Marisa carried on home as I continued to talk to her. She didn’t seem too enthused about my cause anymore, humming a little song to herself while looking that she had no worries in life. Even mentions of how she left a strong impression on others did little to register emotion. In short, she was toying with me. Going to the shrine was a definite low priority for her.
“Yes, fairies aren’t as dumb as they look,” she stated in response to the incident the other day, “they know to keep clear if I have my eye on them.”
“It’s more than that. Kagerou, too, she was scared of your magic,” I said.
“Didn’t stop her from jumping me that one time,” she continued flippantly while rotating her shoulders as if to relieve tense muscles.
“Still, you’re clearly confident in yourself,” I noted.
“Why shouldn’t I be?” she played it up, affectedly yawning. Any more of that and she’d be liable to lie down in a clearing to take a nap “in order to freshen up.”
Despite their different temperaments, Marisa was proving to be every bit set in her own ways and attitude as Patchouli was. Was it something in the water? Something inherent in the nature of a magician? Perhaps only in the more powerful ones. I didn’t exactly have many other points of comparison. Harping on about just how wonderful she was didn’t seem to do much.
“...are you pouting?” she asked all of a sudden. That was a real head-scratcher of a question for a very obvious reason: I didn’t have something that could be recognized as a face.
Banking that it was no doubt a magical stratagem to keep me frustrated, I made a forceful and mature repudiation. “N-no, I’m not pouting,” I managed to state with undiminished dignity. “Maybe you’re projecting. Ever thought of that, huh?!”
Somehow, like Kagerou before her, she seemed to suss out quickly that I wasn’t always the cool-headed genius that I believed I was. She smirked but said nothing about my frustration, thankfully remarking about the obvious magical mystery instead, “I suppose that it was just a feeling. Interesting how that happened all of a sudden.”
“I guess it’s normal to get that sort of impression from someone you’re close to,” I said.
“Aw, that’s pretty sweet of ya to say, Al,” she smiled, nodding quickly to herself in satisfaction.
“...I meant physically. Or magically. You know, whatever you would call what’s happening just now,” I clarified. She wasn’t about to push me onto the back foot.
“Sure, okay then. What am I thinking of right now…?” she tried to put the theory to the test.
“That you’re pretty cute and that your dress looks nice,” I said.
“...that’s pretty much it,” she sounded actually surprised that I got it. With a more serious tone she added, “maybe there is something going on here that’s worth checking out.”
I hadn’t the heart to tell her that it was just an educated guess. It wasn’t like I had felt anything specific from her—it was just a followup to our earlier conversation and a result of bringing that line of discussion to its logical conclusion. I had struck out with both the flattery and discussion of her own abilities, so it was logical to move on. It didn’t take a mind reader to realize that.
“Hm, interesting,” I hatched a nefarious plot. How would I behave if it were Kagerou? That was my guiding thought. She could tease me if she liked but she would, in turn, have to suffer retribution. “I didn’t realize you were that kind of person, Marisa.”
“Oh, nah, it’s nothing,” I continued, “just a passing thought, is all.”
She didn’t swallow the bait entirely; her eyes showed some skepticism. Still, she was war and somewhat open to the possibility that I could read her thoughts. I knew that I would be doing my best to guard my thoughts. Realizing that, I also knew that the most important things she wanted to keep secret were also the first things she would try to push out of her mind.
“...you really did that to her?” I asked, feigned disappointment in my voice, “I thought she’s your friend.”
“It’s rude to peep at someone, you know!” she piped up, picking up the pace. The magician continued through the forest at a breezier speed, clearing obstacles such as roots and rocks with almost rabbit-like agility. “You’re just being creepy now,” she huffed.
“Sure, sorry, it’s just that it’s such a strong thought in your head that I can’t help but think about it. It’s not just, you know the obvious. But the betrayal of trust! I just really didn’t expect it. But I’ll shut up now. You’re still a good magician as far as I’m concerned.”
“Her name wasn’t on it and...” Marisa paused, bringing herself to a complete stop. She sighed. Took a breath. Shook her head. She looked right at me. Well, at where my perspective happened to be. “I don’t have anything to apologize for,” she pronounced rather defiantly. In fact, she stuck out her tongue while pulling down on an eyelid. “Stick to your own business, yeesh!”
“Not very cute,” I said.
“Nah, you think it’s adorable,” she taunted, immediately regaining some of her swagger. She winked and once again took up her merry old pace.
...maybe she was right about that. I didn’t really know how I felt about her. Somewhere along the way I had become so used to seeing the world from Kagerou’s perspective that dealing with another sort of person directly was throwing me in for a loop.
