Original Stories
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Ghost Stories
Grave Importance
See Through To It


The World of Hybrids
The Stuff of Legends
The Birth of Legends [Worldbuilding]
Ideal With It
A Little Harmony
Out of My League


The World Made From A Wish
Type-Casting
The Final Front


Of Mana and Ether
Witch One?


Sisters of One Mind
An Open Book
Ever Mindful


Paths of a Fashion
Crossing Paths
Parallel Paths


Zzz... (Old, Iffy, Unsorted)
Focus
The World Was Made From A Wish
A Curious Kind of Tree





Witch One?

I couldn't sleep. Because I couldn't stop thinking about her.

The majestic robes draped over her tall figure. Her long black braided hair. Her deep purple eyes and blood-red lips.

All of a sudden, I faintly heard her maniacal cackling carried on the wind.

I smiled, closing my eyes. Finally, I could sleep peacefully.

——

The others must have noticed how distracted I was doing my day-to-day business. I didn't want to tell them why.

But I'll tell you. I had fallen in love with Malaya, the "witch" who had recently begun to terrorize our forest, and was said to have a long history elsewhere.

Surely, no one else would have understood. After all, even I couldn't figure out exactly why.

I wondered what her business here might be. What atrocities had she committed to deserve being called a witch? No, I didn't doubt that she'd done horrible things - I wanted to know what they were.

And why did she do those things? What cruel events of the past had led her onto this path? I could only imagine.

I let out a happy sigh, lost in my daydreams. Even without knowing what I was thinking about, the others were looking at me funny, as my excitement was evident to them.

There was no point telling anyone, not even my sisters. At best, they wouldn't get it, and at worst, they'd throw me out of the village.

But it was difficult, keeping it to myself. I began to wonder if anyone else might feel the same way. If there was someone else, I'd be glad I wasn't alone, but it would also mean conflict. So I wasn't sure what I wanted.

I had only been able to catch glimpses of Malaya, usually only in the night. The first time I saw her was sheer luck, or dare I say fate; after that, I started keeping an eye out at night. I wondered if I could properly meet her someday.

Before I could realize any plans of my own, she came to me.

——

It smelled and sounded like a fire. I opened my eyes, and it looked like one too.

The village was burning, and I knew in my heart who had set it aflame.

I flew outside and looked around frantically. I didn't see my sisters, but I did see many of the others I knew lying unmoving on the ground.

The few who were still alive shouted at me, pointing in some direction, telling me to run. I went the opposite way - and soon I found her.

She was tall. Imposing. ...Big. I'd never been this close to her, and found my expectations exceeded.

It was night, like all the other times I'd seen her. But now she was beautifully illuminated by the roaring flames, and I was in awe.

"Twenty-four, twenty-five..." Malaya mumbled to herself, then looked up and pointed at me. "Ah. Twenty-six."

My heart pounded. I wasn't sure what to say. What ended up pushing its way to the top was...

"I am SUCH a big fan!", I shouted at her.

"...Mm?" She appeared a bit confused. "A fan of what, little fairy?"

"I, um..." I stumbled over my words. "Of you, Malaya!"

"Well, that's an interesting way of begging for your life," she scoffed. "Here, have my autograph."

She threw a huge fireball my way. I swiftly dodged it, and relished the explosive sound it made in the village behind me. Malaya just tried to kill me! Oh my gosh!

Malaya seemed increasingly confused and disgruntled. "You know, the rest of you fairies died quite easily. I don't suppose you're their leader or whatnot?"

"No, ma'am, but I'm honored you think so," I answered, dodging another fireball. Gosh, they looked so impressive up close!

"Just a stubborn little brat who won't die," she sighed. Suddenly, an iron cage materialized around me out of thin air.

"I'll just take you as my little prisoner, then."

I don't remember much of what happened after that. I suppose I must have swooned.

——

I came to, still trapped in the cage, in what looked like a castle with stone walls.

