Chapter 7 (or, "The Truth About Magic")

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Oneday started right on time, with Milaya and Daisy barging through the doors of Calimero's studio and promptly tripping on the cords that blocked the door.

Calimero had fallen asleep in the back room, at his desk in the middle of starting his organizational process. He had looked up, jolted out of his nap when the unlocked door had opened. "Who's there?"

"Just me!" the clear voice of Milaya yelled from the front.

Calimero had had a small chance to clean some of the apartment since Milaya had left to take her walk. He had been against it, but she hadn't taken no for an answer, and so he had let her go off on her own. In the meantime, he had picked up all of the dirty clothes, stuffing them in the back of his closet. He didn't have time to wash all of the dirty beakers, but he did put them all in a row on the table and put out a pillow and a blanket for his houseguest. The couch sat in front of the television, a luxury he had inherited from Master Rossini. Most everybody on Fiorzzurro read the newspaper for their daily dose of information, but Fiorazzurro did have a public access channel that was on from breakfast until just after dinner, and Rossini had had a soft spot for one of the news anchors.

It had only operated in the night ever since the most recent electricity curfews had been put into place. Magic could have operated everything, but that was outlawed, as it seemed half of Fiorazzurro was at this point.

He had just started the listing of all of his potions when he had fallen asleep, dozing in front of a long, tall beaker that he usually used for mixing. He had dreamed of an elevated train line, rumbling across the tracks, and an apple perfectly balanced on the top of a hat. The commotion in front had startled him out of his daze.

He entered the main living area to find Milaya sitting there with somebody else, a boy he had never met before, short in stature and dressed in last year’s fashions. He struggled to retain control. “How -- who are you?”

“I can explain,” Milaya said, getting up from the chair she had been sitting in.

“Oh, you will explain, all right. I want to know just who this is --”

“Milaya says you are a potions master,” the boy said, bringing the attention back to him. “And that you grow white roses in the backyard.”

Calimero bit his lip. The boy was a safe customer, but that didn’t answer the question of why he was here, at this strange hour of the night. Most all establishments in Fiorazzurro were closed at this hour; even the bars had a strict curfew of 2AM because of Queen Cendrillon’s laws. “If you are interested in my potions, then you will need to come back at a regular time of service,” he noted. “The hour is late, and it would be smart of you to get some rest.”

“She doesn’t have a place to stay, either,” Milaya noted.

Calimero gave pause. The boy was a girl? He tried not to criticize. “Then what is she doing here?”

Milaya was uncertain, then looked at the ground as she spoke next to Calimero. “She said you knew magic. She knows magic, too. Different magic. And the guy who was here before, I think he knows magic, too.”

“I know he does,” the boy turned girl said.

“And we need to get all of the magic users together,” Milaya continued. “As soon as possible. Really, tomorrow would be best. We don’t have time for sleep.”

“No time for sleep?” Calimero gave her a confused look. “There is always time for sleep. In fact, it’s regulated in the business handbook that people should get at least eight hours of sleep per night --”

“You don’t understand, do you?” Milaya stood up, nearly knocking over the chair she had been sitting in. “Your world is doomed if you don’t do this. I don’t have to seek your guidance, but I’m choosing to because I’m on my own here. If you continue to sit in the dark and not listen to me, I’ll throw you under the bus and let you do this alone, Calimero Antonio Pineiro.”

His eyes widened. He removed his goggles from his head and put them in his lap. “How do you know my entire name?”

She held up the device she had carried with her. “This now-dead sad excuse for a cell phone had your name and your entire profile on it. I was able to run information on it before it decided to die, however, I’ve thankfully got the best memory of my group and memorized your names before it died. The program said that you made potions, but it didn’t make any mention to the fact that they might be magical potions. I guess it doesn’t make distinctions about that. I didn’t have any information about the space cowboy and his robot, but I had only narrowed the choice down to a few select people on this island. You and Daisy are two of them. Speaking of which, Daisy, I also have your file --”

“You shut your face or I will find a way to make you,” Daisy said, reaching around to her back pocket where she kept some small explosives and a knife, the only true weapon she had on her person.

