Not every potion is made for the sake of kindness. This is important to recognize as an alchemist. Coincidentally, not every potion is made for a distinct purpose. Some brews are purely made due to the acidic nature of the chemicals. They are made because it is simply the most effortless concoction to create— after all, all you need is a failure.
Logically speaking, if a person would pit two failures against each other, or even worse— take a success and smash it against the failure. Then, the entire experiment would be a failure, right?
Wrong. It would be a brilliant display of quiet murder. The fumes of such toxicity can only be prevented by immediate healing, the intervention of God and an antidote taken beforehand. But, of course, if one would take one before the collision, then the fumes would reek of attempted death. That being said, the convicted could easily hide the plot with innocence. How they didn’t know the failed potions collided despite it being the first rule to empty the failed potions separately and safely.
Dangerous, isn’t it?
This is the murkiness that lurks under the oil spill of such a title of an alchemist. Here, this is how you make the antidote. Try not to get caught so easily.
- Antidote for acidic fumes, transcribed by Ootori Mahiru.
There was a storm in the air.
Even when Mahiru huddled in her closed-off shop away from the city, Mahiru could feel the energy in the air. She could never forget that haunting spark of lighting, the jolts that forced her body upright. There were only a few moments in Mahiru’s life where she felt this energy— each one was worse than the last.
Within her eyes, the hue of her grey pupils swirled to the husk of dark clouds. This shade dyed itself in the dreary colours of ominous foreboding. She closed the book on her wife’s notes, her heart sinking once more at the name labelled there. Yet, it was the dedication on the cover that made Mahiru press her palm on her eyes to block the tears from falling. It’s been so long since she died, and now—
Mahiru let out a long exhale. There was no time to reflect, weep and mourn. She can do it later when she made sure everything was safe, not now when there was still enough time to plan her escape. She would not be forced into a prophecy again— no matter what Maya or Nana forced on her. She already spent most of her younger life being a chess piece and running from it. If Shiori’s sisters wanted to throw themselves on the board, then they could do so. Mahiru couldn’t care any less for them— not when they are so stubborn to listen.
Mahiru returned the book of her wife’s notes into the escape bag, giving it the best protection possible before she walked down to the store below her living quarters. It was best to start packing away the optimal potions she could take with her whilst leaving enough for Shiori. She made sure she left her will and right of transfer to her apprentice. That way, Shiori could live a life away from her sisters if she so wished.
Mahiru paused at the front of the entrance, her gut wrenching her head to the back of her shop. Beyond the glass panes decorated with rain, her eyes fixated on the unruly set of flowerbeds in the back garden. Her stomach dipped further, haunting her heart in an unbearable ache. She won’t be able to take flowers from her wife’s grave, let alone say goodbye to the empty bed next to it. She swallowed the regret down her throat, forcing the heavy lump to settle in her chest.
Rapid-fire knocking on the door forced Mahiru to tear away from the flowers. Automatically, Mahiru reached for the bat she kept hidden underneath the register, holding it up like a sword even though it’s been years since she last wielded one.
“Mahiru san,” a voice cried out as the rampart of knocks repeated again on the wood. Mahiru’s eyes widened as she lowered her weapon. She peaked out of the window, the gasp leaving her lips as she undid the locks and allowed the girl in. Shiori’s attire was soaked, hands red in the raw cold, bruising from the wooden door.
The thunder roared as the wind bellowed into Mahiru’s store. It swayed the potions, some looser ones falling to the floor until Mahiru shut the door. A bang like a gunshot silenced everything at once, and instantly Mahiru looked around for any damages only to find there was none. Yes, several potions fell, but nothing was damaged or cracked. It seemed like a miracle, at least until Mahiru looked at Shiori.
“Mahiru san,” Shiori begged, whimpering. Her hair was soaked and a puddle formed at her feet. Yet her clothes were drying. Waving in an air that shouldn’t exist— evaporating all the rainwater out of her. “Mahiru san help me— my, my…” Shiori’s voice trailed off. The hesitance to call Fumi and Claudine, her sisters, was clogging up her throat. It made it hard to breathe, let alone speak.