I looked up and down and saw that my cage was hanging like a birdcage. I swung it back and forth, but didn't expect to escape; I had no doubt that any cage of Malaya's was impenetrable. I inspected it carefully and admired the solidity of the thing.

Suddenly, I heard a door opening across the room. In came Malaya.

I held my chest, and my wings beat. What did she want with me? Was I to serve as a sacrifice to the dark gods? Did she want to make me her familiar? Did she want to sell my pixie dust on the black market?

While my mind raced with possibilities, however, she paid me absolutely no mind, working on matters I couldn't really make out at the nearby desk.

I didn't want to bother her, but I couldn't help wanting to talk to her. To tell her more about myself, and... how I had fallen for her.

"Hello?" I asked. "Hey, Malaya?"

She didn't turn around.

Having a thought, I put my head in and out through the bars. "This cage isn't soundproof, is it?"

"No," she grumbled, as if regretting that fact.

I sighed with relief. "Well, um, maybe I didn't make myself clear back there, but I really... appreciate what you do. I wasn't joking or anything."

"Then you'd leave me be," she retorted, not turning her eyes from the desk.

I shut up. I supposed she was right.

I watched Malaya work in silence, but it wasn't very exciting. What excited me were thoughts of her committing atrocities, and I was happy to see her do so when she came to burn down the village.

But it seemed she was now just planning such atrocities. And I couldn't make out any of the details due to the distance of the desk and my poor eyes.

A nearsighted fairy - what a joke, right? It was a depressing reminder. Malaya had killed almost a whole village of us. Why would she care about the one who most of those fairies hadn't even liked?

Malaya soon got up and left. She didn't say a word to me, and I couldn't bring myself to say anything to her on her way out.

——

By about the time I started feeling hungry, the door opened again. My heart leapt; but something unfamiliar came through the door.

It stayed so low to the ground, I didn't even notice it at first. It was a strange creature which walked quickly on long, thin tentacles. It left a trail of slime - but one tentacle toward the back held a cloth to constantly clean up the trail.

I looked at it with disgust, but was also impressed. So Malaya had monsters to do her bidding? At least, I hoped this was something under her control. But I couldn't imagine it would care about the slime trail unless Malaya had ordered it to keep the floors clean.

To further prove me correct, the creature came to a stop below my cage. It reached a long tentacle up to the bars and dispensed a crumpled-up note. I unfolded it.

It read: "What do you eat, anyway?"

I looked down at the creature, who remained in place, though wobbling on its tentacles. Malaya provided nothing to write with, so I supposed the creature, while having no apparent ears, could hear me and would convey my message to Malaya.

"Any, uh... Any human food is fine, I guess? I-I mean, food humans would eat," I clarified. I figured that was the easiest way to explain it to the creature of questionable intelligence. And Malaya did seem human, or once-human, so she'd know what I meant.

As the mass of tentacles began to move toward the door, I had a thought. I didn't know if I'd ever be able to admit to Malaya directly that I loved her. Maybe this would be a good opportunity.

"Could you also tell Malaya that I - I love her?"

The creature stopped. My cheeks turned red, and I felt like even the creature was demonstrating some unusual sign of embarrassment. With no accompanying sign of approval, it scurried out of the room even faster than it came in.

I lied down on the floor of the cage and closed my eyes, finding myself wishing that the creature wouldn't tell her.

——

I was awoken with a thunk and a shift in the weight of the cage.

I looked outside the cage and found no one, and no creature. Next to me was a big - well, normal-sized - red apple resting against the bars, and beside that was another crumpled note.

"You should have specified size, too."

I looked around the cage. How did this apple even get inside? Magic, I guess. That's handy.

I bit into the apple fully expecting it to be poisoned or what have you, but not particularly caring. And I wasn't too convinced it would be, because what kind of killer asks someone what food they want to be poisoned with? ...Hold on, maybe that wasn't necessarily logical.

As the tilted cage began to stabilize, I sat and thought some more. The creature had evidently relayed one message back to Malaya, but I had no idea on the other. Well, I was glad Malaya wasn't going to let me starve.

