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Cataclysm

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To create specialised potions, it needs a key. It can be ingredients from hard to reach places like voidence water in the waterfalls of truth. Or it can be more sinister, requiring the blood of a marked one— a person chosen by the prophecy to play a specific role. But most of the time, the key is Timing. Some potions may only be brewed when the sky is blind. Others require the event where the stars are crying. Perhaps the worst timing of all is what you need to make the highest quality value of this potion. Its low quality is doable and more achievable than the high quality. Still, I’ll state the timing anyways for those curious. 

 

What you need— is for the moon to start bleeding. 

 

- Low-Quality regeneration potion, transcribed by Ootori Mahiru.

 

--

 

“Alright, they’re gone now,” Fumi sighed as she dropped her magical restraints against Claudine. She shook her hands, relaxing it after faking her way to look like she struggled. They needed to look angry enough for the guards to leave her alone, trusting them to come back in their own time. Not that they would come back again to this place. 

 

When Shiori ran away, all Fumi really wanted to do was scream that she was sorry. To scream that Shiori was wrong. She wanted nothing to do but run after her and tell her that they were still her sisters despite everything. That they loved her. That they did everything to protect her. That her sisters were only angry because they couldn’t save her like they promised when they were younger. 

 

Instead, Fumi was focused on making sure Claudine didn’t defenestrate herself out of the window, following Shiori down. Fumi shook her head at the memory, blaming the wetness near her eye on the chilling rain. She could still hear the raw emotion in Claudine’s shout, the desperation, the fear. No matter what Shiori said, what Shiori thought— Claudine loved her sister. She loved her so much to risk everything for her when they were kids. 

 

If only they explained and showed that when they were growing up. 

 

Maybe they could’ve found loopholes past the rules, be more flexible, less rigid with the rules. Perhaps if they did things differently, Shiori wouldn’t think that they hated her. Maybe… it didn’t matter anymore. The prophecy has begun, and Shiori was missing. She was the Hero. There was no reason to go back to the temple. 

 

Claudine stepped up from the ground, mud and dirt sticking to her clothes like glue. Her breathing was uneven, the cloud from her exhales never keeping a consistent shape. Fumi winced at the messy attire, waving a sigil in the air over Claudine to magically wash out all the dirt. 

 

“Thanks,” Claudine muttered, the mud squelched underneath her boots as she picked up her fallen broadsword. She swung the dirt of the blade, swinging it like an angry child. Fumi hoped it took all the remaining anger out of her system. Nana and Maya didn’t know they were here, they were told to go to their rooms, and like rebellious children, they snuck out instead. They weren’t going to sit still when Shiori was missing. 

 

“You’re welcome, good job on holding back by the way.” Fumi stepped inside, the walls absorbing the sound from the outside. She missed Claudine’s words, barely catching the growl. The lightning flashed behind her sister, and Fumi turned around. For a second, Fumi thought Claudine’s darker maroon eyes were blood red. “Huh?” 

 

“I wasn’t holding back.” Claudine stepped into the shop, shaking her head to get the rain out. She glared at the register counter, almost as if she was manifesting Mahiru was there to punch. “I wanted to punch her so badly.”

 

“Well,” Fumi started, glancing around as her brain processed the information beforehand. Claudine, the strongest person she knew around their age, gave it her all— only to then be played with and mocked. Fumi remembered Mahiru’s words as she allowed herself willingly to be cuffed and handicapped. 

 

“You’re not someone I want to spend my energy on to be frank.”  

 

Her fingers curled into a fist, her green magic flaring out of the spaces between her fingers. Fumi inhaled, and when she exhaled, the magic dimmed. She relaxed her hand. 

 

It was no use getting mad at Mahiru; it was their fault for underestimating her. Though she wouldn’t tell Claudine this now in her angered state. Still, there was a reason why their teachers kept close but at a distance. Keeping the friends close but enemies closer. Close enough to backstab them when the opportunity came. The thought of Mahiru getting her comeuppance made her grin. 

 

“You made her bleed,” Fumi offered as she turned her head. She picked up a potion, frowning at how it wasn’t labelled. She looked around her. Nothing on display or the bottles on the floor, but the health potions were labelled. 