Mahiru should’ve focused on Shiori’s pitying face, the quivering frame, the ache and plea in her green-blue eyes. Mahiru should’ve seen a young woman terrified for her life with something she doesn’t fully understand. Mahiru should’ve seen Shiori. But, instead, she saw an old, old friend, one that was promised to her a long time ago. A Hero that died so fast she didn’t even have the time to plead.
The Hero’s mark on Shiori’s chest pulsed with light, and the old prophetic mark on her left arm, the scars of regret that Mahiru always carried, answered back.
Mahiru’s voice was not her own— not entirely. Her voice was rough, faint but raw in its indescribable emotions. This was not the voice of Ootori Mahiru, a widow who tried to make the best of what was given to her. This was the voice of Mahiru, the denounced “cursed one” who feared a new prophecy like it was the end of time.
“LEAVE!” Mahiru screamed. The door of her store burst open behind her, illuminating Mahiru in this frame of her strength simmering underneath for the last years. The torrent of wind blasted through a glass plane and cracked another. Her hair flew around her, pigtails whirling. Another person would’ve fallen over, forced down to cower from the sheer force. Instead, Mahiru stood there. Unmoveable with a face indescribable— feeling a rage she hadn’t felt for a long time.
“Mahiru san please!” Shiori screamed back. Her tears turned into sobs, her voice hoarse from her wails. Mahiru ignored her, grabbing hold of Shiori’s bag and flipped the lid open. She shoved any potions she could reach, any that would fit into her bag. In all of her blind rage, this was the most kindness she could do. “Not you too Mahiru san please. Please don’t send me away.”
“You need to leave now,” Mahiru hissed more from fear than anything else. She gripped Shiori’s arm roughly and turned her around. With her strength, it was easy to push Shiori back, forcing her through the doorway only to stumble back herself when the wall of wind rose up to protect the Hero.
“I can’t— not again,” Mahiru wavered, her words becoming more incoherent as her breathing became unravelled. It was getting hard to breathe, and in her lingering moments of clarity, the notion that this could be because of Shiori’s new powers getting out of control terrified her. “I can’t— please, I don’t want to lose anyone else again from prophecies.” She already lost so much for the sake of a story.
“I’m not part of the prophecy!” Shiori lied, denying herself the truth she refused to acknowledge. She did not want to be part of something that tore her family apart. She did not want to be part of something that made Mahiru look at her with eyes that wished she never saved her in the first place.
“Please, I— they… Fumi… Claudine…” Her head fell, the weight of her rose necklace was almost like it was acid, corroding her as if she was iron becoming rust.
“Run—” Mahiru repeated again, this time raising her arm as opposed to the bat. Her arm shuddered as something burnt from the fabric, like lava melting through concrete. Shiori’s eyes widened. “Stay away from me Hero, before I make you.”
Shiori blinked, her mouth opening wide. “Mahiru san… you too? I… they were telling the truth?” Shiori was not looking at Mahiru, not entirely. Her eyes were focused instead on the words flickering and fading on the skin. Words that described the mark that was long hidden on her arm, of history that Shiori, despite her closeness, was not privy to.
Yet, despite the truth so blatantly in front of her, Shiori could not turn to hate her. Her sisters may be right for once and justified in their ruthlessness towards Mahiru growing up. Still, Shiori could not shed the kindness so quickly. Instead, in Shiori’s eyes, the surprise and fear morphed into compassion, into empathy.
“I’m so sorry that the prophecies ruined your life too Mahiru san….”
How Heroic it was to care more about the person attacking instead of her herself. It was unfortunate, however, that the words of a Hero never had an effect on Mahiru. For if the words ever did, Mahriru and perhaps Shiori would not be here, to begin with.
The ancient and worn mark of the Lover glowed violet, in a rich colour deep and dark and enshrouded with violence. The shadows of such a shade loomed over the untainted and unnoticed mark of an M deep in the centre of L’s lop-sided heart like curve. Again, Mahiru spoke, but this time, her voice was not her own.
“Leave Hero, take what you have with you and run— run as far as your body, powers and all can take you. Run and never return until you drop by death’s door first.”
Purple fire streamed through the tip of Mahiru’s finger, igniting the wall of wind and trapping Shiori in her own domain. Shiori couldn’t see anything but purple, the heat forcing her mind to go hazy as her body willed itself in a way she couldn’t control.