If nothing had come of me telling the creature to tell Malaya I loved her, then it seemed I would have to tell her directly after all the next time I saw her. But how would that go?

I brought it up before, but there was really no reason for Malaya to care about my feelings. She clearly just captured me for some purpose of her own, like a sacrifice, or a pixie dust producer, or...

...a friend?

No, that was ridiculous. If she wanted me as a friend, then why hadn't I seen her in... I suppose it was hours? And when she was here, she ignored me. At best, she just wanted someone else in the room while she worked.

Well... That would be okay, I guess. If I was even right.

And her monsters must not have fulfilled that purpose for her. I couldn't see anything, but I heard a number of other strange noises through the door that must have been others.

I sat around bored, waiting for Malaya to return. Was it night? Was she out doing what she did best? I both hoped and didn't hope so.

——

Finally, Malaya came back into the room. This time, she went right for my cage and focused her deep purple eyes right at mine.

"So," she said.

I gulped and waited for her to continue, but it seemed she was waiting for me to say something.

Well, here goes nothing.

"I, um... kind of fell in love with you."

She chuckled in such a way that I was unsure if she'd been told or not.

"Well, I was wondering about the size of food you wanted. But if that's what you'd rather talk about..." She paused. "Well, no, I don't think there is much to talk about there."

"You're rejecting me," I inferred with eyes downcast.

"You could say that."

"I couldn't think of how to explain it to the other fairies either, but..." I looked up at her. "Even if you were doing... kind of bad things, I was really stricken with your figure."

Malaya didn't reply, so I went on. "It sounds weird, but if you were fairy-sized, and... not a witch, it wouldn't be any problem, I think. So I mean, it's not a problem to me -"

"No, I don't think you quite understand. I had a feeling you wouldn't."

"Understand what?"

While I was saying it, Malaya vanished into thin air. I looked around the room, then down at the floor -

"YAAAAAH!!"

I shrieked. There was a huge, hairy spider where Malaya had stood. It crawled up the wall and reached toward my cage.

"Hi," it said in her voice.

——

Backed up against the bars on the other side of the cage, I pointed at the spider. "Y-You're... Malaya?"

"Not sure, are you? I thought you said you loved me. And I'm even using the same voice, which I wouldn't always do."

"No, I... fell in love with you... that's different..."

Different was right. Without the voice, I would have never known it was Malaya, even after seeing it appear where she had been.

But wait, did that mean...?

"S-So... you're a spider, and... also a tentacle thing...?", I hesitantly asked.

"Yes," she confirmed. "And much more."

"But you're also human... esque!", I reminded myself. "And that must be your true form, right?"

"True form...? You're even more clueless than I expected."

The spider leapt off the wall and grabbed onto the cage, sending it swinging. I held tight to the bars behind me.

"I have many forms, and none of them are "true." None are even my "original," if you'll believe it."

"I... don't believe that," I stammered.

She sighed, or the closest thing a spider can do to sighing. "Yes, I suppose by your feeble understanding, I must have an "original form." Whether you're right or not, it's absolutely none of your business."

Malaya let go of the cage and transformed back into human form in midair. I was relieved to see her back.

"I use what forms suit my needs, and that's all there is to it." She turned her head back at me. "But for one claiming to "love" me, you seen unprepared to accept that."

She was right. I had seen the tentacle creature as nothing but a grotesque monster, and was terrified of the spider. I wasn't yet convinced Malaya wouldn't hurt me, and even less so in those forms.

I supposed I could see the uses of the tentacle form, which got around rather quickly and had a long reach. "Then... why the spider?", I asked. "What was the "need" to take that form?"

"To show you that I'm venomous," Malaya smiled.

——

Not much changed for the next few days, other than the fact that I now knew Malaya was always around after all.

She continued to feed me, but her purpose for me was still unclear. Maybe she liked having me around to talk to, but it felt like she never wanted to start any conversations, so I really wasn't sure.