 

“Not in a way that mattered,” Claudine growled as she took a health potion and began to down it, the magical red essence dripping down the corner of her lip. 

 

Fumi watched Claudine’s shoulders regain the straight posture, the fatigue slipping out of her chainmail armour. Then, out of curiosity, she placed her hands over her eyes, murmured something underneath her breath and blinked. When her eyes opened, the room was nothing but a disco light of colours— a colourful classification on which stuff was needed. This would be useful in telling which potions were actually required or not. 

 

“You can now though,” Fumi smirked as she opened her spatial bag, something that had nearly limitless storage that she prepared for their prophecy adventure. She blinked slowly, the magical clarification ebbing away from her vision momentarily. 

 

Claudine frowned, wiping the spilt potion from the corner of her mouth with the back of her sleeve. “I thought our plan was to take what we need and leave?” That was the plan, but Fumi had to clear away that itch at her throat. They couldn’t just leave after being insulted like that. 

 

“That doesn’t mean we can’t do anything bad,” Fumi cocked her head towards Claudine. The lighting in the background flashed once more. It highlighted the now shared grin on Claudine’s face. Fumi was sure that their teachers would be too busy with their guest to pay attention to them judging from this lightning and stormy weather. Lightning, after all, was Nana’s speciality. “We always wanted to ruin this place didn’t we?” 

 


 

“You are permitted to stay here until the priestess comes for you,” The guards said when they all but shoved Mahiru into an empty room. The only thing here was a mirror, a stool and a barred window to the outside. Mahiru snorted as she walked around, the door slamming behind her. They still didn’t even check her bag. 

 

Mahiru glanced at the room around her. There was no camera or spell watching her as far as her eyes could tell. Granted, Nana might have improved her spells, but she highly doubted that if she spent most of her days teaching Fumi how to do magic. Either way, she was in the clear now. 

 

Mahiru sat down on the floor, digging her elbows to the side of her pouch, her bottles rattling and clanking against each other. She leaned forward, lowering her body. Shaking her elbows slightly, she spilt the bottles slowly onto the ground, gentle to ensure the glass didn’t crack. None of them was named, but Mahiru could tell which potion was in front of her.

 

She continued pouring, her eyes lighting up at an orange vial. She let go of the pouch on her side, leaning her hands forward to grab the potion. She unscrewed the cork, fumbling slightly from the positioning of her hands. Then Mahiru began to tip it slowly towards herself. The acidic nature of the potion stung her hands and forced her to bite the bottom of her lip. The pain was worth it; however, the light in Mahiru’s eyes danced as she saw the magic binds corroding against the potion.

 

As soon as the bindings were weakened enough, Mahiru broke apart the rest, the tearing sound ripping through the empty space. Mahiru shook the potion away from her-- each splatter to the ground hissed like meat on a grill. Wasting no time, Mahiru picked the rest of her potions and placed them back into the bag. She shifted through, getting one of the labelled health potions and drinking it fast. She needed all the energy she could get when Maya and Nana appeared. 

 

Mahiru looked out of the window. The lights in her shop were still on. 

 

It was easy to think back to the past when Mahiru first appeared in this walled-off city. It was raining back then too, stormy with the lightning roaring as opposed to the thunder. Back then, she was here with her wife. She was nothing but a shell after everything that happened to get here, but she was there. She was alive. 

 

Mahiru bit her lips at the memory. It was her fault for bringing them here, but there wasn’t anywhere else for them to go. They would be walking into the palms of the gods they feared, but they would have each other. That was enough for Mahiru. They wouldn’t have the freedom they fought for, but they would be alive, they would be happy.  They would be together.  Mahiru looked away from the window, finding the mistake to stare at her reflection in the mirror. The weight of their wedding ring felt heavy on her finger. 

 

There were many things Mahiru regretted in her life, but nothing would top that decision. Not when it meant she lost everything in a matter of weeks. Apparently, her wife died alone, told by family friends she met when they first walked into the walls. She died trying to find the cure for the plague that wrecked Mahiru’s body. 

 

She died, walking away from an argument they had. 

 

And the reason why was right in front of her. 

