sort of crate or barrel that could cover her. She’s as stealthy as a cat, and as shrewd as a weasel. Not Orpiment’s watchfulness, nor the drunk’s experience help in spotting her in any way.
Finally, they reach another iron double-door. Orpiment walks to it and knocks, but nobody replies.
The long-coat bites her lip as the drunk walks to a stack of boxes and pushes them out of the way, revealing a hole in the wall. The two sneak in, and the long-coat remains, lingering near the iron door, since she knows she can’t sneak past them. She’ll wait patiently until they leave, since she knows that there are no other exits.
“It’s pitch black..” Orpiment says, squinting his eyes. “And what’s that… Endlessly annoying buzzing?!” he comments on the low buzz emanating from all around him.
“You’ll see. Just… Try not to make too much noise.” the drunk walks to a table and lights a candle, flooding the room with light.
The light reveals many, many honey-combs and bee-hives, all plastered onto the walls.
“Are these… Bees?” Orpiment asks.
“Not any time of bee. Dream-honey bees.” the drunk answers.
Orpiment’s face turns white for a moment.
“D-Dream honey?” he asks.
“Yes.” the drunk nods.
“You.. You make this stuff here?!” Orpiment starts to sweat.
“Yes.” the drunk nods again.
“Are you insane!? What sort of… Harmful chemicals are you making here!?” Orpiment looks around at the bees, who were just doing their thing.
“Harmful? Do you even know what dream-honey is?” the drunk cringes.
“Yes! The most harmful drug thus far! Have you seen what the news are saying about it?!” Orpiment’s face slowly turns red. “How can you sleep at night knowing that you’re creating such vile things in here!?”
The drunk chuckles.
“Heh. What do the news say about it?” he pretends not to know.
“How can you be so oblivious over it?! It claws at your mind, slowly turning you insane! It corrodes your gemstone from the inside, it… It…!” Orpiment simply has no words.
“You do realize this is the… Homeworld news talking about it, yes?” the drunk says.
Orpiment raises his finger, as if he wants to say something, but soon drops it.
“Have you seen one independent article about it? Bad or good, have you?” the drunk continues.
Orpiment puts his finger under his chin, thinking. He shakes his head.
“See?” the drunk smiles.
“Not enough proof! One affirmation won’t change anything!” Orpiment’s cynicism makes the drunk roll his eyes.
“What did they say about the Quarter?” the drunk asks.
Orpiment goes silent for a moment.
“According to them, we are all the filth of Homeworld.” the drunk’s eyes slowly grow a bit more… lively.
“All thieves, all murderers, all robbers.” he continues to talk, with a low, fiery gleam in his eyes.
He smashes his fists into the desk.
“While they have the nerve to stay there, feet up, throwing darts to decide our fate.” he continues. Now the fiery gleam becomes more and more potent.
“You say I’m the one who’s blind?! How can you be so oblivious to it all!? They don’t care for you! They don’t care for anyone! They don’t care about giving the lie or giving the truth! They’ll do anything just to not get their reputation fucked! And worst thing is…” the fiery gleam becomes brighter...
“I HAVE TO BE TELLING YOU THIS! I! I! I!!” the drunk finally snaps, putting his hand to his bandaged throat, and an eerie glow escapes from it.
Orpiment backs away and starts to sweat as the bandages fly off like little paper butterflies, exposing a weak, cracked, brown, glowing gem. From it, a sickle emerges that the drunk grabs onto and stabs into the same table.
“Can’t you see what they’ve done!? Can’t you see how powerful they are!? They got you, fucking YOU on their side!” the drunk appears really worked-up about this.
Orpiment steps away a bit more, starting to think. The drunk was...
He was right. Subconsciously, the media did leave an implant on him. Him. The same person that was apparently on the crusade against corruption and propaganda. Even he was brain-washed, if only for a few minutes, my the newspapers.
He gets a cold sweat, and he wonders: What else did he subconsciously do that Homeworld media may have convinced him were right, even though they weren’t?
