Mami hated tea. She would always complain whenever her mother tried to get her to try a cup. When she was taken to a formal Japanese tea ceremony at age six she had cried and acted up until her parents had been forced to leave in embarrassment. Her mother always tried to explain that tea was like life. Mami did not get it. How could life be anything like water that had plant pieces soaked in it? She hated everything about tea.
Right now she would give anything to have the smell of brewing tea back. If she had only been more careful with her wish her mother could be in the kitchen right now brewing tea for when her father came home from work. It was a smell Mami could not believe she missed.
She found herself getting up from where she had been resting in front of the low table. Her stocking clad feet walked to the kitchen that would forever miss its mistress. Her mother’s kettle sat on the stove. Clumsily she filled it with water, splashing some on herself. It was not much water, just enough for a cup or two. Her golden eyes locked on the flame that caressed the base of the kettle. In minutes it made a familiar song. After putting the tea into a delicate cup, she added the hot water.
Mami stepped back and closed her eyes. She let herself breathe in the aroma of the tea. It was still not exactly a smell she cared for, but it was familiar and comforting. For a good ten minutes she just stood there.
Mami’s eyes snapped open. She could miss her parents all she wanted to. In fact she would mourn them for a long time. However, feeling sorry for herself was not going to help her. She had to help herself now. With a single minded purpose she walked to the apartment’s door and put on her white shoes. She had witches to hunt.
The cup of tea was left sitting on the counter.
Mami had continued to just make cups of tea for weeks. It was when she realized how much she was spending on tea that she decided she should not be so wasteful. Now when she made the tea she would actually drink it. Soon, she found herself enjoying it. Well, she enjoyed it for the most part. Mami could not bring herself to drink the bitter tea that would remain at the bottom of the cup. It just did not taste very good.
She had stopped by a shop to pick up more tea on her way home from school. Today she had decided to take a different route home. It would be longer, but would let her take care of some of her witch hunting early. The brisk autumn air was enjoyable and the leaves crackled under foot.
There was a voice on the wind. It was a young voice. Was the other person singing? Mami followed it until she found herself in front of a church. In front was a girl about her age with bright red hair. The other girl was cleaning leaves off the sidewalk as she sang. Mami was slow to realize that song was in fact a hymn.
“That song is very pretty.”
“Thank you,” the other girl turned to face Mami.
Mami’s eyes widened as she glimpsed the other girl’s hand. There was a ring very similar to the one that her own Soul Gem took. Wordlessly she lifted her hand up to show the girl her own ring. The redhead’s face was split by the largest grin she had ever seen.
“The name is Kyouko Sakura.”
Mami stood there talking with Kyouko for an hour. Both were thrilled to meet another magical girl. Mami would not deny a small kernel of jealousy that the other girl had made such a selfless wish. Still, with two magical girls they could protect the city better.
“Mami, watch it,” Kyouko yelled. She created a red barrier in front of the other girl.
The witch’s pink minions crashed into the barrier suicidally. They were easy pickings for the yellow clad magical girl. The barrier provided ample room to shoot through; in fact she could rest her gun against it to help stabilize her shots.
Kyouko was up close and personal with the witch. It made a noise not unlike popping corn as it moved. One limb, that might be called an arm, swung and knocked Kyouko back. She found herself falling further then she should have. There was a sort of dull shock as she realized she was falling into one of the many pits that dotted the barrier. Her fall was suddenly stopped as a yellow ribbon roughly wrapped around her arm. It whipped her up into the air before releasing her. Kyouko repositioned herself in midair to land on her feet.
“I think you made it angry, Kyouko.”
“Then it should see what I have coming up next!”
Kyouko used her spear to pole vault toward the witch. She feinted low and then kicked what looked like the lid of a jewelry box, actually the witch’s head, open. Her spear was lodged inside to prevent it from closing. A cacophonic melody spewed forth. In the middle was a slowly spinning ballerina. Its clothing was a mockery of how the magical girls dressed. The red magical girl dove aside.
Something more like a cannon ball, and less like a bullet, rammed into the witch. It tried to move one more time before it died.
Kyouko picked up the fallen Grief Seed. She spun on the ball of her foot and threw it to her friend.
“It is your turn, Kyouko.”
“Yeah, but you used more magic. You need it more.”