 

“Maya san,” Mahiru said. Her eyes moved away from her reflection to the deadlier face behind her. Mahiru didn’t turn around just yet, cocky in the idea that Maya wouldn’t just outright kill her. But, no, Maya wasn’t that merciful. Mahiru will live for now. “How’s your eye?”

 

Maya’s calm, gracious host-like smile thinned, the eye behind the monocle blinked faster than her other eye. The hue almost looked like the shade of blood roses. “Good, how’s your dead wife?” 

 

Mahiru’s own smile winced. She stared at Maya’s reflection, then at the door behind her. It was closed, but that didn’t matter much, she was in their domain, and Nana was objectively better at magic. Mahiru wouldn’t be surprised if she appeared out of the mirror itself. “My wife is perfectly fine, I can’t say the same about yours.” 

 

The smile on Maya’s face stretched, thinned out like a rapier blade. “You should watch your tongue Mahiru san.” Her hand fell on the rapier to the side, but Mahiru was faster, sidestepping away a hand deep inside her pouch. Maya’s eyes widened, but even her reflexes can’t dodge a wide net of acid. 

 

Mahiru threw her potion, crushing the bottle as she threw the shards into Maya’s face. Glass embedded itself into Mahiru’s hand, but Mahiru didn’t care. Her hands were already calloused and scarred; what was a few more for the mix? 

 

Maya hissed but otherwise wasn’t affected by the burns scratching her face. Mahiru let out a tsk as Maya swiftly changed direction, but this time she was more prepared. As Maya turned, Mahiru took out two different potions, drinking another potion whilst she popped off the cork of the other and slashed in front of her. The liquid formed a blade— the glass bottle acting as a hilt. 

 

Their blades collided with the liquid, bending before solidifying around the rapier. Mahiru grinned as she used the weight to thrust into Maya. Maya, however, let go of her sword, allowing Mahiru to fall forward. Maya then grabbed Mahiru’s wrist, the interlocked blades falling to the floor as she quickly manoeuvred around Mahiru. Unfortunately, the rust of Mahiru’s abilities was catching up to her as Maya caught her in a headlock.  

 

Mahiru’s nails dug into Maya’s shirt, ripping through the fabric by sheer strength, even denting through the armoured chainmail. She was struggling to breathe, but that didn’t mean she was going to let Maya let off easy. Instead, she was going to make her bleed— one minor injury at a time. 

 

Below them, the liquid blade deformed itself to smoke on contact with the already corroding acidic floor. The orange and purple mess of a gradient cloud rose up, the stench and its content forcing Maya to back away, loosening her grip as she hacked and coughed out the fumes to the side.

 

 Mahiru breathed in the air, unafraid of the chemicals due to the antidote she had drunk before. She elbowed Maya at the shoulder. A sickening crunch left Mahiru grinning. She turned around, blocked one of Maya’s arms, lashing out. She punched her again at the opening, forcing Maya to the wall.

 

Mahiru ran towards the rapier, picking it up just in time for Maya to charge at her. She stopped in front of the blade, almost slipping when she stepped back as Mahiru wasted no time to thrust. Maya took the stool near them, acting as a shield and a weapon. Mahiru’s loose pouch forced random bottles to the floor. Their dance of life and death was accompanied by the encore applause of glass shards and dangerously mixed chemicals, littering their stage like thrown roses. 

 

It was the potions that did it in the end. Mahiru was tired, but her constant exposure and antidote made her adapt better to the toxic fumes. Maya, try as she might, kept on struggling. Yes, she outlasted Mahiru in terms of stamina and skill (not strength). Still, everything else was worthy in a fight, but even the strongest warriors fell to dangerous chemicals. Mahiru knew that lesson by heart.

 

Maya fell first, stumbling as she slipped partially on the wet floor, trying to step away from Mahiru. She stumbled on her weapon, the stool acting as the force that made her hit head first to the wall. Her body shattered more glass underneath, and for once, Maya winced and let out a painful cry— her pride demolished. Mahiru ate it up with a wicked smile.