As I was thinking about this and that, Marisa seemed to have finally reached her destination: a house location in the middle of the forest. A small sign by a window had sloppy handwriting on it, indicating that it was a magical shop of some sorts. The magician smiled to herself and opened the door. It was obvious that she had arrived back at her home.
“Wow,” I couldn’t help but react at what I saw. From floor to wall, as far as I could see, there were all sorts of… things. Books, jars with strange fluids, some sort of stuffed bird, potted plants, rods of various lengths and materials, boxes, chests and more filled every space. There was an earthy, almost damp smell that didn’t seem to be coming from any one area in particular. How Marisa ever found anything in her home was an intense mystery.
“It’s not just anyone that gets to see all this cool stuff, you know,” Marisa announced proudly, closing the door behind her. She wasted no time to make it pass the very messy entryway and to another room beyond that was similarly filled with, well, magical things. In the literal sense. There were a few glowing stones, a plant with wavy leaves that undulated every time she took a step, and a veritable mountain of mushrooms all chucked together in a corner. Marisa emptied the basket directly onto the pile before showing me her rock collection. “They’re not as pretty as you, but nice, right?”
“...yeah, they’re not as pretty as me,” I agreed, finding that the smooth stones were nice but their monocolor glow and lack of personality made them comparatively dull.
“I’d offer you tea but, yeah, you can’t really drink anything,” she said cheerily.
“That’s fine,” I said, thinking that I wasn’t sure I would have accepted a cup of tea even if I had a body. The possibility of it getting contaminated with something else seemed unacceptably high.
“Would you like to come to bed, then?” she asked. “I was thinking of taking a nap. I woke up really early today.”
“What about the shrine?” I tried to steer her back towards more pressing matters.
“If we fly, it’ll take all of a few minutes to get there,” Marisa said. She cleared a space on a worktable by simply brushing aside the exotic items on top. Working swiftly, she grabbed a nearby pouch, a small flask and began combining a few powders and liquids that just happened to be within arms’ reach.
“...do I need to ask what you’re doing?”
“I’ve got a theory,” she laughed at my question and began to explain, carefully taking a pinch of this, a drop of that all the while, “something about how I felt you made me think about something that happened a long time ago. Some really fun but that involved some fighting. Anyhow, that got me thinking about a book I borrowed about projecting forces over a distance. I’m not really sure about your range but I reckon that if I bring us to a similar orientation then maybe we can have a more proper conversation.”
“I’m not sure that I follow,” I was lost.
“Eh, I’ve never really been good at explainin’,” she shrugged, putting a stopped on the vial before shaking it vigorously. Whatever was inside was a viscous grey sludge. “I got this idea from another friend who likes to have nice dreams. It’ll work, I’m sure. You want to find out more about yourself, right? Well this is your chance.”
“...what do I have to do?” I asked.
“Nothing, just come to bed with me. I’ll take this and if all goes well...” Marisa grinned, “well, you’ll see.”
“Why do I get the feeling that I don’t have much of a choice here?”
“Oh, you do!” Marisa reassured me, “you can always go back to your friend. But then you won’t know if my magic is really as great as you say that it is!”
She had me there. The tables were turned. I couldn’t out myself as a hypocrite if I expected her help. Seemed like there was always a price to pay when it came to dealing with magicians. Maybe a different approach at the beginning would have been better.
“Fine, let’s do it,” I decided to brush away those doubts. No point in getting hung up on that. I was going to bed with a magician. Just not really in the way I might have expected.
Marisa withdrew to her bedroom which was slightly less cluttered than the rest of her home. For starters, there was more than enough room on her bed for her to lay sprawled out without a care in the world.
“Stay with me,” the magician said, taking off most of her clothes. Apparently she liked to sleep in her underwear. I would have said something snide about her choice of undergarments but I was too busy wondering about what was going to happen next. She uncorked the vial and it began to fizzle before turning blue. Without any hesitation, she quaffed its contents and jumped into bed. She closed her eyes and would soon drift off into sleep.
I concentrated on Marisa. Her breathing was regular and uneventful. Unlike Kagerou, she didn’t snore. That was comforting. Almost enough to make me believe that I could join her. Yes, I thought, sleep would be nice. I couldn’t remember the last time I slept any. Probably when I last had a body.
Ah, how embarrassing. Marisa was going to see that, wasn’t she? It had been spontaneous. Not really anyone’s fault. The sessions had gotten ever closer to the point of no return. In the aftermath, both of them awaited.
Thankfully, Kagerou would not see what we saw.
 It would have been cruel to let worry so. Reassurance became vital.
 There had never been comment—just acceptance—when elsewhere.