Chapter 5:

One day, a budding scholar visited.

Witch Cafe Wisteria

On the very same day that little Jenni paid a visit to Witch Cafe Wisteria, a curious man with a book bag on his shoulder made his way into the cafe. Much to the delight of Pecan and Derry, he was one of the very college students they had the full intention of attracting to the cafe!

“Welcome to Witch Cafe Wisteria,” came the usual cafe greeting.

He nodded in appreciation and silently thanked the women as he made his way up to the counter. Realizing that he didn’t know what he wanted, he stepped back to look over the menu.

Finally, the man spoke up, “Hello. I was wondering if you could tell me what is in the Wisdom Tea." Aha! Usually, Derry referred to all her ingredients as “this” or “that”, so Pecan sometimes wondered if she actually knew the names of what went into the drinks they served. This was the moment of truth that Pecan was waiting for! No one had ever asked before then! Pecan tried to hide her silly grin by pretending to be super absorbed in the cash register.

Derry began pulling out each jar from beneath the counter. After she had the ingredients out, she smiled and said quite unhelpfully, “These!”

Pecan then snickered into her sleeve as much as she could without seeming rude. A rude employee is usually not a very good look for a cafe, that is.

The man looked over the jars and hummed in thought. “Okay.”

For a short moment, Pecan was disappointed that he didn’t ask for their names. However, he eventually said, “My apologies, but I am afraid I am not exactly knowledgeable about herbs”.

Pecan turned around to silently laugh in victory. Today, after all those days of not actually ever explaining what everything was to Pecan, Derry would have to start naming something for once! Or perhaps she’d reveal she only knew the ingredients by sight. Why else would she not tell her what the ingredients were if she knew? Pecan would know once and for all!

...Is what Pecan naively thought. Derry gently placed a hand on Pecan’s shoulder and said, “This is my apprentice, Pecan… I think it would be good practice for her to explain everything to you”.

Now it should be noted that most of the knowledge Pecan had gained came from self-study or from Derry’s sister through notes. Pecan, indeed, knew the ingredients, but this was not the victory she was hoping for. Unfortunately for Pecan, this was a crushing defeat.

“I uh might get it wrong though,” Pecan pointed out.

Derry shrugged. “That’s fine. I’ll correct you.” Pecan wondered if she even could but decided to play such a game.

“So this one is sage,” Pecan said proudly as she pointed to the jar full of what was, indeed, sage. She then pointed to the next jar. “This is milk thistle seed.”

Derry nodded. “Good, good.”

Pecan had a glint in her eye. She figured Derry would probably just say they were all correct as long as Pecan named them something. She purposely gave the wrong answers! “And then these are... uh… Hawthorn and I think this is Gyokuro green tea, right Derry?”

Derry clapped and paused. “I should say… those last two are Elder Flower and Chinese Sencha. You were… very close though. You’ve been hitting those books hard. But yeah… that’s what’s in them,” she said, smiling innocently at the man.

This, of course, did not go without a tiny bit of unseen rage from Pecan, but they all proceeded as normal. It would be unwise to involve this man in their own personal witch training conflicts. Despite that, nothing was stopping Pecan from wondering “Why is she like this”.

Being oblivious to any of the layers that his visit to the cafe was piling onto the situation, the man accepted the answer. “I see. I would like that then please.”

“I’ll make it,” Pecan said, near menacingly. “But I’ll probably need help.”

Derry seemed a bit surprised, considering that Pecan often tried to avoid making teas for customers. “That’s fine”.

“So, what’s your name?” Pecan asked as she prepared the ingredients by sight. With a mortar and pestle, she crushed the milk thistle as much as she could… which was quite aggressive, might it be added.

“...Seigan,” he answered, not sure what the relevance of his name was.

“I introduced my apprentice, but I forgot to mention, I’m Derry,” said the cafe owner in realization.

Pecan said in a very low but clear voice, “There are a lot of things you forget to mention”, grinding the milk thistle harder. Derry more than recognized Pecan’s frustration, but she chose not to comment, especially not with a guest there!

The apprentice continued with her questions, “So, Seigan. You look like a student. Are you a student?"

"I am an eternal student, yes. Though, recently, I suppose I am a teacher as well," Seigan answered.

Pecan sang a short noise of slight amusement. "I getcha. So judging by the drink you picked, you're uh... you’re looking for wisdom? So you’d agree if someone has some wisdom to give, it’d be cool to share that wisdom, right?”

Derry was starting to catch on to what it was Pecan was trying to get at and sighed to herself. That really wasn’t the time for such a thing!

As Pecan tossed all her ingredients in the large bowl, Seigan nodded, “I believe that would be the ideal”.

“Mmmhmmn, I’m glad you agree, Seigan. Don’t worry, I’ll grant you the wisdom you’re looking for-- I mean, the wisdom you… uh… seek”. That sounded more witch-like, so she felt that would be a much better way to say that. As for Seigan, he did all he could not to show his fascination with the whole process, but the immersive experience was drawing him in! And then there was Derry, who was just about ready to hit her head against a wall. However, that notable Derry smile did not falter.

