The warlock brings me down to his workshop, placing me next to an open book on the familiar table from yesterday. “Wait for me. I will be quick.” I hear him run off downstairs, then outside. When he comes back a few minutes later, I see he’s wiped off the lipstick on his face.
“I hope you didn’t use swamp water for that…” I let my tone speak for the grimace I’d be wearing.
He rolls his eyes in reply, moving to the table. “Of course not. I have a filtering system outside. I need clean water for cooking and cleaning, after all. On to more pressing matters!” He goes to his book, running his index finger over the current page. “Is there anything you could tell me about your ancestry?”
“I don’t… think so, why?”
“Well, if you happened to be of partially non-human blood, it would explain a lot of your abilities, in particular seeing magic. I know of no individual with that skill, save for you.” He flips a few pages back, then picks me up to show me what he’s reading. “However, it is apparently not unheard of for the fair folk, amongst others.”
“So you’re saying I’m half-fairy?” I say, my vision glazing over the words. This would be a lot easier to understand if I knew how to read.
“Well, unless one of your parents directly was one, it would be a much more diluted proportion, and the fair folk are far from the only option, but otherwise that is my current track, yes.” He turns me around, looking me deep in the eyes. “Hence why I need you to think about this. No odd stories about your ancestors? No rumors, no hidden family portrait with a strange individual?”
I think deeply about this for a moment. “I haven’t heard of anything beyond my great-grandparents’ lives, but that’s just that it got lost to time, right? I mean, I don’t think we’re a remarkable family...”
He frowns. “Peasant ancestry is indeed a tricky thing to keep track of.” He takes a pen, jots down a few notes. “I am going to mark this as plausible for now.”
“Okay…” I feel completely out of my depth, and find myself a bit uncomfortable with having to rely on him. “How long do you think it will take to turn me back to human?”
“Quite honestly, I do not know if that is even possible. We still do not know where your body disappeared to.” He closes off the book and picks it up, storing it in one of the shelves once more.
“I thought the plush toy was what became of my body?” I say, more as a question than an affirmation.
“No, that was probably entirely fabricated out of the clothes that were on your back, just like this replica of them you’re wearing now.” He skims over the spines of his other books, looking for something. “You cannot turn an entity with a lifestream into an object that does not possess one, hence why you are an incredible oddity. And vice versa, trying to turn an object into a living creature will give you a limp corpse.”
“Gods, that’s… That’s so much to take in… “ What am I, then? Where do I exist if I’m not the plush doll shaped like a white tiger version of me? “Is that why it’s animals you’ve turned everyone into?”
He pauses suddenly. His reply is in a meek voice. “…Yes. I… By the higher beings, I have… done that, haven’t I?” He tumbles forward a bit, placing his hand against the shelf to avoid falling. His other one goes to clutch at his chest, while I find myself snuggly pinned under his elbow. “I’m a monster,” I hear him say. I struggle to believe what I see, but I think his eyes flash pink for a moment as he says this. Guilt overtakes me again, though I still find my feelings split by the facts I continue to be changing him against his will, yet that it is changing him for the better.
His knees are violently shaking. I feel myself obliged to do something to help. “...Look, the first step to stop being a monster is to fix your mistakes!” I say with faked enthusiasm, before stumbling on my words to add: “Or make up for them or whatever else.”
“Fix…” he mutters absentedly before blinking a few times. I think I spot the pink flash again. “But the spell I used, and the deaths I caused, they are not reversible…” He stands silent for a long moment, until he suddenly jerks his head up, nearly jumping to grab another of his books. “...UNLESS!” He flips the pages frantically, stopping at one and reading at a speed I think is impressive? ...Well, all reading is impressive by my standards.
“Wait, we can actually do something about it? We can bring them back to life and make them human again?” I exclaim with surprise.
His tone is frantic and excited. “Alright then, it would be very complicated, but if by chance the lifestreams of the dead soldiers have not fully scattered yet, we can do something, and for the ones turned into animals it is definitely possible as long as we manage to capture them!”
He all but jumps for the stairs, bringing us to his laboratory. He erases all the symbols on his ritual spell, dropping down on his knees and scribbling new ones at a crazed speed. “Wait, wasn’t that your, uh, important immortality research?” I ask.
“Who cares. I had written it down on a piece of paper somewhere not so many revisions ago.” He drops his piece of chalk and claps his hands to clean them of powder residue. “Okay, this is definitely just a very imprecise blueprint, but… Since we cannot undo their death, the only way to reconnect their lifestream with their body is to turn back their time to a moment where both were still connected, and the only way to turn back time for something is to send the whole of them in the past. Same principle for the animals; to undo the spell we will have to make time happen in reverse until their body’s time is one where the spell had not happened yet.”
I gasp. “You’re talking about… Time travel, then?”
“Yes!” he yelps happily, pressing me tight against his chest. “And after I do this, I will finally stop being a monster, Cherry.”
The sensation of being held onto warms my heart more than I expected. I let out an overjoyed giggle, basking happily in the moment, reminded of my most pleasant days with Henrietta… I feel the warlock’s grip shift around me. I shake off the overwhelming feeling to notice once again our connection has turned red. “...Oh no, sir warlock, I think I changed you again!”
“Hmm?” he mutters, letting go of me. “Oh gods- I mean, by the higher beings…” His voice is no longer crackly, its pitch now definitely stuck at a lighter level.