Cross Your Heart @caldroid
Chapter 2

The experiments’ test runs from the other night had been mostly successful, but Luca still wasn’t completely satisfied with them. Even though he got the results that he wanted, there was still something missing. ‘Almost perfect’ wasn’t actually perfect, and what was the point of any of this if he couldn’t even achieve perfection? He threw himself into his work, but it seemed that that still wasn’t enough. He didn’t understand what was wrong with him. It was entirely likely that he was losing concentration from a lack of sleep, but he couldn’t get himself to fall asleep no matter what he tried.

Despite his apparent inability to fall asleep for extended periods of times, he still caught himself as he drifted in and out of consciousness while he was working on the latest trial run. He almost fully lost consciousness until a spark of electricity mere inches from his face shocked him back into the waking world.

Luca put his tools down and shook his head. As badly as he wanted to finish the experiment in front of him, he wouldn’t be able to do much of anything if he electrocuted himself in the process. He took a moment to flip through his notes, hoping the solution was buried within them somewhere. He’d already checked multiple times now, but he couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something he kept just barely missing. The chair creaked under his weight as Luca leaned back and stretched his tired joints. Sitting like this for an entire day can’t possibly be good for your posture, he thought.

Luca put his tools down and shook his head. As badly as he wanted to finish the experiment in front of him, he wouldn’t be able to do much of anything if he electrocuted himself in the process. He took a moment to flip through his notes, hoping the solution was buried within them somewhere. He’d already checked multiple times now, but he couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something he kept just barely missing. The chair creaked under his weight as Luca leaned back and stretched his tired joints. Sitting like this for an entire day can’t possibly be good for your posture, he thought.

He felt his gaze being drawn towards the window again and noticed that the sun had almost set for the day. There was still a small window of daylight left, and it would have to be enough for now. Luca hopped off of the chair onto his feet for what must have been the first time in a few hours, and made his way to the door. Surely, as long as he paid attention to his surroundings this time, he wouldn’t get lost like he did the previous night. The change of scenery brought by the outdoors felt like more of a last resort for him than anything, but he was running dangerously low on ideas. And so, journal tucked underneath his arm, he went out to the gardens yet again.

He wandered around the paths of the garden for a few minutes, but quickly exhausted himself by seeing the same scenery over and over. There was a sort of predictable uniformity to it, and Luca couldn’t quite put his finger on why that bothered him. It could just be that he thought nature wasn’t meant to be so… symmetrical. And so, he drifted further and further towards the edges of the garden by the wilderness surrounding it.

His thoughts were interrupted when Luca heard what he thought sounded like a large animal in the underbrush, and his attention immediately snapped towards the source of the noise. It was still dark, however, and he couldn’t make anything out no matter how much he strained his eyes to try and see it.

He cautiously took a few steps towards the trees, but a familiar voice cut through the silence. “You’re not trying to get lost again, are you?”

Luca quickly spun on his heels to face the voice coming from besides him, and relief washed over him when he recognized that it was the man from yesterday and not a servant. Wanderer was leaning against one of the trees at the periphery of the forest, partially secluded under the shade of the trees.

“Something wrong? You looked like you saw a ghost for a second there.” Part of Wanderer’s mouth was partially upturned in a sly smile, and the glint of a canine could be seen partially sticking out. In the comparatively better lighting, Luca couldn’t help but notice the tufts of white hair poking out underneath his hat. It was unusual, but not scientifically impossible, so Luca decided not to pay much of a mind to it.

“Sorry, I just wasn’t expecting someone else to be out here,” Luca said in response. Something did confuse him a bit, though. “Why are you here? You’re not here to see the inventor, are you?”

“That’s a nice guess, but no,” Wanderer immediately waved off the notion. His gaze didn’t quite meet Luca’s as he continued, “I was here to see you. Sort of.”

“Wh…,” Luca stumbled over his words for a moment. “What for? I’d assumed that you only heard of me for the first time last night.”

“I just thought that you seemed interesting. That’s all there really is to it.”

“So because I’m interesting, you snuck onto the grounds of someone else’s private residence? I’m not sure I follow your particular line of thinking, here.”

“Don’t think too hard about it. You need to save some of that extra space up there for inventions or something, right?” Wanderer raised his hand up and tapped it against the lower section of his hat on the side of his head.

“I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing necessarily, but I’m afraid that there’s nothing much that I can do for you at the moment.” Even if he did have the ability to entertain a guest in someone else’s home, Luca didn’t have much spare time in between working on his projects.

“You don’t need to do anything for me, I was just wondering if you were able to talk a little.” Then Wanderer added, “If you’re free.”

Luca nodded in reply. “Just for a small while, though. I hope that’s alright with you.”

Wanderer briefly flashed a smile at him, but just as quickly placed a hand over his mouth whilst averting his eyes. “Uh, so…. I sort of just assumed you were an inventor a second ago, but was that right? You said something about your mentor being one.”

Luca nodded once more. “It’s just an apprenticeship for now, but soon enough I’ll be able to show him that I’m worth even more than that.”

Wanderer raised his eyebrow slightly at that remark, but decided not to press him on it. “If you’re an inventor, then what are you inventing?”

“Sorry, but I can’t tell you that at the moment. I’ll be able to move onto the next stage of experimentation soon enough, though!” He seemed a bit proud of himself, and his eyes lit up as he talked.

Wanderer hummed. “I’ll look forward to it, then.”

“And what about yourself? What kind of work do you do?” Luca, although proud of his achievements, still felt a bit awkward talking only about himself.

“I’m a prospector. Y’know, excavating for minerals and such.” There was only a slight strain in his voice when he spoke, and it barely even registered to Luca at all. “It’s just a lot of digging, so nothing too thrilling.”

“I can’t say that I know much about prospecting, but I’m sure it’s not all as dull as you’re suggesting it to be.” Luca deliberated for a moment. “What brings you here, though? I didn’t think that we had any sites nearby.”

“I’m just here for personal reasons. It isn’t work-related,” he dismissed.

“I see. I wish you the best of luck, then.” Luca decided it would be best not to pry. For whatever reason, he got the nagging sense that he wouldn’t be given a straight answer, anyway.

Wanderer opened his mouth as though he was about to say something else, but in an instant his expression changed into something that Luca found indiscernible. The man turned his gaze out towards the depths of the forest, which had grown completely dark after the last of the sun set a few moments ago. He looked back towards Luca, almost seeming apologetic. “Sorry to cut this short, but I have to get going. You should get back inside, yeah?”

“It -- It is late,” Luca agreed, “But is everything alright?”

“Don’t even worry about it. My fault for not realizing how late it was.” Wanderer moved from his position, placing himself directly between Luca and the forest. “Let’s just finish this conversation another time.”

1. Chapter 1 1765 0 0 2. Chapter 2 1539 0 0 3. Chapter 3 2185 0 0 4. Chapter 4 2491 0 0 5. Chapter 5 3506 0 0