This article may contain language or vocabulary which may not be suitable for younger readers. If you're fine with that kind of stuff, read ahead.
Orpiment’s search for information ends when he finds an old drunk who claims to have fought in the Rebellion.
“All right… Red Crescent at… 8 PM. Wonderful.” Orpiment thought to himself as he walked down the boulevard, towards the Shanty Quarter of the city.
The Shanty Quarter was an… Odd sort. It’s said it consisted of houses and properties owned by rebel gems, but once the rebellion started, the secret police worked above and beyond to get all gems there evicted and all property confiscated. Once relations boiled down, and the Shanty Quarter fell out of the secret police’s sights, drunks, criminals and vagrants all flooded the quarter to create their own little shacks, made of wood stolen from the lumber mill to the north and iron nicked from the steel mills. Gems are encouraged not to enter the Quarter, since it teems with petty pickpocketers and thieves, so much so that even the constables are afraid to venture there. Yet Orpiment appears to take the risk.
The Red Crescent Bar was near the center of the Quarter, and was one of the few locations that were mildly safe. Orpiment hurried the pace each time he walked past an alley, until he finally made it to the front of the Crescent. He took a deep breath, checked his pocket-watch, before arranging his tie and walking in.
The moment he steps inside, he sticks out like a sore thumb. Perhaps dressing up in his fanciest suit and overcoat was not that good an idea when he contrasts so vibrantly with the rest of the brown, dull appearances of the bar. However, eyeing the rest of the area, he quickly spots a lady who matches him when it comes to the vibrant contrast. Hessonite, sitting at a table. Carefully stepping over the puddles, the broken glass and whatever passed out drunk is on the floor, Orpiment reaches Hess and the person he was supposed to meet up with.
Inching closer to get a better look at him, he looks like any ordinary drunk. A faded, torn trenchcoat with stains, bandages covering the wrists and throat, and the saggy eyes of a depressed man. Truly, not what he imagined when he thought of a “legitimate information source”. Nevertheless, he politely walks to the two and tips his hat.
“Greetings, Hessonite... and…?” Orpiment kisses Hess’ hand, before looking at the other gem. Hessonite pulls him closer so she can whisper something to him.
“He doesn’t want to say his name. He says that he doesn’t want the constables finding out.” she says.
“How would they find out?” Orpiment whispers back.
“He’s just… Paranoid… And a bit… Nuts. Don’t take it hard on him, and just respect that. Okay? It’s the best I could find for you.” she whispers definitevly, making Orpiment nod. After all, it’s not uncommon for gems who have fought in the rebellion to be hiding their identities.
“Excuse me, sir. I’m Orpiment. It’s a pleasure to meet you.” Orpiment extends his hand to shake the drunk’s, but the gem only nods, staring at his drink.
Orpiment sweats slightly, worried that he may have made a bad first impression. He takes a seat in front of the drunk, before he raises his hand, as if asking for a waiter.
The drunk, and all the other gems, start to chuckle.
“There’s no waiter here, fancy guy. Here, you need to get off your posh ass and walk to the bar to get a drink.” the drunk says, before taking a gulp of his inexpensive beer.
“Well… Heh… Perhaps I should just get to the reason why I came here.” Orpiment quickly tried changing the subject, unwilling to possibly ruin his reputation here even further.
“Mhm.” the drunk nods, uninterested.
Orpiment jabs Hessonite with his elbow, expecting her to do the talking. After a short argument carried out through whispers between the two, Hess starts talking.
“So… Mister. You told us you fought in the rebellion. Is that correct?” Hessonite says.
“Aye.” the drunk nods. Orpiment starts shaking with excitement in his seat. Hessonite stomps on his foot to calm him down.
“Are you… Willing to talk about it with me, for a sto--” Orpiment opened his mouth to talk, but was silenced prematurely.
“No.” the drunk quickly stomps on his dreams. Both Orpiment’s and Hessonite’s faces turn to a grimace.
“Wh-Why not?” Orpiment asks, defeated.
“Because I don’t trust you.” the gem says, in the same harsh tone.
“What can I do for you to trust me?” Orpiment continues, with desperation in his voice.
“You can’t get me to trust you.” the drunk continues.
“WHY NOT!?” Orpiment loses his patience.