“Oh, trust me, I can do the same.” Milaya crossed her arms. “We’re not going to get anywhere if we keep going in circles. Will you believe me or not? That this world’s going to collapse?”

There was a silence, then Daisy continued the conversation. “Actually, for someone who doesn’t live on Fiorazzurro, you’re pretty accurate. Ever since Queen Cendrillon rose to power, our lives as magic users have stopped working in our favor.”

Milaya raised an eyebrow. This wasn’t what she was talking about. “Excuse me?”

“I know you just moved here, so let me fill you in on something. Yeah, me and Calimero are magic users. I cast spells, he makes potions. That sheriff guy Collodi uses magic, too, to make his android work. And all of us are doing it super illegally. A new queen came in here a few years ago after there was a big plague and the prince died, and she’s been nothing but helpful with us magic users. We can barely go out in public, and I have to traipse around town dressed as a dude finding other magic users so that I can start a rebellion. Not that I mind dressing up as a boy, mind you. Hate dresses. Can’t stand them.”

“You’re wanting to start a rebellion?” Calimero tried not to laugh. “Good luck with that.”

“I’ll have you know that you’re the first person who’s going to join my team,” Daisy said, pointing her gloved hand right at Calimero. “You haven’t figured out what I am yet, so I’d sit down and agree. We’re going to make Queen Cendrillon’s reign go up in flames.”

Well, there goes Daisy becoming our guardian, Milaya noted to herself. She’s got too much she’s fighting for already. That put Calimero in the top spot...as long as her phone would turn back on at some point.

“Who said I was joining any team?” Calimero asked, but Milaya stood up and interrupted both of them.

“So Queen Cendrillon is intent on wiping out all magic users from this island, correct?”

Calimero nodded. “She’s making life harder for all of us. Most of the potions in my booth weren’t magical, but I did have some in the back that were magical. I can whip up any magical potion if need be.”

“She’s the world’s most royal bitch,” Daisy muttered.

Calimero glared back. “I’ll have you know that that language is unfitting of a lady.”

“Hey. I’m in a man’s clothing. Deal with it.”

“If this Queen is a threat to both of you, then it’s probably a good idea to gather as many magic users as you can for that purpose as well.” Milaya’s arms were still crossed. “And then, once all of the magic users are assembled, I’ll be able to use the group as well.”

“For what?” Daisy asked.

“For saving the world. What, you thought I was kidding about that? I wouldn’t even be here if I wasn’t serious.”

“I don’t want to hear about either one of these things.” Calimero held up his hand. “Milaya, you were welcome to stay at my place for tonight, but you’re going to need to find a new place to stay tomorrow if you’re going to go on like this. And Daisy, I never actually invited you to stay here with me. Either be Milaya’s guest or please show yourself the way out. Now, if you excuse me, I’ve had a long day, and I need some sleep before I do inventory in the morning.” With that, he dropped his long jacket onto the lazy sofa and retired for the night.

He passed the long laboratory table and the row of beakers, passing by the kitchen and through a cloth curtain that led to his sleeping quarters. There was a small bed against the wall and a dresser that held all of his clothes. He opened the drawer and stuffed his clothes inside, undressing and redressing in one fluid movement. It was something he had done time after time before, night after night, and two girls in the living room wouldn’t change any of that.

Girls didn’t faze him. Not the strange girl who insisted on dressing like a boy, and not the beautiful girl who had invaded his booth only earlier that same day. He just had to keep operating like he always had. Nothing special about him, nothing special about his life.

He hit the bed and looked up at the ceiling, surveying the cracks in the walls, the same ceiling he had stared at night after night. He would fall asleep and wake up tomorrow, and everything would be normal.

He was as ordinary as he could be.

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