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Previous: Long Live The Kitchen Warlock!

It was late in the afternoon. Noella and her brother were at the corner of the L-shaped counter in the Mezcado kitchen. Noella was crushing dried citrus peels with the mortar and pestle and Sebastian was getting ingredients from the cupboard. "The table is set." there was anxiety on Sebastian's face. "You don't have to go through this, Noella."

Noella took a deep breath. She glanced at the recipe card hoping to find the answer to her brother's question. Zest of Retrocognition... orange rind, grapefruit peels, lemon oil, essence of lime, a drop of citrus medica, and a couple of rhymes. She sighed. "No. I'm ready."

"It will be a quick trip. You will go back to the moment of my death, as an observer. If anything happens i'll just tap you and you'll quickly return to consciousness. Let's start." Sebastian led her to the table where a small porcelain bowl sat. After they both took their seats, Sebastian took crushed citrus bits from the herb bag and tossed them into the bowl. Then, Noella poured lemon oil and essence of orange into the bowl and set the ingredients on fire. A white smoke rose from the flames and filled the kitchen with a faint scent of citrus fruits and burning wood. Then Noella read the rhyming words from the recipe card:

"Grapefruit, orange, lemon, and lime
Send my spirit back in time
That which I seek, my soul may find
Satisfy my curious mind."

She felt herself rising, then spinning, then zooming into the stars at an increasing velocity, until there was just the blackness of space. Then she felt a strong force pulling her back down, down until she was in Sebastian's room.

She could see Sebastian, beside his bed, kneeling on the floor; he was having a hard time breathing. "Sebastian, what happened?" she tried to walk to him but she couldn't move. "Sebastian, what's going on?" She could see him clearly, and hear the wheezing sound he made as he struggled for each breath. And yet it was evident that he couldn't hear him. Noella looked around her limited field of vision and noticed that Sebastian's room looked different. Also she had the impression that is was early in the morning, and that someone else was in the room with Sebastian. Who, she couldn't tell yet, but she sensed that she'd get her answers soon.

"The poison prevents your blood from effectively carrying oxygen, so no matter how hard you try gasping for air, you'll still feel suffocated. It takes full effect in one hour. Isn't that amazing?" it was a woman's voice. Noella wondered whose it was.

Like a goldfish in a drying fishbowl, Sebastian gulped for air. He was losing color with every breath. Sweat flowed all over his face and trickled down his chin. He was dying.

"Poor Sebastian. Don't worry, warlock. There's still hope for you." Noella saw the stranger's hand. It seemed delicate and feminine. The long fingernails were painted in a deep shade of red, which contrasted against the whiteness of her skin. The fingers were long and slender, like those in the hand of a princess. When the palm opened it revealed a small clear vial filled with a glowing purple liquid. "I have the antidote."

"What do you want?" Sebastian's pupils seemed to contract and dilate. His lips had begun turning blue.

"There is a potion in the black box that will release the box from you, and I know a way to alter it and transfer the ownership to me. It's simple to make; it won't take you thirty minutes. All you have to do is cooperate, and I'll give you the cure. Do we have a deal?"

"What makes you think I'll do it?"

"You don't have a choice, Sebastian. And you don't have much time either. So if I were you, I'd start making the potion."

"Mix it yourself!" there was anger in Sebastian's voice.

"If I could, I would have done it a long time ago. But we both know that the box does not respond positively to strangers. I can't open it, and even if i find a way to open it, it still won't share its recipes with me. Sebastian, I don't want to kill you. So help me."

"Go to hell."

"You're being stubborn, just like your mother!"

"Is that why you killed her too?

"She was being uncooperative. I had no other choice. Sebastian, I don't want to kill you. Please, go with me to the kitchen and make the potion. I swear, you'll have the antidote after."

"And you'll have the box?" Sebastian's face was now twisted and cadaverous. His voice was a hoarse whisper.

"Yes, the box. Along with all your powers. Isn't that what you want? To live without powers, like any other normal human being. That's what I'm offering you, a normal life. Come on, Sebastian! You have a whole new life to gain, and just some useless old box to lose.

Sebastian's head was so low, it almost touched the ground, but using his arms he pushed the ground and tried to pull himself up. "There is an athame I use when I make magickal recipes like the one you ask. I'll need it."

"Great! I'll finally own the box! Wait, the athame, where did you put it?" the woman sounded excited.

In a jar. In one of those drawers. The one with Aztec symbols engraved on it. Hurry!

Noella felt she was dying with Sebastian. Had she known it would be so painful to witness her brother's death, she wouldn't have cast the spell. But she had no control, and all she could do was wait and watch life drain away from Sebastian.

"Is this the one?" Noella heard the stranger's voice again.