“Because you’re Homeworld.” the drunk grits his teeth
“So!? I don’t have any ill intentions…!” Orpiment tries defending his case.
“I said no.” the gem pours himself another drink.
“There has to be some sort of compromi--” Orpiment diplomatically tries to solve the issue, before once again being interrupted.
“No. Means. No.” the drunk says definitevly.
Orpiment audibly growls, before getting up from his chair and getting ready to walk out, leaving Hessonite in the dust.
“This is not last you’ll hear of me! I’m not giving up until you budge!” he shouts on his way out towards the drunk, who just chuckles to himself, swirling around the drink in his glass. Hessonite runs out after Orpiment, but he’s already bristly walking to his lodgings. She soon gives up trying to catch up to him, and goes back to her place at the archive.
Once he’s reached his home, Orpiment pulls the chair from his desk and starts to think. How will he win this damned old drunk’s trust? A peace offering? Surely a rose, or a pack of good wine, or… Nono, that would never work. If he fought in the Rebellion, his psyche must be scarred with anti-Homeworld messages. Material gifts won’t do anything. Kind words? Compliments? He’s a hard-boiled veteran. A compliment of how lovely his hat is wouldn’t do anything major. Plus, there’s nothing really to compliment.
Now that one thinks about it... That poor sod… Orpiment tried putting himself in the drunk’s place. How sad would you have to be to spend most of your time at a bar? He’s spoken to Hessonite about him a bit, and turns out the guy’s all sorts of depressed, stressed, and plenty of other things. The guy needs some highlight in his life, and alcohol, nor anything else won’t do it… It’s settled. Orpiment must become his new friend. He must be the one to get this poor guy out of his depression, out of his alcoholism, out of his… Whatever else he may have. He must be the one light in his life.
Orpiment slaps himself. Again.
“I need to find a way to get him to like me… If I don’t, I won’t be able to befriend him…” he thinks. “All because of this stupid god damn articl--” Suddenly… An idea! A stroke of genius! “That’s why he doesn’t trust me! Because he thinks I only view my conversations with him as a way to save my own skin, because he thinks I just want to listen to his stories and leave him for dead, instead of a way to grow a bond of friendship between us!” Orpiment was confident that he was right. And by all means, he probably was.
He waits a day. It’s clear today was a bad start-off, and it’s best to restart from anew.
The following day, he dawns a slightly less eye-catching outfit, before once again walking towards the Crescent. Once there, he surveys the area for a bit, quickly finding the drunk sitting at the same table as yesterday, passed out, surrounded by glasses and empty bottles. He doesn’t have the heart to wake him up, so he retreats to his lodgings again, so he may try tomorrow. The following day, same thing.
Finally, on the 4th day, Orpiment gets someone’s attention. A constable’s attention. He’s been eyeing Orpiment for a while now, and is rather suspicious. Why would an upper-class journalist venture into the Shanty Quarter? Contraband? Funding organized crime? Helping pickpocketers? Regardless, this required investigation. But without evidence, he could not take this to the higher-ups at the Ministry of Justice. Thus, he starts to follow Orpiment through the cobbled, dirty streets of the Quarter.
Orpiment, completely oblivious to this, gathers bad looks from many gems around the Quarter, who have to stop their normal activities because a constable was patrolling the streets, following Orpiment. To him, he did not pay any mind to it. In the rest of the city, constables were common, so one following him was nothing out of the ordinary.
Finally, Orpiment reaches the Red Crescent and enters, going towards the drunk’s table, with the constable taking a table a few meters or so away. Orpiment, finally, got to the drunk before he could manage to drink himself unconscious.
“What the hell are you still coming here for?” the drunk asks, looking at Orpiment, losing his patience with him.
“I’ve come here everyday for four days. The first day was a disaster, the second and third you were sleeping and I didn’t have the heart to wake you up, and this is the day when I finally want to get us straight.” Orpiment says, trying to sound confident.
“You’ve been coming here for… Four days?” the drunk grits his teeth.
“Yes.” Orpiment nods.
“Four days?” the drunk doesn’t believe it.
“Yes.” Orpiment emphasizes it. “Clearly he’s not believing that someone would do such a nice thing for him.” he smiles, thinking to himself.
