Chapter 1: Tree
As soon as she is created from the three pieces of wood he found in his home, Faust knows she must die. Despite knowing this, he feels amazed to know he created such a humanoid homunculus with seemingly no experience. She’s so human-like, both in form and emotions, he thinks as she bursts into tears.
Faust ushers her to an empty bedroom, shutting her in and locking the door to keep her there as he fetches his axe. She’s just wood, he can chop her up into firewood quickly and strengthen the soul orb within moments. Faust finds it quickly and returns to the hallway of bedrooms. He can hear her still crying behind the door. She must be confused, after suddenly being brought into existence. His fatherly instincts make him want to comfort her (she’s practically a baby, after all), but he cannot.
He enters her room- the bedroom, he reminds himself, it won’t be hers for long- and approaches her. The girl- homunculus- sobs, curling in on herself. “Why?” she pleads. “Why? I didn’t do anything! I don’t even know why I’m here!”
Faust hesitates. Why, though? This girl means nothing to him. He brought her to life specifically to kill her. It’s for his daughter’s sake. …his dead daughter he can barely remember and can only maybe bring back to life. If that’s even her soul orb… it’s not as though he can recognize it as her. He has no idea what’s happened- not to his daughter, nor his wife, nor himself. He just knows that he made this girl, who is so utterly miserable.
When he doesn’t swing the axe down, the tree-like girl peers up at him. “…please, please, don’t… don’t kill me,” she whimpers. She looks so pitiful… After a few moments, he drops his axe.
“I’m sorry,” he says to her. “I shouldn’t have… my apologies.” He kneels down next to her. “I’m Faust. I…”
“You… you’re my father, right?” she says, sounding unsure. He’s completely taken aback. “You’re my father,” she repeats, more firm now. “You made me.”
“I… yes, I did.”
“What is my name?” she asks.
A name… he didn’t even think of this. This creation of his, who’s decided she is his daughter, was going to die nameless. “Delilah,” he decides after a moment.
The girl, Delilah, smiles shakily. “I… I like that name, Father.”
“I’m… glad.” Faust stands, and offers her a hand to help her up. She glances at the axe nervously before taking it. “I’ll put that back away.” Delilah nods after a moment.
He’s not sure what to do, now. If he isn’t killing her… he has to take care of her, correct? She considers him a father, so he must try to be a good one, for her sake. Faust shows her around the house- she’s timid, to start, obviously afraid of him after his failed murder attempt, but she soon eases up, curious about the house. She asks if she has a mother, but the expression on his face has her take it back immediately, apologizing for asking. He just pats her shoulder and continues showing her around.
Faust is a mess at first. Even if he’s realized that his blood daughter might be a lost cause, he doesn’t know how to handle it. He finds himself going into her room for hours, examining the soul orb, reading through the book and trying to understand the faint scribblings. Delilah seems slightly pleased when he returns from the one room he won’t allow her into.
One night, long after he should be asleep, he’s roaming the halls when he spots a letter from under her door, ‘Father’ written on the envelope. He picks it up, fearing the worst- a goodbye letter of any sort. Instead, it seems to be just a normal letter.
You said that I could stay here with you. But you are always busy in the forbidden room. You never allow me to get inside. I feel lonely when I have to be by myself for so long. Please spend more time with me.
He pauses, and then reads it a second time. She’s lonely… well, he can’t be too surprised. She’s a young girl, alone in this house with just her… father. Still, he can’t give up his attempts to recover his memory. Instead, maybe… he has all this clay.
Faust enters Arhea’s room, and gets to work.
Chapter 2: Mud
From the get-go, this new girl of clay is a handful. As soon as Faust tries to name her, she interrupts, demanding he pick a different one. Eventually, they settle on Elizabeth, Eliza for short, but even that doesn’t seem good enough for her. She just huffs and accepts it.
Eliza is a difficult one. As soon as he takes her to her room, right next to Delilah’s, she starts complaining about it. It’s too small, not fancy enough, too barren. He promises her that she can decorate it however she wants, which makes her settle down enough to stop arguing.
“If you go to sleep,” he tells her. “You can meet a new friend in the morning.”
“What kind of friend?”
“Her name is Delilah,” Faust says. “She’s a very sweet girl made of wood, in the same way that you’re made of clay.”
Eliza hums, considering. “Well, she better be interesting, or I’ll be cross,” she warns him.
“She is,” he assures her. “Now, head to bed.”
She huffs. “Alright, Dad.”
Again, with one of his creations viewing him as her father… “Good night, Eliza.” He heads to bed as well.
In the morning, the girls have found each other before he even woke up. As soon as he stirs, he can hear Eliza’s arguing all the way from his bedroom. He stumbles out of bed, following the sound of her voice. “Dad!” she says as soon as she sees him. “You didn’t tell me she was like this!” She points at Delilah, whose eyes are watering.
“What happened?” he asks, looking between them.
“I- why didn’t you tell me I had a new sister?” Delilah asks pitifully.
“It was late at night, I wasn’t going to wake you,” Faust tells her. “But, officially- Delilah, this is Elizabeth. Eliza, this is Delilah.”
Eliza gets in Delilah’s face, dripping bits of herself onto her by accident. Delilah scrunches her face up and brushes it off. “I’ve never had a sister,” Eliza says. Faust can’t help but think that she’s never had anything before, since she’s merely a homunculus. Still, somehow these creatures have awareness of the world as soon as they’re brought into it, inherently understanding the concept of family… it’s fascinating.
“N-neither have I,” Delilah tells her. “But… I’m your older sister.”
“Huh? Why can’t I be the older sister?” Eliza immediately protests.
“I’ve been around longer, I know our father more. And you look younger than me too.”
“But you’re a crybaby!” Eliza prods her. “You started crying as soon as you saw me!”