“Mahiru san!” Shiori coughed, ducking her head from the flames that attempted to smother her as her legs stumbled out of the room. Her hands furiously clutched Mahiru’s book and the bag that was forced into her arms. “Mahiru san!”
Shiori’s words were nothing but a faint whisper. The second the flames were within the rain, the heat evaporated— but not to the downpour. Instead, it was to the wind rushing so fast that it extinguished what stubborn flames dared to cling on. Shiori’s feet ran, the wind racing against her ears. The power and influence of an unused prophecy mark were too much for the young Hero to counter.
Scared, frightened, terribly alone— under the influence of the lover’s old charm Shiori did the only thing she knew even when, for once, she didn’t want to do it. Her body ran away, keeping herself quiet, keeping herself unseen, disguised to onlookers as a sudden whirlwind of cold breeze. All Shiori could do was shut her eyes and brace the sting on her cheeks from her own tears leaving before she could blink.
There was no time to grieve and cry, not when the prophecy began.
There was no time to grieve and cry. Really there was no time for Mahiru to do anything. The Hero has fled beyond the threshold of the Kirin’s eyes— the new prophecy has begun for real. Her arm ached in searing pain, but she knew better to touch the marred skin. It wasn’t the first time her own flames were hot enough to burn her, but it was the first time she dealt with it on her own.
Mahiru grunted through the gritted teeth as she stumbled, one hand just gripping the part underneath the old Lover’s Mark. Behind her, the storm continued to rage on, the thunder roared ever closer. Her time, already borrowed, was getting stolen. Soon she will not have any time left, not to heal her wound, not to say goodbye. She highly doubted she could hide the recipe book— the one transcribed by her wife. She couldn’t even burn it to stop Maya’s hands from getting hold of it. The thought of destroying it in such a disgraceful way was enough to ruin Mahiru’s heart.
The thunder roared again, this time accompanied with the backing of soldiers marching, marching ever closer to her little shop. Mahiru took out one of the burn healing potions she made sighed, biting her lip as she popped open the cork. She could never perfect this potion, made almost specifically for her own flames— no matter how much her wife wrote to perfect it, she couldn’t get the same results.
If she focused for a moment, shutting her eyes to drown out the marching that acted like sands sinking through the hourglass, Mahiru could hear her wife again. The thunder would be replaced with the pops and bubbles of her potions boiling over the open fire; the rain would be the grinding of stones into power.
Mahiru could almost see her, the golden blonde hair that held strands of silver that always needed to be cut, except her wife was always too busy to cut it. She could see her loving ruby coloured eyes, the cocky smirk that she loved so much. She could see the smirk soften, the ruby shade turning to the hue of a red giant of a star. Her wife would always tease and flirt that the sun in her eyes was merely a reflection of Mahiru’s soul.
There was no time for Mahiru to mourn or grieve. Yet she was grateful that she was allowed this moment of peace, even when the memory of something long gone stung more than the mark. The pain of her mark was temporary— the ache in her heart was not.
Mahiru downed the potion, wincing as her fingers gripped the arm beneath the mark. The pain intensified as if water was tossed haphazardly to an oily fire. She bared her throat, tilting her head to the sky as she bit her bottom lip; an enduring rumble of growls slipped through the gritting teeth. Then time collapsed upon itself, reversing and vacuuming space and the law it confined itself in— the weak touch of Hell’s personal flames evaporated, gone within seconds.
Mahiru opened her eyes, taking time to pry one finger one by one away from her arm before inspecting the damage. The nails dug deep but not enough to bleed, and the mark on her arm held no trace of usage. The only proof that Mahiru used her forbidden power was the taste of blood on her tongue, one she knew she didn’t cause from biting her lip and the singed edges of her sleeve.
Mahiru stood up, straightening herself. She did not have time to hide her mark anymore. Not that she cared— judgement day was here. Still, she found a spare bag and began packing the potions away, not all but just enough. Just small enough for her to take it when they take her away, just in case… just in case she needed to prepare for the worst.
Mahiru took a breath, her eyes glancing at the place she called her home for the last 15 or so years before she looked in the distance at her backyard. She glanced back at the empty flower bed before she looked at the one next to it. She stared at the flowerbed of her wife’s grave, admiring the forget-me-nots, the red tulips and the lilies of the valley blooming through the rain. Those flowers were not in season, but they dared to bloom so defiantly.