“Just so you can talk to me?” the drunk grits his teeth some more.
“Of course.” Orpiment is confident this is going somewhere.
“Do you really fucking care about your stupid article that much? You're willing to come here and bother me and everyone else for so long just for a stupid fucking newspaper!? ARE WE THAT LOW TO YOU?!” the drunk finally turns red in the face with anger. This is… Not what Orpiment expected.
“What?! No! No! Of course not! How low do you think of me?!” Orpiment tries defending himself.
“Out of my sight! Get the hell out!!” the drunk gets up from his chair and grabs a bottle. He’s either piss-drunk or just really mad, and Orpiment can’t really figure out which. The constable crosses his legs, looking at the scene unfurl. All he needs is to wait for it to devolve to punches for him to arrest them and take them to the higher-ups.
“Listen, sir, you’ve got this all wrong… I did not come here to milk you for sto--” Orpiment once again is interrupted.
“Enough of your bullshit!” he breaks the bottle over the table, pointing the sharp end at Orpiment, about to lunge at him in an alcohol-fuelled frenzy.
“Listen, sir, you need to calm down. This booze is not doing good on your mind…” Orpiment says, but his words are overshadowed by the ever-growing crowd of people yelling “Fight! Fight! Fight!”, and betting on how many teeth Orpiment will have laying on the floor by the end of this all. The constable is dying laughing. The drunk is not having any of it. He thrusts at Orpiment, who gracefully jumps out of the way, making the drunk stick his bottle inside a wooden pole. The constable officially has grounds for arresting them, but he decides to wait until one of them poofs another. After all, arresting one person and grabbing a gem is way easier than arresting two people.
“What was that for?!” Orpiment hops around nervously.
“FOR INSULTING ME AND EVERYONE ELSE HERE WITH YOUR FUCKING PRESENCE!" the drunk tries to straighten up to look imposing, but in his drunken state, he just wobbles around on his feet.
“I’m not bloody mocking you! I came here to help you!” Orpiment defends his case.
Right as the drunk was about to throw another swing at him, the bartender shouts at them to stop and break up the fight. The slick hands of a pickpocketer and the gloved ones of a smuggler grab ahold of the drunk and tug him away from Orpiment. The constable looks disappointed. His elaborate plan failed, and now he had work to do. He takes out his baton and walks towards the drunk, everyone in the bar knowing that he’ll arrest him.
Yet, Orpiment jumps in front of him.
“Sir, please, allow me to handle this.” he says. The constable is in shock.
“Out of the way, civilian. This is my job.” the constable pulls Orpiment to the side, so he may walk towards the drunk. But the pickpocketer and smuggler from before block the way as well.
The constable points his baton at the two. The pickpocketer takes out a switchblade, the smuggler summons two gauntlets. The atmosphere in the bar very quickly becomes tense, with the two “villains” not budging from their place to protect the drunk, and the constable unwilling to let them off the hook.
Finally, Orpiment’s struggles and pleas to end the situation in a peaceful manner pay off, with the constable giving in and agreeing to “let the guys off with a warning”, before walking out. The smuggler takes the drunk to a back-room so he can recover from his inebriated state in peace, while the pickpocketer goes back to his table, leaving Orpiment to wait. And that he does.
He pulls over a chair next to the door of the room the drunk was in and waits, walking to the bar every now and then to grab a glass of wine. The constable retreats out of the Shanty Quarter, with urchin kids following him, spreading the news from the Crescent to everyone in the Quarter, making the constable attract very grim looks.
Meanwhile, Orpiment walks to the smuggler and pickpocketer.
“Thank you for earlier.” he tips his hat.
“Sit down.” the pickpocketer says, before grabbing a glass from a nearby table and pouring him a drink too. “Name’s Jet.” she says.
“Name’s Jade.” the smuggler says.
“Jade and Jet? It’s a pleasure the meet you. I am Or--” Orpiment is about to say, before getting interrupted. Again.
“Orpiment. Boss has been talking about you.” Jade says.
“You people really like to interrupt others… Boss?” Orpiment raises an eyebrow.
“Yes. The drunk.” Jet says.
“HE’S BEEN TALKING ABOUT ME?!” Orpiment’s face lights up with joy.
“Mostly bad things and swears.” Jade crushes his happiness.
