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My Many Lovely Daughters

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As soon as she is created, he knows he has made a mistake. He’s horrified looking at her. Her body is broken, missing pieces, and he instantly remembers- a homunculus made with three separate ingredients is inferior and damaged, barely able to function or work. “Celestials…”

The broken thing looks at him, and then scrunches up her face, clearly trying not to cry. “D…Daddy, why are you looking at me like that? What… what’s wrong with me?”

“…nothing,” he lies. He brought her into this world, he cannot be so cruel as to reject her.

“Why… why am I here? What is my name? You are my daddy, right?” She seems so sad and lost. How could she not be?

“You… are my daughter,” he tells her. “And your name will be… Annabeth. Is that alright?” She nods, and he carefully helps her to her feet. He’s quick to take her out of Arhea’s room- maybe he should make a circle somewhere else, he’s just been lucky so far that no one has noticed her body on the bed. Faust takes Annabeth to the last empty room, and shows her inside.

“This is your room,” he tells her. “We can go into town tomorrow with your sisters-”

“Sisters?” Annabeth asks.

“Ah… yes. You have two sisters, Delilah and Eliza.”

Annabeth frowns. “Their names…” At his confusion, she continues. “They both end with ‘ah’. Mine doesn’t. Are they not going to like me because my name ends differently?”

“No. ‘Eliza’ is short for ‘Elizabeth’, so you match with her.”

She frowns more. “Will Delilah not like me because I match with Elizabeth and she doesn’t?”

“That won’t happen, either.” They’re more likely to not like her for her broken body. He sighs quietly. “Would you like to meet them now?”

Annabeth hesitates before nodding, and he takes her (slowly, she has difficulty walking) to where he last saw them. They’re arguing again, and he sighs. He’s glad he and his wife stopped at one daughter, this is difficult. “Eliza! Delilah!” They stop fighting, Delilah looking at him sheepishly before her eyes go wide. Eliza is still glaring at her, but at her expression, turns to look too.

“What the…” Eliza looks Annabeth over. “What’s wrong with her?”

“Eliza!” Faust says, sounding angrier than he means.

“What’s wrong with you?” she says, now to Annabeth, coming closer.

Annabeth’s face scrunches up as she tries not to cry. “I… I don’t know.”

“Eliza, don’t be cruel,” Delilah says, also approaching. “Hello, I’m Delilah,” she says, offering a hand to Annabeth. Annabeth pauses before taking it, shaking her hand weakly.

“I’m… Annabeth.”

“It’s nice to meet you.” Delilah looks at Eliza, who doesn’t introduce herself. “…and this is Eliza. We’re your sisters, I suppose.” She glances at Faust. “We are, right?”

“You are,” he tells her. “Annabeth is more delicate than either of you, so please be careful when you play with her.” Delilah nods, and takes Annabeth’s hand.

“Do you like ice cream? Father got me some earlier. Next time we go into town, I’ll use some of the money I earn to buy you some!”

“Earn…? Do you have a job?”

“Oh, yes. It’s a little difficult, but I help at the knife shop. Though, the woman there told me she’d prefer someone who was more cautious…”

“Cautious?” Faust questions curiously.

“Yes, um…” She tries to recall exactly what the knife-seller’s wife said. “Someone with a little fear in them, she said.”

He hums. “Well, if you’d like, there are other jobs in town you could try. Many people were asking for help.”

Delilah nods. “If the knife seller wouldn’t mind…”

“I have a job too!” Eliza interrupts. “And I’m going to do it again next week!”

“What is it?” Annabeth asks.

“I get to yell at a guy every time he wants to go gambling! He saves a lot of money that way, and he gives some of it to Dad for me.”

“Oh.” Annabeth seems uninterested, and Eliza frowns, but doesn’t say anything else.

Faust needs to get back to his studies, and so he leaves them be. He’s sure Delilah will stop Eliza from harassing Annabeth if need be.

He returns to Arhea’s room, and picks up his journal. Perhaps he should make notes of the homunculi he’s summoned. As soon as he opens it, though, the pages begin to glow, and he finds notes near the beginning of the journal- more notes on how to summon homunculi, and more importantly, how to strengthen a soul orb.

Faust pauses. Did the ‘him’ that he was before he lost his memories make these notes? They are in his handwriting. His daughter can’t have been dead for that long, she’s barely decayed, and the old woman at the store says he hasn’t been around for quite some time to buy the balm that could keep her from falling apart. So… when did ‘he’ write these notes? Right before he passed out and woke up with his memories? Does that mean his memory loss is self-inflicted? Did ‘he’ want a memory-less Faust to summon and kill these homunculi, so ‘he’ didn’t have to?

…the thought makes him spiteful. Did ‘he’ think that it would be easy for him to kill without his memories? Did ‘he’ choose to wake up here, in this room, so Faust would see Arhea and be desperate to save her? Was his entire memory loss engineered in order to make him do something that ‘he’ was not willing to?

