Endless Barrel of Exposition
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Apologies for the delay. I focused myself last month on Visions of a Goo'ed Girl (which you can read here) and I'm in the middle of the exams period right now. Still, I found some time to write this chapter when I should be studying, because I'm a ball of anxiety that freezes up the moment I think of opening my notebooks.

On another note, if you wish to discuss this story further, you are invited to my partners' and I's joined discord server!

    The next two days fall into a weird routine. With having regained my ability to act alone in magic ghost form (as I’ve ended up calling it), I get to explore the swamps and search for some victims to nudge towards the crowd of soldiers, which helps round them up faster. Meanwhile, Pepper plays the part of a bookworm, absorbing all the info she can about my predicament. There’s an odd feeling - the further away I get from Pepper, the more I feel a tug at the back of my mind beckoning me back towards the tower. It’s easy to guess the cause; it’s the bit of me I’ve embedded in her. Still, I add that to my known limits - for all intents and purposes I cannot stretch myself thin... in the most literal sense.

    Near the end of the afternoon, Pepper calls me back to the workshop. The place is even messier than before, with a tower of books stacked near the table and too many loose papers covered in writing for me to count. I notice my plushie is set on the table too.

    “Okay, so,” Pepper starts, grabbing the book on top of the pile and opening it on the table, “first, the bad news out of the way. I very much think the turned into magic affaire is truly unprecedented. In essence familiars are much more magically attuned beings than humans, but that is nowhere near enough to explain this.”

    “So I’m doomed,” I say while inserting myself in my cotton-filled receptacle. I’d like to pretend that revelation shocked me, but I had spent the last two days mentally preparing myself to hear this. It certainly helped soften the blow.

    “Not necessarily.” She sits down and reaches for a few papers on her right, which she then shows me before remembering that without drawings, it was pointless. “Sorry. Point is, I was thinking that the same solution we are planning for my victims would work for you?”

    I quickly jog my memory to make sure we’re on the same page. “You mean the sending back in time to before the spell happened thing?”

    She nods enthusiastically.

    “But won’t that cause a problem with my, y’know, bit of me in you?”

    Her grin turns into a frown. “That who knows. Just to be safe we would be better off finding a way to disconnect you from me first, that is for sure. Hence, this is what I will be focusing on from then on.”

    “Right.” I reply. Noticing that Pepper is trembling excitedly in her chair, I guess she has more things to tell me. “And what else?”

    “Familiars are fascinating.” She states like a five year old who has found herself a new obsession.

    “Ok…?” I tentatively say.

    “Seriously! I mean it! Did you know demons are actually familiars? If a creature can be summoned and you can sign a pact with them, it is always a familiar! So many things I thought were separate species are actually just all familiars!” she rambles, “Well, though saying species is a bit of a misnomer, what with their shapeshifting abilities, they can come in any and all species you can imagine, even ones that don’t exist on Earth!”

    “Pepper...”

    “In general, each familiar has a specific form they are most comfortable or attuned with - take you for example, if I had to wager the tiger-human hybrid you were when you first came out of the plushie was probably what you have inherited from your ancestor,” she pauses for a second before immediately adding ”well, probably mixed with human blood of course, but still.”

    “Pepper.”

    She stands up from her chair, placing her hands on the table. “So that means your ancestor was probably a white tiger familiar who signed a pact with a powerful witch! Then something went awry and they had to continue the pact alone, eventually attuning their collaborator into their ancestral memory, causing you to subconsciously default to-”

    “PEPPER!!”

    She blinks and shakes her head, looking around as if she needed to regain her surroundings.

    “Say all that again, but slower. You started skipping steps near the end, and to be honest I didn’t even manage to catch all of it.”

    “My… apologies.” She definitely seems disoriented, and exhales deeply, refocusing on explaining herself slower. “Familiars are actually beings from another plane of existence. They only exist on Earth either through being summoned here or through being a descendant of a summoned familiar, like you. Besides their attunement to magic and their shapeshifting, there is one thing that makes them special, and it is pacts.”

She looks at me looking for a mental confirmation I’m following, and after receiving it, she pulls out a new piece of paper, doodling on it as she goes along with her explanations. “They can sign pacts with people on Earth, these pacts are required to be mutually beneficial, and all members of the pact are seen as equal. Once a pact is fulfilled, the familiar and the person or persons are free to go their separate ways.”

    “So, you think my ancestor signed a pact with a witch, and then…”

    She drops her pencil, then sets herself straight against the back of her chair. “...And then something happened. Most likely, the witch died in some manner before the pact was over. That is when another mechanism kicks in for the familiar - indebted, they are to seek to complete the pact either alone or with descendants of their partner. And if they do not manage to… That task is passed down upon the familiar’s children through what they call ancestral memory. Once that kicks in, the descendants never forget the appearance of the original person the pact had been signed with, even if after centuries, it becomes a dream-like memory they cannot shake out of their head.”

    I pop my head out of the plushie, eyes furrowing. “...I don’t follow.”

    “Your sister’s ‘witchsona’, which I have become, that you said you have memorized for reasons you do not want to get into,” My eyes go wide as I connect the dots. “Is actually probably just a centuries long dead witch.”

    I don’t know if this is more or less embarrassing.

    Pepper stands up again, closing the book and putting it back at the top of the stack. “Which therefore brings me to my current line of thought - what if completing that old contract would help you disconnect from me? It could be totally unrelated of course, but in the odd chance it is not, what have we got to lose?”

    I jump out of the plushie onto furred feet. With a frown and a shake, I turn them into human ones. “We can try that I suppose, but how would I even know what I need to do?”

    “Well…” Pepper fails to hide a small smile etching itself on her face. ”I was thinking you could sign a pact with me.”

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