 

 She would like Maya to suffer more, but she wasn’t picky with this ending. It didn’t matter if Nana would appear and kill her, torture her or make her bleed. Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth. Disaster followed disaster. What they did to her would be paid back with this death. Nana should’ve intervened sooner if she actually cared. Mahiru lunged for the final attack. 

 

Only to step to the side when Maya’s blade bent outwards instead of piercing her skin, returning the edge back to Mahiru the more she pushed. Mahiru’s eyes widened. The blade sliced the back of her arm that wasn’t fast enough. She gritted through the pain as she tried to attack Maya again, aiming for a slice instead of a thrust. Maya caught the blade in the middle, uncaring how much she bled as she grinned. 

 

In the reflection of Maya’s monocle, Mahiru spotted a flock of blonde hair. 

 

Mahiru turned around, a hand to her potion pouch only for her arm to twist in agony. She dropped the health potion in her hand. It didn’t fall to the floor. Instead, Maya caught it, her blood staining the glass as she kicked Mahiru to the ground. Mahiru hissed, gritting her teeth as Maya pressed her boot on Mahiru’s wrist. On Mahiru’s left arm— the mark of the lover continued to eat away her skin. 

 

“Oh don’t look so upset,” Nana grinned, her steps echoing in the room. Mahiru could only see her legs as she walked forward. Mahiru sucked in her lips, breathing in through her nose. With each step, Nana washed away the potions on the floor. Like an eraser, the chemicals acted like they never existed. Finally, Mahiru saw Nana stop, her legs and boots making way for knees and a ceremonial robe. Nana crouched down, tiling Mahiru’s head up with a stick that acted more like a conductor’s baton. “All is fair in love and war Mahiru chan.” 

 


 

“FUCK YOU MAHIRU!” Claudine yelled as she slammed Mahiru’s bat against the cash register. Change clattered to the floor, the register itself crashed to the wall, scrap passing through mangled beads at the back store entrance. Claudine jumped over the counter, smashing the register once more, not holding back until the register was nothing but scraps of metal. 

 

“Did you at least take the money there?” Fumi asked as she sat on the display table. In her hands were two potions and her eyes flickered a spectrum of colour as she tried her hardest to decipher which unnamed vial was what. 

 

“Of course I did,” Claudine scoffed, picking up the few silver pieces off the floor. “There wasn’t anything in there anyways but our 20 silver.” 

 

“I wouldn’t be surprised,” Fumi sighed as she lowered her hands, the colours of her eyes flickering back to the same teal eyes she always had. “I don’t know how she made a profit with this sort of organisation.” She put the two different vials back into her spatial bag. “I don’t know why we didn’t even notice before.” 

 

“We didn’t notice because she’s shit and I don’t know why Shiori liked her,” Claudine growled. She smashed the glass display case on the wall. Liquid flowing out of the broken glass vials. 

 

Fumi frowned, remembering Shiori’s last words she said before they ran away. 

 

“You never asked me where I was when I came back from the so called dead, you never sat me down and let me cry on your shoulder, any shoulder. You just looked at Mahiru and thought she stole me away. You keep saying you’re going to protect me but you never once said sorry for abandoning me. You never think about me.”

 

“Because she saved her.”

 

A crash forced Fumi to jolt, her shoulders hunching herself as she braced for impact. She raised her hands reactively, the magic from her fingertips creating a bubble just in time for the wooden planks to bounce off her. The countertop was gone, replaced with nothing but rubble and a broken bat.

 

“Kuro!” Fumi yelled, getting angrier when she noticed Claudine wasn’t paying attention to her. She was busy huffing, throwing the bent bat onto the ground. Fumi then realised that she was still within her own bubble and immediately took it down. Fumi hoped at least the blush on her face could be mistaken as anger. “KURO WHAT THE HELL!?”

 

“We would’ve saved her,” Claudine murmured. The desolate, spiteful voice sobered all of Fumi’s emotions, sucking away all the blood from her cheeks. Claudine’s fists tightened, cracking itself with her own strength. “I should’ve saved her.”  

 

The back of Fumi’s throat felt heavy, the regret acting like a stone that would’ve made her crumble. She reached into her bag, taking out one of the health potions they stole. Maybe if Mahiru made something to heal the ache in their hearts, then Fumi would’ve respected her at least. Unfortunately, these potions were nothing but for physical pains, nothing for the wounds that the past tore through. 