While my image of witches had always been... loner-ish, I couldn't help feeling like she was lonely not having anyone else in what I supposed was this big castle place. I'm sure it was just me hoping, though.

At any rate, I tried to talk with her, though I couldn't think of much to say. Just a bunch of stuff about myself. She didn't seem to show much interest; I was really only talking at her.

I began to feel foolish about what I'd done, though probably much later than I should have. I'd wanted to know more about Malaya, but had shallow expectations for how it would end up. I guess I was shortsighted in every sense.

Now I was trapped, and if I did manage to continue loving Malaya as she was, it felt like it would be out of a sort of necessity.

She came into the room in all sorts of forms, which were varying degrees of disgusting. None held a candle to her human form, in my eyes, and I was often filled with dread imagining what purposes they might serve.

I found it difficult to talk to her when she was in these various non-human forms, still sometimes forgetting that they weren't mere servants like I initially assumed.

"Can you... stay human when you talk to me?", I requested one day.

Malaya seemed like she just wanted to ignore my request. "I wouldn't do that for anyone. My comfort is more important to me than yours."

Even though she'd more or less told me that already, it still surprised me to hear it said in that way. Those forms were comfortable for her? I felt even more distance coming between us.

I wondered if it might have helped to somehow observe Malaya longer before meeting her face to face, so I could have found out under more agreeable circumstances that she had multiple forms. Then maybe I'd have an easier time accepting them.

But I couldn't imagine how I would have done that, and it didn't matter now.

——

Days later, I still wasn't quite over Malaya's other forms, but I wanted something to change. She'd demonstrated no specific purpose for me, so I needed to suggest one.

"You go out and... do things every night, right?", I asked on one of the rare occasions she was in human form.

"More or less."

"Could I help you?", I suggested.

Malaya paused, as if she wanted to immediately say no, but found she wasn't sure.

"...We might have to see."

My wings beat fast, like they had when I thought of Malaya before. It was true; I wanted to see what she was doing out there, and being cooped up inside wouldn't let me.

Suddenly, the cage around me fell away - lucky that I was already flapping my wings, or I would have fallen with it.

I flew around the room, glad to be free. Malaya watched me carefully, though I had no intention of running - at least not now.

Still, she informed me: "You're on a magical tether to me, so keep that in mind." And she cracked the slightest smile seeing my delight over relative freedom. "I suppose I should've done this sooner."

I touched down on Malaya's shoulder. I was so glad to finally be this close to her, especially since it gave me a much clearer view of her beauty.

Yet I quickly remembered that being in the cage had also kept me at a distance from her other forms, and who knew how much worse those looked up close. Well, I guess I'd already seen the spider pretty close.

I tried to keep it out of my mind. "So what are we going to do tonight?", I asked, stroking her hair.

"That, we'll also have to see."

——

Malaya never did tell me where we were going that night; she just took me there.

It was a small, shoddy, wooden shack of a house. Hmm... The wood looks so old. Bet it would burn up really well -

"Ahem," Malaya interrupted.

"Y-Yes?", I said, redirecting my attention to her. I noticed she was in her tentacle-y form.

"Hey, wait, you can talk with that one? So why the notes?"

Her tentacles curled as if faltering before me. "Er, yes, well... I didn't want to scare you away by talking to you like this so soon..."

"Scare me away?! I was in a cage!", I reminded her. "How could I run?!"

Her body heaved with a sigh. "...Well, then I just didn't want to scare you, I suppose."

Wanting to change the subject quick, Malaya began explaining. "Some orphaned children have taken up residence in this house, you see." I nodded.

"They're poor, naturally, and have been scavenging for food the past few days." I nodded again.

"So I wanted to provide them with plenty of food to live on. Secretly."

I stared at her, expecting her to say something more, like how that was just a joke. She didn't, and I ran through her last statement repeatedly in my mind. No fire? No murder? No torture? No fire?

I shook the thoughts out of my mind. I wouldn't be here if I weren't willing to be unquestioningly loyal to Malaya, after all. She knew what she was doing.