Well, he can’t. He cannot bring himself to kill his creations. Even if that means Arhea stays passed on… No. No, he has to hope there’s another way to strengthen her soul orb. Maybe if he speaks to… someone. Faust frowns. He gets the feeling there’s someone he’s forgetting, a master alchemist, who would know more about this. He feels like the memory of that person really matters, like it’s just out of reach… but he can’t remember it. It is infuriating.

He finds an empty section named ‘Homunculi’, which has mostly-blanked pages, each one labelled only with combinations of wood, clay, meat, iron, and water. There’s a few blank pages- maybe in case he branches out with other, currently unknown ingredients? Faust finds the pages labelled ‘wood/wood/wood’ and ‘clay/clay/clay’ and writes short descriptions of Delilah and Eliza. He then turns to a blank page, and writes ‘wood/clay/meat’ before describing Annabeth. It looks as though the former ‘him’ didn’t account for Faust making inferior homunculi when he prepared this journal, as there are no pages for homunculi made of three separate ingredients.

Faust continues flipping through the journal to find a section on the local villagers that ‘he’ interacted with. They’re very bare, only mentioning the crimes that led to their exile and their current jobs. He makes a note of the knife-seller’s wife’s desire for a cautious, fearful assistant, and the material seller’s need for someone to stop him from gambling. He glances at the clock, seeing that it is late, and sets the book back before going to rest.

In the morning, he and his creations return to town. Eliza goes to the material seller, only to find that he doesn’t need her help this week, since his wife is back. She’s annoyed, but Faust is quick to find her another job she may enjoy- working with the smelter. The smelter seems pleased to have an assistant who can help him work the lava pot. He leaves her with him before searching the town for a different job for Delilah.

“It’s okay, Father,” she says after the third place that requires someone happier than her. “I can return to the knife shop.”

“No. I want to find a place you will enjoy yourself as you work.” He must find something for her.

“Really, Father, for you, I don’t mind doing difficult jobs. I will-”

She’s interrupted by the approach of a guard. “You, Faust. I require one of your homunculi.”

“What for?” he asks, having heard that many a time by now.

“There will be a ceremony for the next few days, remembering our fallen heroes. Few in this town care enough to attend, and it would be disrespectful to have so many empty seats. I will pay to have someone come to the mourning.”

“Delilah, would you like to?” he asks her.

She pauses before glancing at Annabeth. “Annabeth, do you want to go?”

“What? No, I can’t- I couldn’t-”

“If you just need to sit and attend, it would be easier for you than most jobs. Then you can earn some money for treats and toys.”

Faust is surprised. A job that seems right up Delilah’s ally, and she’s offering it to Annabeth? How… selfless. Unusual, for a homunculi. Annabeth accepts the job, and the guard pays Faust in advance for the work- it’s a very good sum. Still… he needs a job for Delilah.

It takes another day, but he finds her a place with the pet keeper. The orphan seems delighted to have ‘one of his gals’ helping her, and while Delilah doesn’t seem to like how loud she is, she loves playing and taking care of the pets. While they all work, he spends some time with the shopkeep, buying more treats for his creations and some more ingredients. The shopkeep suggests that, if he were to want a ‘happier’ daughter, he may want some iron and meat. He narrows his eyes at her, but knows better than to ask- she’s very cryptic in her responses to his questions. Faust buys the ingredients she recommends.

The pet keeper and smelter request to keep his girls for the rest of the week, which he agrees to after speaking to Delilah and Eliza, but Annabeth seems exhausted after just that bit of work. Faust ends up carrying her around for a day, helping her recover. When he visits Delilah at work the next day, Delilah pleads with the pet keeper to pay to have Annabeth help, too. Annabeth seems hesitant, but Delilah promises to do all of the physically tiring work so Annabeth can play with the pets. The pet keeper doesn’t pay as much for Annabeth’s help, but she gives enough to put Faust’s savings high enough that he can afford to pay the shop keep to fix one of the damaged rooms in his home.

At the end of the week, he and his creations walk home, Annabeth requiring Delilah’s help to stay upright. She doesn’t seem as tired as she was with the first job- perhaps she feels stronger? That’s something to keep an eye on, Faust thinks. Eliza is in a good mood, pleased to have worked alongside the smelter all week. She regales Faust with the stories the smelter told her of his old gang.

When they arrive, the girls, tired from their week of hard work, all head to bed. He stores their treats for them to have tomorrow before going to examine the newly fixed room. It would easily home a new homunculus… and since Annabeth earns much less than his other sisters, it may be useful to have someone to do all the jobs in town that require someone ‘happy’. He goes to his room with his purchases, and makes a new circle there- the only one being in Arhea’s room is just begging for a homunculus to notice her body. He sets down two iron and one meat, and begins his work.