“Still, if he talks about me.. I must occupy some sort of space in his mind!” Orpiment tries to smile, before finally dropping on the table, with his chin resting in his palm, swirling around the wine glass.
“Who am I kidding… The guy’s never talking to me. Especially after I almost got his ass arrested.” he continues.
“Now now. We’ll talk to ‘im.” Jade says.
“Yeah. You’re… Not as bad as he says you are. The fact you sided with us instead of that dumbshit constable is… Already a good sign.” Jet continues.
“Really?! You’ll… Clean my reputation with him?” Orpiment’s face lights up again.
“We’ll… Try.” the two say, awkwardly looking at each other.
Orpiment is dying of joy.
“Thanks so much, girls.” he says.
Soon enough, an awkward silence falls.
“So… Who even are you?” Orpiment instantly regrets the question. “Uhh… Sorry if I sound too…Nosy.” he says.
“Guess.” Jade says.
“I don’t know? I don’t judge people by their cover. I need to find proof and information about them before jumping to conclusions.” Orpiment replies.
“Fair enough. We’ll give you a hint.” Jet says.
“I sneak in… Less-than-legal material when the constables aren’t looking.” Jade says.
“Contraband?” Orpiment raises an eyebrow.
“Yes.” she validates his assumption.
“So.. Smuggler?” he asks.
“Correct. You’re good at this. Lemme guess, investigator?” she asks.
“I’d wish. Journalist.” Orpiment chuckles, swirling his wine glass some more.
“That explains many things.” Jet chimes into the conversation.
“Okay.. But, what do you smuggle?” Orpiment asks.
“Don’t go too far yet, buddy. You’re still new, and may be working for the constables. That’s all you’re getting for now.” Jade replies.
“Alright. Now.. Jet?” Orpiment turns to Jet.
“I seperate people of their belongings.” she says.
“Thief?” he leans back a bit in his chair, before checking his pockets.
“We think of it as a bit more than that. Pickpocketers.” Jet puts a wallet on the table. “Bet that constable didn’t even think of checking his pockets when he left.”
Orpiment sweats, checking his pockets some more.
“I wouldn’t rob you. I just rob the smug twats at the bazaar and the markets. Or the constables.” Jet defends her case.
“And… You must be rich from your… Skills?” Orpiment says.
“Not at all. I give away most of it to urchins and beggars.” Jet makes a hand-motion to the bartender, to order another drink. She and Jade appear to be well-known around here. Enough to warrant the bartender’s respect, at least.
“Wow. Really? That’s… Pretty noble.” Orpiment raises an eyebrow.
“Not all residents of the Quarter are filthy liars and thieves, no matter how much the news portrays them as such.” Jade says.
As Orpiment opens his mouth, the door swings open. The drunk comes out and stares at Orpiment talking to the two ladies.
“Leave.” he says. “And do not come back.”
Jet and Jade cringe slightly.
“He’s not that bad, boss.” Jade says.
“Yeah, he’s different from the others!” Jet continues.
“I don’t care. I don’t want to see his smug face. Get him the hell out.” the drunk says.
Jet and Jade get up to maybe confront him, but Orpiment agrees.
“If you wish, that’s what I'll do. I understand that maybe you won’t accept our friendship, and that my efforts to force it where it doesn’t belong only make everything worse.” he gets up and tips his hat. “I wish you the best, sir.”
Orpiment is about to walk out of the door, and something gets to the drunk.
Opriment’s depressed, defeated walk…
His dreams of something great, shattered…
All his effort, effortlessly crushed in one fell swoop…
It appears the drunk managed to draw some sort of connection or parallel, since, for the briefest of moments, his cold stare reverts to a slightly more lively one, as a tear soaks his dry eyes.
“Wait, kid.” the drunk says, making Orpiment turn to him.
The drunk pauses for a moment, as if looking for the appropriate words.
“Come back tomorrow. That’s when I can talk.” the drunk gives a quick smile from under his scarf, before trying to mimic Orpiment in tipping his dusty hat. He then turns and walks back to his table, leaving Orpiment and the two gals.
Jet and Jade both give a thumbs-up to Orpiment, who also gets a little tear in his eye. He has a gut feeling… This will be a great friendship.