Malaya opened up the big bag we'd brought along, then at once seized a variety of cans and bags with her tentacles and scurried off with them.

Having been given no instructions, I could only watch Malaya go back and forth between the bag and the pantry at blinding speed, delicately placing the supplies at their destination. I certainly didn't see how I could offer much help.

In many ways, this was a side of her I hadn't seen. For one, it was different to see her do something seemingly helpful and selfless, though I still had questions about that.

But I also felt I understood her better. Malaya's human form appealed to the kind of beauty I was used to, but I began to feel a different kind of beauty in her other forms.

I wouldn't expect that everyone could recognize it, but... I don't know, maybe they should.

"Hey, what should I do?", I whispered after watching Malaya work for a while.

"Nothing, if possible, but I know you'll mess that one up," she whispered back. "Just don't wake them up."

I nodded and wandered around the house, not that there was much house to wander around.

I soon found the room where the three boys were sleeping. Their bony cheeks seemed to confirm what Malaya said about them being low on food.

As I watched them sleep restlessly, I found myself wondering why Malaya wanted to do this in secret. Wouldn't they be so grateful to her? Did she not want their thanks?

But I wasn't sure what to think of anything until it was explained to me why a so-called witch would do something like this. Surely there was something I was missing -

Suddenly, I felt myself being jerked backward, and flew into the wall with a loud thud.

"Too short," I heard Malaya mutter in the distance, slapping a tentacle on the ground.

Right, well, the tether wasn't the "something" in question, but... that was a thing I had forgotten. And apparently, so had Malaya.

I pushed off the ground and flew outside as fast as I could, hearing one of the boys waking up behind me. I soon found Malaya.

"You can blame it on me," she sighed.

"N-No, it's all my fault, I'm really sorry -"

"Quiet!" She rose a tentacle to silence me, then stuck against the wall to listen.

I did the same. One of the boys was awake... the floor creaked with his steps... it sounded like he was... munching on something...?

"Mmm... it tastes like candy! Guys, wake up, it's a trail of candy!"

"A trail of... hm? Gah!", Malaya yelped, pointing at me - or rather, behind me.

I looked back. A path of pixie dust ran from the bedroom, out the window, right to where we were outside.

"I... I... I get nervous, okay?!", I hastily explained to her. "You can't blame me, it's biological, I swear!"

Malaya had already vanished - or rather, blended into her surroundings. The boys soon arrived, their eyes fixed on me.

"Are you a... fairy?", one asked after staring a while.

"Y-Yeah!" I saw no reason to lie.

"Did you... did you bring all this food?", asked another.

I reached behind my neck. "...Yeah."

"Y-You're kidding!", the third exclaimed. "I'm not still dreaming, right?! Lemme hug you to make sure!"

I held up my hands, my heart and wings still beating quickly. "D-Don't do that, please, you'll get covered in pixie dust, this stuff never comes off your fingers..."

"It's fine," the apparent oldest insisted. "I won't ask you why you're doing this, and I'm sure you know just how grateful we are. ...But can you at least tell us your name?"

I gulped - but that was my only hesitation.

"I'm Malaya!"

——

Malaya didn't disown me on the way back home, but she seemed mad enough that it wouldn't have surprised me if she did.

She didn't yell or anything, though. Instead, she quietly coiled up in the corner of the room as a snake. Maybe she didn't want to explain exactly why she was angry - and maybe some of that anger was at herself.

Hoping it might help to quell it, I asked the question I'd wanted to earlier in the night.

"So, um... why did you want to do that, anyway? Was the food poisoned, or...?"

Malaya didn't respond.

"...T... That would be neat if the food were poisoned," I added.

"No, it wasn't poisoned," she told me. "The act was just as generous as it looked."

"...But you're a witch?"

"And can't a witch do some good deeds?", Malaya hissed, though it sounded like she was actually expecting my answer.

"Well, sure!", I replied without delay. "Witches can do whatever they want! I mean, that's what makes them so cool."