Mahiru could almost hear her wife’s voice, translating the meanings even when Mahiru knew it by heart already. The messages of eternal love of the forget-me-not. The declaration of love of the red tulips and the return of happiness spoken through the unfurled flower heads of the lily of the Valley. In that brief moment of space and freedom, Mahiru wondered if there was a flower, meaning I’ll see you again in the afterlife.
Her lips quirked up as she squared her shoulders. Perhaps Ambrosia— returned loved, would probably do.
Mahiru stepped outside of her shop, the rain battering down her for only a second as the wind howled up ahead. Her vision became blurry as rainwater pelted down on her, the lightning flashing fast to blind her. Yet all the help did not stop Mahiru from stepping to the side, taking a broken plank of her ruined door to block the overhead thrust of a sword.
Blood dripped from her skin, the sharp blade nicking the back of her hand, but she did not care. Instead, her eyes were solely focused on the feral rage of Saijou Claudine.
“Where is my sister?” Claudine hissed, forcing her weight onto Mahiru. Her instincts, though rusty, kicked in, and Mahiru twisted the plank, pushing it deeper into the blade before shifting to the side and letting go. Claudine’s body fell forward, she caught herself, but now the plank was stuck on her weapon’s edge.
Not that it mattered, Claudine slammed the sword against the concrete walls, her strength shattering the wood entirely. Mahiru’s hand fell to her satchel before her gaze snapped to Fumi in the background, her arms raised— the tips of fingers glowing a deadly ivy shade. Mahiru let go of the satchel, the glow dimmed.
Claudine’s scream caught Mahiru’s attention in the next second. And Mahiru stepped back, making sure that her back wasn’t in front of Fumi as Claudine embedded her sword on the doorframe. The thunder roared around them, almost displeased. Mahiru’s frown darkened. This poor girl was running nothing but emotion.
“WHERE IS SHE!?”
“Gone,” Mahiru replied, her voice sore and scratchy from her yelling before. She could still taste the blood on her tongue.
Claudine’s eyes flashed red. Mahiru stepped to the side, doing a double-take when she saw green cuffs on Claudine’s grieves. Her weapon dropped anticlimactically, the hilt dirtying itself with mud and muck. Mahiru turned her eyes to Fumi, the lighting flashing behind her— now distant with its subsequent roars.
“We need to bring her in Claudine,” Fumi reasoned any trace of sweat and struggle blending in with the rain. Even the bared gritting teeth could be disguised as shivering. The clack and grumble of chains rattling and colliding against each other faded slowly, quieting down as reason flooded away most of Claudine’s anger, like a flood that extinguished a forest fire. One Disaster following another.
“I’m not going anywhere without searching this damned place for Shiori,” Claudine barked. Her nostrils flared, smoke curling from her nose— the fire still creating smoke, still condensing in the truth of rainfall.
“Go ahead.” Mahiru moved aside, raising her arms to Fumi. “Let’s get this over and done with or will you attempt to kill me too?”
Fumi’s brows furrowed as she raised her hand, caution drifting through her bones as green stretches and enshrouded her arms, locking them firmly in place. “You’re surprisingly obedient.”
“You’re not someone I want to spend my energy on to be frank.” She’s saving her fight for who started it all. No matter how much Maya and Nana trained their students, they didn’t pose any threat to Mahiru. Mahiru, after all, went through a prophecy. They survived the previous prophecy . Compared to that mess, these kids were barely a warm-up. They haven’t even started the current one.
“THAT’S WHAT YOU THINK!”
Mahiru’s body ducked down on instinct. Claudine’s sword sliced through hair only— even then, it was only loose end strands, nothing important. Mahiru pressed her arms down to the mud as she swung her legs. She swept Claudine off her feet before standing up, kicking the sword away from her. Mahiru did not care that the edge of the blade nicked her skin. It was nothing important.
“What you think doesn’t matter, Saijou Claudine,” Mahiru lectured as she stepped back, avoiding Claudine’s attempt to grapple her legs. She kicked mud into Claudine’s face, sparing a glance towards Fumi. Fumi caught her eye. The thunder roared behind her.