With the drink mixed as it was supposed to be and in a cup, Pecan finally turned to Derry, “So this is the part I need help with,” she said with an unusually high amount of confidence. “Seeing as you know your ingredients so well, maybe you can clearly help me understand the magic part too”.

Seigan was all ears, not wanting to miss a second while Derry stared at Pecan nervously. After a bit of her looking over Pecan’s unfinished handiwork, she looked over meekly to Pecan and pointed to her hand.

“You grab it… somewhere around here.”

This wasn’t the answer Pecan wanted. “YOU-- how do I take that and put it in?”

Derry stared at Pecan, feeling a bit helpless. She really could not explain it much better, and she really was trying. “Can I… just show you again?”

“It really would be super helpful with some better explanations. I know you can,” Pecan huffed.

"I admit... I wanted you to learn the ingredients on your own, but for this... I swear I'm trying," Derry revealed in a cold sweat.

But Pecan wasn't convinced. "Try and explain it anyway."

“Something like this… you feel it where you feel it and then you put it in”. Derry tried to gauge if Pecan was picking up what she was saying, but her apprentice didn’t look very impressed. As always, the instructions seemed vague.

Derry tried to explain repeatedly, but she stopped after she started to become frustrated. She definitely didn't want their new customer to see such an attitude.

However, Seigan hummed in understanding. “So that is how it works. How astounding.”

Derry spun to look Seigan in the eyes, her frustration fading into relief, “You get it!” Pecan, on the other hand, made the wildest face wondering how anyone could understand such vague direction.

“Yes. Though it sounds like it would take quite a bit of skill,” Seigan muttered, looking over his tea.

Pecan sighed, wondering if it was just her, and continued the process. For this particular tea, she bent her fingers back with her other hand enough for there to be a lasting feeling. She then held her palm over the cup. Unfortunately, this did not yield the results any of the involved were hoping for. That is… nothing happened.

At this, Pecan blankly gazed at the tea and stepped back, motioning for Derry to take over.

“That’s alright… we can always practice that.” Derry tried to be as reassuring as possible, but Pecan couldn’t even respond. Surely, she was beyond frustrated at this point. Very understandable.

With slow motions, Derry bent her fingers back and hovered her hand over the cup. With this, the cup shone a relaxing green. Seigan’s eyes widened, but he managed to keep in his gasp of shock. Derry gestured toward the Wisdom Tea and smiled wider. “And... there you are! That’ll be seven godas, please.”

After Seigan handed his seven godas to Pecan, he grabbed his cup and took a sip of his Wisdom Tea. After a moment of dissecting the taste in his head, he said, “Thank you, both of you. This is good. This will bring me wisdom?”

Derry took a moment to think and then explained. “So some of our teas are more immediate… this one is more like a bucket. The more you put in the bucket, the more wisdom you have”.

“I have to keep drinking to keep gaining wisdom?” Seigan asked to confirm his thoughts.

“Yep. That’s... how it works,” Derry confirmed.

At this, Seigan turned to Pecan and rather hesitantly said, “Well, Pecan, was it? I will have to keep drinking these while you keep practicing. By the time I am a wiseman, you will most likely be a full-fledged witch”. It seemed to Pecan that he said such words even if it wasn’t exactly within his comfort zone.

Seeing the man attempt to say something kind for no one’s benefit other than Pecan’s, for some reason, took the apprentice by surprise. “Yeah…” she said a little too high-pitched for her liking. Such an unusual tone even had Derry on alert, the cafe owner looking over Pecan in concern. It was a very telling sign for Pecan, and she knew it was best for her to go on a quick break, of course, only after telling Seigan to enjoy his tea.

There was no way Pecan could let anyone see her cry.

But worry not! As much as it might be better to leave you, dear reader, thinking about Pecan, we won't be leaving Pecan watery-eyed and runny-nosed today.

Seigan spent a few hours reading and studying at the cafe and then gracefully took his leave. As soon as our witch and apprentice were alone, the air became quite heavy.

Derry briskly walked over to the cafe’s door, closed it, and turned toward her pupil. The cafe wasn’t supposed to be closed, and while the door wasn’t locked, it wasn’t likely that anyone would be coming at that hour.

"Pecan," she began. Pecan tensed up, knowing something about the earlier situation was going to have to be discussed. It definitely wasn't something to sweep under the rug.

"I'm so sorry. I'm... really not good at this teaching witchcraft stuff," Derry very near mumbled, looking down at her hands.

Pecan wasn't exactly sure what to say. On one hand, it was true: Derry really wasn't all that great at teaching witchcraft. On the other hand… there wasn't really an other hand, but Pecan had always reasoned that even if she never fully understood witchcraft then at least she'd be able to watch the witchcraft being done. However, she was taking the lack of progress a lot harder than even she expected of herself.