I coughed. "...I-I think you're cool. ...I still think I love you, too."

Malaya appeared thoughtful after I said that, and her body seemed to loosen.

Finally, she began to speak. "I always believed that magic was a tool for good. When I came upon such powers myself, I certainly wanted to use them for kind, helpful purposes."

She slithered up to me, though I was surprisingly unafraid. "Unfortunately, this is the kind of thing I got. Magic meant to strike fear into the heart of man, and wreak destruction. Not so suited for good deeds. And yet, well... I try with what I have."

She sighed. "Of course, who's going to believe that a monster like me wants to help them?"

I thought for a moment. She'd always been trying to do good? Then what about all the terrible things she supposedly did? Were all those stories made-up to vilify her? But wait, hadn't I...

I quickly gave up the thought. I didn't want to doubt Malaya, even if something seemed amiss with her story. Maybe it was just my dumb fairy brain.

Said brain tried to find a response to the last thing she said. "W-Why not just use your human form?", I suggested.

"That one's still plenty frightening in the eyes of most, I've found. You're just a weirdo for thinking it's attractive."

"Oh," I conceded.

I could see now why Malaya didn't much care for letting people know about her, even if she was only trying to help them. They just wouldn't get it, would call her a monster.

Although now, I was curious.

"How limited are you in changing forms?"

"Not at all... in theory..." Her voice seemed to trail off. "There's really no limitation to what form I can assume. It's just... well..."

"...Yes?", I encouraged. She seemed embarrassed to say it, and I didn't want her to feel that way.

It seemed like it worked. "...Well, I've implied it before somewhat. I'm just not... comfortable in every form."

I did recall that - and was reminded how I still couldn't quite wrap my mind around those forms she took being "comfortable."

"Look, um... I mean, if you say so, Malaya, but... I don't think I can ever really understand. I'm sorry."

She briefly looked hurt, but it soon turned to resoluteness to get me to understand.

"It's rather simple, really," she told me. "You're a fairy. Have you ever dreamt of being anything but? You may not have the opportunity, but if you did, would you be anything else?"

"Uh... no to both. Why would I not want to be a fairy? Fairies rule."

"Then why," Malaya asked, "can it not be that simple for me? While I'm different from you in that there are multiple forms I like, there are many others I simply couldn't imagine myself in. That I couldn't imagine as being me."

Put in such easy terms, I found I did understand. The only part of it which I didn't was why most of those forms were, uh, kind of gross. But...

"Okay, I think I get it," I nodded. "And I see how I was being stupid now. Because I was thinking, if I were you, I'd probably just stick with my human form. But... I mean, I'm not you."

There was a pause. "You claimed to be, though," Malaya reminded me.

Oh yeah, I had. I was no longer sure, if I ever had been in the first place, where I was going with that idea.

Would I go on pretending that I was Malaya, doing these good deeds? I didn't want to do that. So maybe I hoped to get Malaya herself recognition for doing good?

I supposed that one was true. I found myself coming around to her "monstrous" forms - I wanted to believe others could as well, if they saw that she was no monster.

"Let me make myself clear," Malaya said. "I don't care what other people think of me."

"Yeah, maybe. ...But I do."

She smiled, and that was all I needed.

——

And so I got to keep being Malaya's "assistant," as I'd dreamed of being - even if it wasn't what I'd expected back then.

After that first excursion, Malaya opened up to me a bit more. She did get rather lonely, it seemed, and was quite used to being looked upon with disgust. But I wouldn't do that to her.

I apologized again and again for all the doubts I had since she took me in, but she said it was fine, especially now that it was in the past.

She still worked mostly in the night - she was very used to it, of course - and in secret. Whenever I came along with her, though, I made sure people knew at least the name of their benefactor. Malaya remained indifferent.

Malaya had eyes everywhere, and knew a lot about people. Sometimes she even responded to emergency situations when they came up.

She really was a hero, saving children from fires, stopping thieves, rescuing cats from trees. She moved fast in the day so that no one caught sight of her, but I stayed behind to tell the people their hero's name.