“Enough Claudine, you’re too angry to think properly,” Fumi yelled, forcing her restraints on her sister. “You need to let her go.”
“SHE LET SHIORI GO!”
“She’s not a child anymore, she had to go whether you liked it or not—” Mahiru interrupted. “You cannot stop the prophecy no matter how hard you try.”
“Yeah you would know that wouldn’t you,” Claudine spat, wiping the dirt off her eyes. Yet muck still clung to the corners, stubborn like mould. “That’s why your—”
“Shut your mouth before I make you.” Mahiru shouldn’t have stepped out of line. Mahiru shouldn’t allow her lover’s mark to pulse, angry, elevated. Exposed where they could see. Mahiru shouldn’t have said anything. But she knew where that sentence would go if Claudine ended it. Mahiru knew Claudine would not be alive if she ended it.
“Respect the dead,” Mahiru warned. Uncaring how Claudine and Fumi and everyone else, even the rain and thunder in the sky, paused and stared at her lover’s mark shining in the dark like a beacon— or a target. “Even if you didn’t respect your mother’s wish.”
Disasters followed disasters. Mahiru couldn’t stop her mouth even if she tried.
“ENOUGH!” Fumi roared, forcing all her magic against Claudine. She trapped her within a bubble, reinforcing it again and again as Claudine forced her way out with brute strength. Fumi turned to Mahiru, then to the commanding guards who stood to the side, unsure what to do. “Get her to the high priestess. All of you go. I’ll deal with my sister.”
At her command, the common guard moved away, two of the strongest grabbed Mahiru by the arm. Neither of them checked for Mahiru’s bag. None of them checked Mahiru’s bag. Behind the cold shivering lips, Mahiru hid a smile.
Elsewhere, far far away from the thresholds of the beginning, the breeze began to dance. They twirled and swirled around each other like an entire ballroom filled with dancers doing the same choreography. The elements of wind and air slid to the side— tearing apart a tree, forcing it to the ground. They fluttered to the right— splitting an entire river in half for a moment. They lifted their partner off the ground at once— a mountain broke away, forcing a rockslide.
Yet despite all these calamities, the star of the show didn’t notice. Not that Shiori could notice, a common flaw within Heroes archetypes, after all, was how self-centred they could be. Though it wasn’t entirely her fault for this, stories tended to be centred about them after all. What Shiori did notice was the wind. It was howling, blocking out sound, blocking out vision, blocking out everything. It was a shield.
It was a shield in all the worst ways. Yes, it kept everything out, but that meant nothing else came in. No sense of logic or rhyme could sneak in within this tornado of ill convinced coping mechanisms. All Shiori can hear was Mahiru’s last words; all she could remember is her sister’s words.
Was this part of the prophecy? Was this what her sisters abandoned her for? She became a hero, stole what they worked for all their lives for this? Being hated. Being chased out and hated by family and friends alike. Even the person who saved her life— Mahiru. The person who gave her a way out of the Kirin Temple, the person who started to teach her, an apprentice to being an alchemist. Even she wanted Shiori to leave.
The problem with shields, however, or in this case, a blessing. They tended to fold and break in the force of something powerful— of a strength incomprehensible. Shiori’s winds can force ancient trees to bend; it could split and divide the rapids and rivers-- destroy the strength of mountains.
But winds are nothing but fuel in a forest fire.
Disasters follow disasters. But as the initial disaster that is to be followed-- the Hero? Or the villain?
Shiori stumbled into a clearing. She could’ve fallen— she would’ve fallen, but the lingering winds halted her fall. The moon was gone, yet there was still light. There was no shadow, yet darkness was all Shiori could see. The red eyes in front of her, Shiori could not see it. She could feel them instead. She could not forget that familiar haunt of judgment she felt before in the Institute. The kind that was staring through her soul, staring through and splitting past her shields.
Something pulsed in Shiori’s chest. Everything was becoming too hot, the muscles building up the fatigue within the heated friction. The wind may have carried her, but her legs still ran. This was the price to pay. Shiori reached her hand out, desperate as darkness started to consume the corners of her vision. The words left her mouth as she fell to the ground. “Don’t make me leave too.”
She was unaware that another pair of scarlet ruby eyes, wrinkles near the edges, was next to her too, watching with great interest.
The moon appeared again. It was bathed in red.