 

Fumi jumped off the table, the glass crunching underneath her feet. Her eyes did not leave Claudine’s shaking hands. “You did everything you could Claudine.” 

 

“Stop lying to me Fumi.” 

 

Fumi reached out, taking one hand. She held the wrist, looking up to watch Claudine’s face. The barest hint of emotions was there, hidden behind walls of training to keep her composure together. Yes, Claudine looked angry. Yes, she looked like she wanted to murder someone or punch a wall. But Fumi could see the way she was hurting, the regret in slow breaths, the glisten of tears that would instead evaporate than fall on her cheeks. 

 

Slowly, Fumi pried Claudine’s fingers against herself, unsurprised and unflinching at the bloodied palms.

 

 “You were 8 years old,” Fumi reminded, her eyes still on Claudine. She uncorked the potion, rubbed the ointment against the calloused skin. “You did everything you could. Don’t blame yourself for stuff you couldn’t control.”

 

“But—” 

 

Fumi snapped her fingers, the ointment on her tips flying to parts of her armour. “Hey.” Fumi’s eyes narrowed, and she had a rare moment to experience a surprised Claudine. Though that only spoke of how long she’s been trapped in her own head. Fumi didn’t want to think about that anymore. “Snap out of it. You did everything you could and yes—” 

 

Fumi inhaled sharply, looking down and focused on Claudine’s other hand. She could’ve done this without looking away, too used to patching Claudine up with her magic after intense training with Maya. “We made mistakes. But we’re trying to fix it. We’re trying to save her, to help her.”

 

“We kept making mistakes, Fumi,” Claudine growled— the bitterness visible on her tongue. “We kept trying to save her and now look where we are.” Claudine scoffed, her shoulders slouching as she looked to the ground— to the mess she made in her anger. The one that intertwined her own self-hate and the one she had for Mahiru. “We tried to keep the training we went through a secret to protect her from the prophecy and look— she’s now the Hero.” 

 

“She is,” Fumi swallowed the rock of jealous and ugly negative emotions. None of that mattered when Shiori was out there, unsure and lost. “And we’re going to go find her and look after her.” She took bandages out of her bag and wrapped Claudine’s hands up. “That’s why we’re sneaking out. That’s why we’re here. To find clues, to find stuff to help us save her.” 

 

Then they’ll tell her the truth, then everything will be over. They can deal with the prophecy the way they should’ve done in the very beginning— Together. 

 

“Fumi?” Claudine said, the name spoken like a question. Fumi looked up. Claudine’s eyes were not on her; they were instead past her. Fumi followed the gaze, stumbling upon a book covered in fallen chemicals yet had no stain. It was like there was a layer protecting it. “Was that book always there?” 

 

“Wait what?” Fumi turned around. However, the darkness of the broken room made it hard for her to see. The lightning outside continued to flash, though the rain started to slow itself down to a drizzle. 

 

“This book,” Claudine exclaimed, pointing now with one of her bandaged hands. Seeing Fumi’s confused face made her sigh as she began to move away. “Hold on—” 

 

“Wait, I’m not done—” Claudine took the bandage, wrapped the bloodied hand hastily before she tied it up and tore the bandage with her teeth. She tossed the unused dressing behind her, Fumi catching it in her hands as the glass crunched under Claudine’s feet. She crouched down, careful not to cut herself again as she swept away the glass on top of the book. 

 

“Holy shit—” Claudine stood up, her eyes widened in disbelief. A smile grew from her lips, the maroon eyes she carried turning feral with glee. Finally,  finally , she could make Mahiru hurt in a real way that mattered. “Fumi, it’s Mahiru’s recipes.”

 

“You’re joking,” Fumi gasped before racing over and snatching the book away. “Give me that before you rip it.”

 

“What come on—” Claudine said as she ran after Fumi. She growled in frustration when Fumi used magic to raise the book into a high enough place where she couldn’t reach it. “Let me tear it up a bit.”

