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It was the witching hour.
There wasn’t a lot of light. Oil had to be conserved and anyway she was used to this much. The scratch of feather on paper drowned out the faint night sounds from outside, and if it hadn’t, it wouldn’t have mattered.
Her cheek nearly brushed the desk, the candle night-blinded her, the wooden chair, set up in a poor position, bruised her behind. She didn’t notice. She could no longer even register the oppressive sulfuric odours of alchemy that suffused her home and workshop. She was past caring about the sea of often dangerous junk that covered every available surface – except for her working desk, of course, which was exactly as clean and clutter-free as if it’d just been magicked into existence that very moment. Her eyes were baggy, but burning with a brighter light than you’d be likely to find at any other moment for this particular witch. She wrote and drew feverishly, covering each pristine page of a thick blank book with diagrams, tables and sketches at a hand-cramping pace. Her long hair was limp and oily. She hadn’t changed from her practical, thick, worn set of gathering overalls, covered with layers and layers of dirt.
Underneath, she was literally running on fumes, having augmented her concentration and stamina several steps beyond exhaustion through alchemical means. If it had been possible for her focus to wander, she might think of Reimu’s mothering, advising her against precisely this sort of overwork. That moment, however, her pupils were dilated, her heart pumping hard enough to put her through a marathon, her mind operating beyond consciousness. The black lines raced across the pages: size, colour, consistency, texture, position, reactivity to light, air, all painstakingly written down over many tries. But this was it. It was the culmination of nine days of nonstop research, gathering, reading, searching with inhuman single-mindedness, with no food and no real breaks. The last leg.
Her sample this time was a thumbnail-sized frog, coloured striking iridescent blue. It sat splayed on its back, neatly vivisected with its pinkish-purple insides in plain sight. Its organs, the biggest no larger than a gr
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