"Raise it up so I can see it." Sebastian whispered. The stranger lifted her hand into Noella's view, so Noella could see the athame. It was black, and shiny. Just like the Mezcado Box, Noella thought.

With his remaining energy, Sebastian propped himself up with one arm. Then he stretched his other arm and spread his fingers out. His hand released a powerful wave of energy that caused the air to ripple. Then Noella heard a crashing sound. "You bastard! Look what you've done! You wounded me. Have you gone mad? Did you think you can drive a ritual knife this blunt deep enough to harm me?" the voice was angry. Then from the voice's direction, the athame flew to Sebastian's side, as if someone had thrown it. "Now how will I remove the bloodstain on my shirt!"

Sebastian laughed. "Looks like I poisoned you back, Varda." Varda? So that's the name of the woman who killed Sebastian and mother!

"What are you talking about?" Varda asked. Her shadow indicated that her knees were bent in a half crouch and despite her awkward position, she remained still, as if to demonstrate how Sebastain had captured her interest.

"Last night, I dipped that athame into a jar of poison from a poison dart frog; it was for a protection ritual. Although I diluted the neurotoxin, f you don't leave now you'll die long before noon." Sebastian laughed some more. Behind her, Noella heard the stranger shriek. Then her point of view shifted, so that she could see from where Sebastian was reduced. She saw that the stranger was indeed a woman, with extremely pale skin and raven hair. But before Noella could take a good look into the face of her brother's assasin, she felt someone nudging her shoulder.

"Noella!" it was Sebastian calling.

She was back in the kitchen, at the table, with her brother beside her. At the end of the hall was an astral butcher. The astral butcher looked like a tall ape with dark scarlet fur. It stood upright, like a human being, and it had a butcher's knife in one of its hands; Noella knew it was an expert at knife throwing. And just as she expected, the astral butcher threw a knife at them. With quick hands, Sebastian neutralized the flying knife with an energy wave.

"I hate it when they do that." Noella groaned.

"You'll have to get used to it; there will be more trying to steal the box from you." just as Sebastian was saying that, the astral butcher made a potion appear in its hand, a bile green fluid in a transparent glass capsule. "This is the product of one of your recipes!" the astral butcher said with its raspy voice.

The astral butcher popped the capsule into its mouth and immediately it's eyes glowed green. It then pointed one of its black fingers at them. From its finger came out a green light, like a laser beam. Noella and Sebastian docked and the bream hit the wall, burned the wallpaper and made a hole on the wall.

"What now, Sebastian?" Noella cried. They were both on all fours under the kitchen table.

"I'll distract it first. Then on my signal, you fire. Okay?" Sebastian answered. Noella felt sad, because she knew this would be the last time she would work with her brother. But she couldn't show it. She needed to be strong.

"Fine."

While Noella circled to the other side of the table, Sebastian stood and released an energy wave at the astral butcher. It reacted by beaming at him, and the beam came into contact with Sebastian's left shoulder. "Damn!" He dropped to his knees to avoid more energy beams from the astral butcher.

The astral butcher seemed take pleasure in wounding Sebastian, and it shot more beams toward Sebastian's direction. As the it crept nearer to attack Sebastian, Noella rose from the ground and threw seven fireballs at the astral butcher. It managed to dodge and avoid four of them, but three hit it; one on the leg, another on the side, and another on the chest. The astral butcher quickly burst into flames and turned into a pile of ash.

"Good job." Sebastian walked to her and gave her a pat on the shoulder, but his face was without expression.

"Oh you're hurt. Let's fix that." Noella offered.

"No need. I'll be dead again soon."

Late that night, Noella made almond jelly and lychee on top of crushed ice, which she and Sebastian ate for midnight snack.

Hourse later, at five minutes to three in the morning, the Mezcado siblings were walking in the cemetery. The cool wind sent chills to Noella, but it didn't seem to affect Sebastian. Soon they reached Sebastian's grave. They stood there for a while, just breathing the dry air. "At least this time, I'll breath easily before I go."

There was a soft smile on Noella's face. It was a smile of joy and sorrow. "I don't regret returning to Tierra Laruja, Sebastian. I just wished I came back earlier. Although I'm still glad to have this opportunity to see you one last time, in the flesh." Noella's eyes became watery with tears.

"I was wrong about you. You're a lot stronger than I thought. But you'll still need protection. Before I died I was working on recipes that would protect me from magickal attacks, I want you to develop them. Always take care of yourself, Noella."

Noella sniffed. Then she nodded. I'll be all alone again, she thought. "Travel safely, okay? And send my greetings to mom and dad." after thinking twice, Noella hugged her brother and cried on his shoulder. Before she knew it, Sebastian had become a cloud of dust, and the wind blew him away.

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