Delilah’s face turns green. …is she blushing? “That’s not fair- I was already upset, seeing someone new I didn’t know just made it worse…!”
“Girls,” Faust interrupts. “Stop this fighting. Eliza, Delilah is older, therefore she’s your ‘older sister’. Also, she’s naturally inclined to be depressed, in the same way that you’re inclined to be irritable. Do not insult her over that.”
Eliza groans and crosses her arms, acting the petulant child, but does not continue.
“…now, you two… would you two accompany me into town?”
“Into town?” Delilah asks incredulously. “Why?”
Faust isn’t sure how to explain it. He hasn’t told her about his missing memories, or his blood daughter. So… “I need supplies, and food, and to get things to repair the damaged bedrooms.”
“Are we going to have more sisters?” Eliza asks.
He pauses. “…I don’t know. Possibly.” Will they want more sisters? Honestly, he’s curious about what he can do with his homunculus summoning abilities. There must be a use for them, besides using them as comfort after the death of his daughter, right?
“Well… fine,” Eliza says after a few moments. “I want a younger sister, too.”
Delilah laughs quietly. “Of course you do.”
“Shut up, you don’t know me!”
“Girls, girls, again, no fighting,” Faust says. “Let’s just go.”
He leads the girls to town, but as soon as they arrive, a woman he doesn’t know but somehow recognizes as ‘the knife-seller’s wife’ stops them. She overlooks Eliza and Delilah, and requests to use one as an assistant, for payment, of course. Her husband has disappeared, and she works alone now, she explains to him. He does not care. Faust looks between his homunculi, but before he can decide yes or no, Delilah offers to do it.
“I want to be… useful,” she tells Faust. “Please, let me do this…”
He allows it, and the knife-seller’s wife rushes her into the store. Eliza huffs. “Offering to work… ridiculous.”
“It is her choice,” he tells her, and then leads her to where he believes the market is. He finds it immediately, and the old woman seems pleased to meet him, calling him ‘old friend’ and politely greeting Eliza. She offers him free balm, which will preserve a corpse. …does she know? If so, how? And… should he use this?
The shopkeeper also sends various ingredients to his home along with the balm, and tells him she’s glad to have him back- he’s good for business, after all. A little disturbed, he leaves her store and wanders around the town, hoping for a spark of memory. Eliza stays close to him, seemingly bothered. “Dad,” she says eventually, grabbing his arm. “Who was that woman?”
“The shopkeep,” he tells her. “She’s… a very nice woman.” He knows this in his heart, despite his discomfort speaking to her.
“How do you know her? And why does everyone who sees you seem to be surprised?”
“I’m… not sure.”
“How can you be not sure?” she demands to know.
Faust sighs. “A little before Delilah… came into my life, I woke up alone in my house, with no memory of… seemingly the past few years. I still have not recovered my memories.”
Eliza seems surprised. “So you don’t know everyone, but they know you?”
She hums, looking thoughtful. It’s a foreign expression on her face. “Well-” Before she can finish her sentence, she’s interrupted by a large man coming towards them.
“You, Faust. I heard you were in back in town. Could you lend me one of your homunculi? I will pay well,” he insists.
Faust glances at Eliza before looking back at the man. “What would you need her for?”
“I still have my little gambling problem,” the man confesses. “But I only lose control when I’m alone at the store. My wife is on a trip for the next five days, and if all our money is gone when she returns, I’ll never hear the end of it. I need someone to stay in my store with me and stop me from gambling.”
“Can I yell at you?” Eliza asks immediately.
The man that Faust faintly recognizes as a ‘material seller’ seems surprised. “Well… if that’s what it takes to stop me.”
“I want to do it!” she tells Faust. “Let me go!”
“Well… alright,” Faust tells her.
While she and Delilah work, he visits them daily to make sure they’re doing alright. Delilah seems to struggle a bit, but she’s a hard worker, and the knife-seller’s wife is pleased with her efforts. She pays Faust a few gold per day, and he makes a note of what Delilah has earned. He needs some of the money to keep himself fed, but the rest goes to buying her a gift- a sweet ice cream treat that the old woman at the store assures him she’ll love. Eliza earns far more at the job she adores, and while he puts some aside for his food and some for a chocolate bar for her, he keeps the rest separate to afford however she wants to decorate her room.
At the end of the week, he takes the girls home and finds the items the shopkeep delivered to him. He stores them in Arhea’s room before returning to his creations. They sit at the table, waiting patiently (in Delilah’s case) and impatiently (in Eliza’s) for the gifts he promised them. Faust sets the treats down in front of them. Eliza’s eyes light up. “Ah! You know exactly what I like! Good job, Dad!” She starts to devour it immediately.
“….thank you, Father,” Delilah says, eyes watering again. It seems to be from happiness this time. “I feel so happy from your astonishing gift.” She eats her ice cream a little slower.
Faust watches them eat, feeling… odd. These girls are very… they remind him of Arhea, despite not being like her at all. The Arhea he remembers was so young, so joyful, as compared to sad Delilah and angry Eliza, and yet he feels the same way towards his creations as he did to her. Does he see them as daughters? Can he see them as daughters?
While they continue eating, he returns to his room. Faust looks through the things the shopkeep gave him- the balm. He doesn’t need to use that yet, if he chooses to. Wood. Poor quality, from the local forest. Clay, also low quality. Meat, which smells disgusting. He would only eat it if he really had to. Separately, it’s not useful, but together, it’s enough ingredients to make a new homunculus. Does the shopkeep know alchemy, he wonders? Or, if they truly are ‘old friends’, did he once tell her what he needs to make a new creation?
Either way, it’s clear that these items were given to him specifically to make a homunculus. He sets them on the circle, and gets to work.
Chapter 3: Despair
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.
“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.