He shakes that thought out of his head. That’s not important right now. He can think about it later. Right now, the drunk is losing his temper and Orpiment was just sitting there gawking at the ceiling like an idiot.
He swiftly falls to his knees, and to the drunk’s pleasant surprise, accepts his defeat.
“I cannot believe I could have been this blind.” he says. “To let Homeworld brainwash me so easily, and to plainly overlook it, is unacceptable. Please, forgive me for whatever nonsense I have said. I was just blindly following a carrot the higher-ups were dangling in front of me.” he finishes, sounding legitimately disappointed at himself.
The drunk unsummons the sickle, before grabbing the collar of his coat and tugging it up, to cover his gem.
“At least you went so far as to admit you’re wrong. Many of the people I’ve trusted before fell in Homeworld’s traps and never got out.” the drunk says.
“So.. You’ll forgive me?” Orpiment looks at him.
“You had the strength to look inside yourself and see what you actually believed, and what you were forced to believe. That power of self-reflection is rare nowadays, and it warrants not only my forgiveness, but my respect as well.” the drunk’s fiery glare slowly dims down.
The long-coat at the crack in the wall smiles devilishly. She couldn’t get a good look at the drunk’s gem, but as soon as she would get those darts ready, she’ll know all about him… This all is going exactly to plan.
“Now. Come on. The honey’s waiting.” the drunk says, walking to one of the hives.
“Are you sure this is… Safe?” Orpiment asks. “I promise this is the last time I’ll ask.”
“Yes. It is.” the drunk says, re-summoning the sickle and slicing off one piece of the honeycombs, letting the honey seep into a jar.
He extends the hand holding the jar to Orpiment.
“Have a taste. Come on.” the drunk says, hovering it in front of Orpiment’s eyes.
Orpiment dips his finger in and then puts a drop on his tongue. He soon can feel a soft tapping in the back of his head, following an odd, yet familiar rhythm. He mumbles said rhythm a bit, counting the number of notes, and he finally gets the answer.
“Rhodolite’s Symphony, verse 19? I remember I listened to it a few years ago.” he asks.
“Probably. Now you get the jist of it?” the drunk asks.
“Not yet…” Orpiment puts his finger on his chin, with the drunk handing him the jar once more.
“C’mon. Have another go then.” he says.
Orpiment puts a drop on his tongue once more, and this time there is no rhythm. Yet he can feel a gentle warmth engulfing him, along with the taste of sparkling wine, and the memory very quickly comes back to him.
“The time I attended the writer’s convention, 2 years ago! Boy, I’ll never forget that night.” Orpiment says, connecting the dots.
“Now you get it?” the drunk says.
“Yes. This honey lets you re-live, to a certain extent, your former memories! It feels like you’re… Right back in the moment!” Orpiment feels more lively and energetic.
“Congrats. You got it.” the drunk smiles. “Thing is, you only took a drop. That’s why you didn’t feel everything fully and why it only lasted for so little. Usually, you need to take at least a spoonful to feel it all for any substantial period of time.” the drunk says.
“Oh.. Okay. But may I ask… How will this help? Why did you take me here?” Orpiment wonders.
“Our memories can be shared. If we stay close together, I can re-live the memories, and you can watch or attend, allowing you to see the happenings of the rebellion with your own eyes, which cannot be compared to just me explaining it.” the drunk explains.
Orpiment appears ready.
“Alright then, let’s do it!” he sits down on a pile of gravel while the drunk grabs the jar and a spoon.
“Okay. You sure you’re ready?” the drunk hands him the spoonful of honey.
“Yes!” Orpiment chugs down the contents of the spoon, and instantly, his tongue is bombarded with an array of flavours, switching without pattern, from bitter, to sweet, to sour and so on.
The tapping in the back of his head becomes more audible. His vision blurs until everything becomes little more than a blob of colours, followed by only blackness. His ears start playing tricks on him, as he starts to hear buzzes and hums from nowhere…
...It’s all black. Then light. Then black again. However, creeping up from the corners of his eyes, he can spot some colours taking over his vision, and some sounds singing in his ears.