The two women look down at me in silence. I lie there confused for a second until I feel my limbs come back from their forced slumber. I stand up, slowly, on my legs, I stumble. I glance at my hand and it’s a paw looking back at me. No, wait- it morphs into a hand and I use the table to help me stand up. Woah, it feels so weird to look back at the plushie I was and see it be a fraction of my size. The mirror- there’s a small standing mirror on the table, right? I grab it, its frame grows ornate in my hands.
The face that looks back at me is undoubtedly blue. And feline. The only feature I can recognize as my own is my hair… I try to turn the mirror to see more of myself, only getting frustrated in the process. I don’t waste time, dropping the mirror and jumping up the stairs to the bedroom, barely feeling the handrail shift to ebony under my touch.
I run to the mirror on the front of the wardrobe and finally get to see all of myself. I’m covered in fur from head to toe, walking on odd legs that seem like a cross between a tiger and a human’s. In fact, that’s how my entire body could be described - human, my old human self with all its imperfections, but with a tiger layered on top. I look at my hands, then down at myself. My whole body is blue, translucent, wispy even. There’s a strand of this wispy substance going straight out of my back, just above my tail. Following it to its other end, I see Pepper’s head popping out of the stairs and climbing to my level, holding my plushie in her arms. She’s followed by Ashen holding her orange ball above her head, probably to keep me in sight of the spell.
“Pepper,” I exclaim, turning towards her, “this is crazy, what happened to me?”
“Just… give me a second to think this through…” the witch replies, lightly lowering her head, her eyes closed in deep thought.
Ashen approaches me cautiously. “Can you hear me, miss?”
“Yeah, I can… I… “ My reply stops as her expression makes it clear she isn’t hearing me back. I simply nod instead.
Pepper jerks her head back up and runs up to us. “That… must be it! I would be hard pressed to understand how, but I think you turned yourself into pure magic? Wait, does that mean magic is alive in some manner? That’s… This is a major discovery!”
I pause, looking at her, before glancing back at my hand again. It does explain the wispiness… “Is this really unprecedented?”
“I mean, as far as anyone is aware, I believe.” The expression Pepper bears is dead serious. Her eyes dart up for a second before falling back on me. “Wait, does that mean… This spell you have embedded in me… It is not merely a spell, it is a part of yourself…”
“...Inferno,” I cuss out. “I can’t suppose that’s good.”
“I cannot suppose that either.” Pepper absentmindedly squeezes my plush self in her arms.
Ashen butts in once more, crossing her arms. “Alright, that’s it, someone fill me in here. What’s the deal with you two lasses?”
Pepper and I exchange a glance.
“What should we tell her?” I ask the witch.
She offers me a resigned sigh as a reply. “We should come clean. This is as far as the half-truths can get us.”
I’m a bit worried, and let that show with a hand gesture for Ashen to understand too. Nonetheless, I take a step back and let Pepper speak up.
“So… This is Cherry, one of the victims of the warlock I met four days ago.” She halfheartedly points in my direction. I offer a quick bow to the knight, who gives one in return before turning her eyes back onto Pepper. “As for me…” Pepper’s gaze turns avoidant. “I am the warlock.”
Ashen says nothing for a dozen seconds, appraising Pepper up and down with a stoic face. Eventually though, her expression turns sorrowful. “The one self-taught professor of the academy, huh… I guess that does add up.” The knight lets out a deep sigh. “I wanted to see for myself that you’d truly turned to the evil arts, and now I suppose I have, professor Lucius.”
Pepper lets out a complete grimace. “Please, never use that name again.”
Ashen barely nods.
“The… academy?” I ask, now being the one out of the loop.
Pepper turns her head towards me. “I told you I had a laboratory in the capital before being evicted for my illegal studies, right? It was as part of my benefits as a professor in the royal academy. Needless to say, neglecting my classes is part of the long list of my failures.”
“Just…” Ashen seems to be thinking aloud. “I knew you were a conflicted loner, little… Pepper, I just didn’t expect your conflict to be an identity crisis.”
“That is because it was not,“ the witch states. “My new identity is courtesy of Cherry’s rampant magic. My old self genuinely was as he presented himself to be.”
Ashen’s expression is that of confusion. “O… kay?”
Pepper jumps into further explanations before any question is even asked. “It’s okay though! I’m fine with it, genuinely!” She apologetically shakes her hands.
“Would your old self have agreed?” Ashen asks, then immediately regrets it, turning her head away. “Forget I asked.”
Pepper throws her a puzzled glance. “I do not think he would have disagreed so much as he would not have understood. He was too convinced of his self-righteous crusade to want better of himself.” She lets two seconds pass by before inquisitively continuing. “Why do you care so much about the old me, Ashen?”
Ashen just mutters the answer, avoiding Pepper’s gaze. Seeing that this didn’t satisfy the witch, she growls and repeats herself aloud. “Because I had a gods damned upbringing and now I crush on people with significant magic skills.” I grimace in empathy, but she raises her hand to silence us before we can reply anything. “And before you ask, yes, I know how many abusive relationships with monsters it makes me walk into. I’ve stopped counting ‘em.” The tone of her voice made it seem clear she’d had this conversation before, and this was a sticking point to her. “Now I know your secret, you know mine…”
“My old self would have simply added to that number, you know that?” the witch asks, worried.
The knight replies quickly. “Terrifyingly aware. Doesn’t stop the heart from hoping.” She paces for a moment, then shakes her head, turning towards Pepper once more. “One way or the other… You’re under arrest for treason to the crown and practice of the dark arts, Pepper.”