Chapter 52:

sceNe 52 - ꜰiʀꜱᴛ ʟessoN

ᴋraCᴋeᴅ ᴍooN / Kracked Moon

The books I was told to read were having a bigger impact than I expected. I didn’t remember having my perspective widened when I was shown stuff as a kid, but as an adult I was now thinking about how magical energy had a relationship everywhere. The easiest way I could compare it was how atoms interact with each other, even in subtle ways that can’t always be understood. It was overwhelming, but once I accepted it was another way to look at the world, it became easier to deal with.

One of the key things I was learning was that natural born witches can actually feel the flow of magic between living and even non-living things. I wasn’t having that experience, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t do anything. Over time and exposure you can learn how to feel the connections, and then even make use of local sources of energy, but I wasn’t remotely interested in that. The more mystical elements to me felt more like a lesson about the world than anything useful.

I had told Koko that I wanted to be ready if Cryztal needed to eat me again, but I didn’t really think that would be anytime soon. I didn’t tell her about my scars because she might not have trusted my intention otherwise. The books she gave me barely even touched on using potions, let alone anything about the resurrection potion. How long was this going to take?

When I finally received the letter for our next appointment, I was worried. Even though I read the books more than one time each, I felt like I was going to be dismissed for not fully understanding them. In reality, that was actually what she wanted.

“They’re so stuffy, right?” Koko’s floating head said, laughing after. “As long as you read them and get that, we can continue.”

What I hadn’t considered was that Koko was specifically called the Silly Witch for a reason. She didn’t like being bound by traditional approaches to magic, and liked when things were goofy. The more something had a sound structure or even a practical purpose, the less interested she was in it. That was also part of why she liked potions so much. Magic has progressed to where drawing energy and repurposing it was more practical than brewing potions, and most potions that were useful had become medicine that people normally use, or stuff like soft drinks. But she preferred potions because they were inherently freeing.

“Anyone or anything can use a potion, if brewed correctly. Even someone without magical capabilities can brew a magical potion. Witches just do a good job at hiding the key ingredients.” She said this like it was a dirty secret.

“But if anyone can use them, why didn’t you teach Cryztal?” It still felt weird that Cryztal didn’t even know basic information about witches.

Koko sighed. “True aliens are like voids or zero-points for magical energy, but hybrids like her are unpredictable. I’ve witnessed her body seep a type of magical energy before, and she had no idea it was happening! That could influence a potion, so she would likely just make a mess of it all.”

The actual lesson Koko wanted to teach me was to prepare me for an introductory potion: heat resistance. The purpose of the potion would be to reduce what heat can enter the body. Normally it was used just like a topical for hot summer days, but it had also been used for exploring deserts and volcanoes, or as a cheap trick to make walking on hot coals easier. She also felt a need to tell me that it had been used for torture, by applying it to someone’s body in winter while exposed, meaning they could lose heat but would never gain new body heat until the potion wore off.

She then explained how some of the brewing equipment worked, mostly that I shouldn’t change the position of anything because the distilling process is already set to the potions she was going to teach me. Shockingly most of the work was just grinding stuff up into fine powder, boiling it, then mixing other stuff. It reminded me of chemistry videos where someone turns one thing into another thing, like turning a plastic glove into like grapefruit soda or something. Koko insisted potion brewing was not like chemistry, but it was hard to not see it that way.

I was admittedly nervous that Koko’s lessons might miss the mark, so after giving me a list of practical ingredients and places to buy them, as well as the explicit instruction to find as many locally grown plants on the list, I decided to make my intentions a little more clear.

“It’s been so long since you’ve seen me. Didn’t you want to ask how I’ve been?” I suggested, trying to steer the conversation.

Koko thought for a moment and then looked at me and said, “No. That isn’t really important.”

“But it is!” I insisted. “It wasn’t easy for me being alone!”

“It never is. Save that for Cryztal. I’m sure you two can bond over it.” She wasn’t letting up.

Anxious about it, I blurted out, “But that won’t fix what I did!”

The look she gave me after that was enough to shut me up for good. Whether it was that I was interrupting her plans, or just sounding selfish, she was mad.

“Nai-bu. Sweety. You think I don’t see it? That your body is unstable because you used an expired potion? That your goals might not be as wholesome as you initially described them?” She took a deep breath. “I am not going to promise you a solution. All I can do is teach you, and hope you make good choices.”

This was a side of her I hardly remembered. Even during serious situations, Koko was like a fun aunt. She never acted like a parent, almost like a big sister most of the time, and encouraged us to do goofy things. In retrospect, that was probably to get us to leave her alone. But now she was very serious. Did age do this? Time? Or had she always been like this, and I was too young and naive to notice?

Once I was clearly frozen in my seat, too frightened to say anything else, Koko decided she was done. She took off her hat, and it suddenly became wider, as her head sank into it.

“Read the brewing manual and follow the instructions for the heat resistance potion. It will take multiple days to brew, and if anything is wrong with it, I will post a note on the door.” Her voice echoed as her head submerged into the hat. “And try to be patient next time we meet.”

Accompanied by a popping sound, the hat was gone, and my teacher was no longer there. I was starting to think I bit off more than I could chew. But maybe it was Koko testing me? With new material to review, and some shopping to do, I didn’t have much choice. Even if I did walk away, eventually Cryztal would need help again, and it didn’t sound like Koko was in a hurry to come back. I couldn’t just run away from this.

But I wasn’t sleeping very well with all this pressure.