It's sometimes a human habit to say "It's okay" when someone apologizes. In this particular situation, Pecan decided not to buckle to the expected response. Instead, though she couldn’t quite look Derry in the eye, she slowly addressed her thoughts.

“You know, I feel like you haven’t been honest with me like maybe at all.”

“I know, I know. I’m sorry,” Derry said apologetically, wringing her hands together.

Pecan motioned toward the counter as she took a seat at one of the cafe’s tables. “I thought you were just really bad with the ingredients-- you know, the names and stuff, but you do know them. I don’t even get it anymore”.

Derry joined Pecan at the table, thinking through her words. She grimaced at what she was about to say but carefully allowed them to spill out. “Right… I know them. I’m… the second highest level you can be as a witch. I’d better.”

“So why not just tell me?” Pecan asked, becoming angrier with each word she spoke.

“I know this sounds real stupid, but I thought it'd be hella fun for you to learn the ingredients on your own since that's how I learned…” Derry began. “And I know I'm not good at explaining things, but with the way you were avoiding practice at first, I thought you were fine with picking the magic part up eventually as you went…”

Pecan was about to refute that, but Derry was quick to elaborate. “But that was... a stupid assumption on my part. You've been working so hard... of course you want to make progress.”

“Yeah, I want to make progress but um… Derry… maybe it’s hard for you to explain things, but I’m really not getting the way you teach.”

Derry paused and thought, “It’s not perfect... but you did pick up the Good Luck Tea’s magic. We can figure out what went good with the way I explained that one!”

“Actually, Millan helped me with that one. A lot,” Pecan revealed.

Derry stared at Pecan for a long while, really thinking about everything that had happened up until then. At first, it was a huge “no” moment for Derry. Pecan had made a few things work before! There was no way that Derry was that bad of a teacher. Then suddenly, as she remembered Pecan’s progress on the exact day of Millan’s visit a while ago, it became quite the “oh” moment.

All of this combined to form an “oh no” moment. Oh nooo.

“I’m the problem!” Derry shrieked in realization, slightly panicked.

“Yeah, but I mean you’ve uh… you’ve been supportive though. It’s just… yeah,” Pecan tried to say as delicately as possible, some of her usual bite betraying her at that point.

After a long moment of silence, Derry nodded and smiled at Pecan. “Okay. Let’s try something else.” With that, she stood and gestured for Pecan to follow her behind the counter.

Upon reaching their destination, Derry pulled out two jars from the bottom and placed them on the top. “This is yellow dock and this one’s citronella.”

“I know,” Pecan answered cautiously.

Derry chuckled, “I know you know. Both are used for... attracting customers. This is not allowed but… it’ll be temporary”. She placed a finger to her lips to indicate that it was a secret.

“Okay. Legality aside, what do I do with them?” Pecan asked.

“Anything you want to! I want you to pick one, both, or none,” Derry began. “All of these spells have been my spells. They’ve all been... my way. Sure, the drinks we whip up have recipes that you should follow, but usually, you find what works for you.”

Pecan stared at the jars and asked, “I just… uh… pick?”

“You just go with what vibes.”

Pecan inspected the jars for a while, and eventually picked yellow dock. “So what do I do next?”

“From there, it’s a lot of trial and error... but think about how you’d make a spell that attracts customers, and you can cast something up from there,” Derry explained, placing the citronella back where it had been.

So, Pecan took the time to experiment with the yellow dock, mixing it into all types of other ingredients. And then finally, she settled on mixing it with seed milk all into a smaller jar.

“Um… can I just make it an aroma bottle?” the apprentice asked.

Derry nodded. “You sure can!”

“Okay, then I think I’m done?”

Hearing Pecan’s uncertainty, Derry laughed to herself. “Hit that with some more confidence… but alright! What do you want this aroma bottle to do? Say it for real!”

“I want this to attract customers,” Pecan stated firmly.

“That’s killer,” Derry said as she dipped a finger into the jar. Just like with the drinks, the air shifted, and Pecan’s mixture shone a very weak white. “There we go, I hit it with only a little. Now go put this on the windowsill”.

As instructed, Pecan walked the small jar over to the windowsill, not sure how it was supposed to work, and turned to walk back to the counter. That is, until the door opened!

It was an elderly woman, walking in with a cane.

“Welcome to Witch Cafe Wisteria!” Pecan and Derry chimed.

The woman asked ever so politely, “Are you closed?”

“Not for you,” Derry sang.

From there, the usual transaction occurred. The woman enjoyed a cup of Direction Tea, and then went on her way.

Pecan quickly turned to Derry and exclaimed, “So that worked!”

“It did! Congratulations!” Derry said. “Now you can mess around with the mixtures themselves and for now I’ll lay down the magic until you can do it yourself. We were working a little fast before.”

“Also, didn’t you lock the door? How’d she even get in?” Pecan asked, looking over the door.

At this, Derry began to sweat nervously. “Right, so… I gave my key to Jenni. So if you don’t mind, can you be the key master for a while?”