I was pretty useless, overall. Half the time Malaya took me along, there was nothing I could do to help. The rest of the time, I almost felt like she was struggling to come up with a way for me to be useful.

But there was surely one constant reason she brought me with her: because my mere presence gave her... uh... something. I wasn't exactly sure what.

——

When I woke up one day, I was met with an unfamiliar sight, yet one I quickly recognized.

It was Malaya, of course. But she was in the form of a fairy, and it greatly resembled her human form.

Suffice to say, it wasn't one I'd seen before. I wanted to ask what brought this on, and if she was really okay with that form or what, but she went first.

"You know, the newspapers are talking about me now."

"They are?", I asked, still slightly taken aback.

"Yes, and not as a witch, but as the mysterious hero Malaya. There's talk of her fairy "assistant," as well."

I felt like she was trying to make me feel guilty, so feel guilty I did. Malaya may have said she "didn't care," but maybe I had gone too far.

"My opinion hasn't changed. I don't care what the public thinks of me - in fact, I may care less than ever."

She fluttered up to me.

"Because all I care about is you."

She pressed her blood-red lips against mine, her big eyes - well, less big now - gently closed.

Her wings beat slowly and rhythmically, while mine went out of control, and I held onto her to keep myself from flying away. After a period of time I couldn't even begin to estimate, Malaya slowly pulled away from me, and -

"Pfah! Gah!" She wiped her mouth and spat. "...Pixie dust? Really?"

"Sorry! Really sorry!"

——

"Say," Malaya started out of the blue one day, then paused.

"Say?"

Her fairy cheeks reddened once she heard me.

"Er... What's your name?", she mumbled.

"You forgot?", I asked almost apprehensively, then realized. "...Oh, wait, wow, I never told you in the first place! It's Mimi. Gosh, even I haven't heard that name in a while..."

"Mimi... I see." She smiled, glad to finally know. It seemed like she'd meant to call me by that name just now, but realized too late that she didn't know what it was. I grinned, as it wasn't often Malaya did something embarrassing like that.

I wondered how many times she'd wanted to ask before, never finding the opportunity. Myself, I just thought she knew, what with... all the stuff she knew.

At least she'd finally asked. And it reminded me of something that I wanted to ask, too.

"And if you want to know, my sisters are Vivi and Gigi, and... Hey, wait..." I faked a look of realization. "Why did you burn down my village, anyway?"

Malaya looked away and cleared her throat. "Um, well, I sincerely hope you don't think poorly of me for this, but... I wasn't entirely truthful with you."

"About what part?"

"...About always wanting to do good things with my magic," she admitted at length. "Indeed, when I first obtained my powers, I was bitter at the world which had wronged me. I wanted revenge, and enacted it in those monstrous forms you know."

"My rampage went on for a long time, earning me the well-deserved title of "witch." And not only did I become very accustomed to those terrifying forms, I found them well-suited to the way the world saw me."

"Burning down your village..." Malaya lowered her head. "I hate to admit it, but it was all for my own sick pleasure. I captured you on a whim, too, though I'm very glad I at least did that."

"You were the first survivor of my carnage I met. Granted, you... weren't terribly affected by your loss, or so it would seem. But I felt terrible realizing how many innocent people like you I'd killed just for fun. People with lives to live."

"What's more, you did come to accept me, loving me in all my forms. How many of those I'd killed might have done the same? I knew I couldn't go on like that. So I started trying to take things in the other direction."

She covered her face with her hands. "It's unforgivable, of course. I could go on like this for decades, centuries, but it wouldn't undo all those deaths."

"And you, Mimi..." She seemed ready to cry. "I took everything from you. I don't know how you lived with it, even came to love me, when I..."

"No, no, that's not a problem," I reassured her.

Malaya took her hands away and looked at me.

"In fact, I think that's a big reason I fell for you in the first place. I would have loved to do the exact same thing."

Her purple eyes widened with surprise. "Hold on... which of us is supposed to be the witch?"


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