Mami smiled in silent thanks. Kyouko crossed herself and knelt where the witch had fallen. Mami was silent as the other girl prayed. Kyouko had once explained that she prayed for them just in the off chance that witches did have souls.
Kyouko stood. “I’ve decided that I’m going to tell Papa.”
“I’m sure he will understand.” Mami liked Kyouko’s father.
“See you later.”
That was the last time Mami ever saw Kyouko.
Mami would drink her tea down to the bitter end for a long time. It was not a chore. She actually enjoyed the bitterness just as much as the rest of it. Now if only this witch would just die so she could have tea.
She lifted musket. A shot would ring out. The weapon would be discarded. Then she would lift another. Over and over she did this with cool methodical precision. Her accuracy was excellent even at this quick draw style. Mami held her fire as she heard footsteps come thundering toward her from behind.
A roll to the side took her out of the way. As she rolled, a new musket appeared from her sleeve. She raised it up and took aim. Her finger lifted off the trigger when she saw the black clad magical girl with an eye patch.
The girl ran past her. Oversized metal claws were attached to her hands. This girl moved with incredible speed as she started to slice the witch into small pieces. It almost reminded Mami of that American comic book character, one of the boys at school was a fan of him.
“Hello, Mami, we just thought we would drop in,” another voice said.
Mami turned and saw a second magical girl. This one was dressed in white.
“How do you know my name?”
“My powers let me see the future. I’m Oriko and my friend is Kirika.”
The three girls stood together in a park. The sun had set a long time ago. Any normal girls their age would be safely home, or at least in a better part of town.
“Oriko, I wanna put my head on your lap,” Kirika demanded.
Oriko sat down on a wooden bench. Kirika saw her chance and quickly joined her, lying down and resting her head on her friend’s lap. She gave a quick warning glare to Mami.
“Thank you for your help with the witch.”
“Actually, you could have handled her easily yourself,” Oriko said.
“Then why did you come?”
“To be honest, I just wanted to meet you in the only I would have.”
A small snore escaped Kirika.
“I can see the future, remember? We met in another time, but not as allies.”
“What do you mean?”
“Nevermind. It is a dead timeline anyways.”
“Can you see my future?”
“Some of it.”
“Do I meet Kyouko again?”
“No.” Oriko watched Mami’s face fall. “But, you do make new friends.”
Mami could not help but smile. “Thank you, Oriko. Goodbye.”
“Bye bye,” Kirika woke up just enough to say farewell to the drill haired Mami.
Oriko watched Mami leave. She felt pity for the other magical girl. At least she would not die alone.
She turned her head as someone approached them.
“Hello, Homura. You were waiting for her to leave.”
The footsteps stopped and then resumed.
“I can’t help but wonder what I did in a previous timeline to earn your visit,” she looked up at the Desert Eagle pointed at her.
Homura was silent as she shot Oriko’s Soul Gem.
Kirika woke up with a scream. The anger and sadness colored her face as her friend’s corpse provided a pillow for her head. She turned her head and saw Homura.
Kirika was transformed in an instant. She rushed the murderer of her love with a primal howl.
Mami heard the unmistakable sound of a gunshot and the scream that followed. She knew that technically if a witch was not involved then she had no business. It did not matter. Mami ran back in the direction she had come from.
She saw Oriko still on the bench. The older girl almost looked like she was just napping. Kirika was on the ground, crumpled at the feet of another magical girl.
Homura spun, eyes widening for a moment as her gaze met Mami’s. The recently arrived time traveler regained her composure in milliseconds. One hand reached up and brushed her hair back.
“Don’t get in my way.”
Homura seemed to vanish before Mami’s eyes. Actually, she just froze time and walked away.
As the maw filled with teeth closed in on her, Mami now understand. Her body would not move while her mind raced as time slowed down. What her mother had always said was true. First you made your preparations. That could be when your parents were married, meeting a new friend or becoming a magical girl. You could smell the aroma as the leaves steeped. Things would change right before your eyes, as you grew, became closer to friends or had learnt how to use your skills as a magical girl. Then you would drink the tea as you enjoyed the fruits of your labor. That was of course life, fast friends and being a veteran magic girl. Then you would reach the bitter end as people died, friends parted and a magical girl made that one fatal mistake.
When the teeth started to close she knew she had finally reached the bitter tea.