 

“Hell no,” Fumi snorted as she placed Claudine in another bubble. She barely gave her twin a glance as she brought the book down. By the time Claudine got out, Fumi skimmed read most of the book, flipping it fast and reading off titles. “Even if we can’t figure out stuff we can easily sell this on the road. One recipe page at a time or something.”

 

Claudine scoffed, annoyed mainly at the logic of Fumi’s suggestion. Whilst they have money now, they have no idea how long or how much it would take for them to even meet with Shiori. “Is it even worth selling?”

 

“Her skills  are  good—” Fumi reasoned. She raised a brow when Claudine rolled her eyes, waving her hand in disbelief as she checked anywhere else underneath the counter. “Her labelling is just shit.” 

 

“Fine whatever—” Claudine sighed as she rose back from her feet. Nothing else was underneath the counter but rubble and broken glass. “Let’s get out of this crap, my anger is all gone now.”

 

“Sure sure,” Fumi waved her own hand away as she combed through the pages slower now that her sister wasn’t going to rip it apart. “Just—” Fumi paused, her brows furrowing as she brought the book closer for her to see. “Claudine… is this Mahiru’s hand writing?”

 

Claudine whirled her head around, almost disgusted that her sister would think she would pay attention to Mahiru enough to know her handwriting. “How the hell should I know?” She turned back around, getting the sword she left behind near the window sill. She wouldn’t break her sword just to destroy this stupid shop. Her sword had better things to do. 

 

Claudine looked up, swinging her sword to check on it. She barely could slip it into the sheath, her mind too busy fixating on the moon to care if she missed and stabbed herself. 

 

“Just look at this— “

 

“Fumi.” Claudine wasn’t one to gasp, but if Fumi ever made attention to that pause, that way her breath left, she would’ve looked up in an instant. Claudine was never one to show her surprise that openly. 

 

“-- it’s more messy yet clear and—” 

 

“Fumi!” 

 

“--I think Mahiru stole this.”

 

“FUMI LOOK AT THE FUCKING MOON!” 

 

“Huh?” Fumi looked up from the book, flushing from embarrassment at the annoyed look on Claudine’s face. “Sorry,” she said as she walked over, her eyes widening as she looked up past the broken window. “Oh my god.” 

 

In front of them was the moon, the dark clouds were still around, but there was no rain. Usually, the black clouds would be enough to hide or at least muffle the light of a full moon. However, the red light shone through despite the denseness, bathing the twins with something unnatural. 

 

Fumi felt every single molecule in the cold breeze burn her skin. 

 

“You know the theory stuff better than I do—” Claudine said, biting her lip. She tapped her feet away, the nerves draining her the more Fumi stared in silence. She knew this had to do with the prophecy. There was nothing natural with a bloodied full moon. “What does this mean?”

 

“It means we got to go—” Fumi spoke, her voice still far away as her mind continued to reel with the symbolism in the sky. They were trained, Fumi in particular, to understand the symbols that would appear during a prophecy. She learnt this just in case— yet she never hoped it would come true. Not when Shiori was the Hero. Not when they weren’t there to save her. “Like right now.” 

 

Fumi bolted back to the cabinets, storing the book inside her spatial bag before she shoved anything— everything in as well. She didn’t care if half of these unnamed potions were useless. They needed everything they could get right now. If they get anything worthless, they’ll sell later. They don’t have much time left. 

 

“What do you mean right now?”

 

“I mean our sister—” Fumi hissed before she took in a deep breath, realising that Claudine won’t get it unless she used the technical terms. “ The Hero! ” she emphasised instead. “Met with the Prophecy’s  Villain.”  

 

Claudine stumbled back, catching herself on the window sill. “Fuck.” She shook herself out of the surprise fast enough, her surprise morphing to seriousness. “Well, what are you waiting for? Grab that book and let’s go.” She ran out of the door, taking a few steps before she turned back to the door. 

 

Her eyes widened once more, and her jaw fell in disbelief.

 

“I’m coming,” Fumi called inside the shop as she started to run to the door. “I’m coming, I’m coming!”

 

“FUMI WATCH OUT!” 

 

That was all Claudine could yell out before the force of a lightning strike blasted her away from Mahiru’s shop— and Fumi was still inside.