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The Cutest, Smartest, Most Perfect of All Time

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“Ugh, no, again.” Cagliostro crumpled up the sheet of paper she’d been working over, tossing it into the pile of countless others like it that had been collecting in the corner of her lab for days. Lab, room, home; the line blurred. She’d been working here for certainly longer than was healthy, going everything in her power to make sure that the body creation process was perfect. How could she not? This close to escaping the fate laid out to her by her sickly constitution, risks were unacceptable. Doing so much in the pursuit of escaping death only to fail at the last hurdle over some mistake, some detail, some calculation that was a fraction off - absolutely unacceptable. And so she worked, and worked, and worked.

But her work took her nowhere. Every measure was flawless, every theory thoroughly tested and proven to stand on perfect foundations, every ingredient collected and every process designed without the slightest margin of error, but it wasn’t enough. Something was off. Cagliostro didn’t know what; her sister, for all the expertise the girl had picked up on over years of working with the alchemist, didn’t know either. In every possible regard, she was ready to make the jump, to leave behind the body that had been her death sentence since the day she was born… but she just wasn’t. Cagliostro never had this kind of trouble with her theories before, as when every piece fell into place, she was always ready to consider the puzzle complete. But this puzzle looked back at her, every inch filled out and showing an image back at her that she just knew was off for some reason. A reason which surely lived somewhere in the pile of discarded plans she’d been building, but one she just couldn’t see.

It was getting late. Cagliostro would have loved to keep working all day and night on this, but even with the half-measure tonics and tinctures she’d developed to help accommodate her weakness, she simply didn’t have the resilience to sustain that. With a yawn, she kicked back in her chair, absentmindedly running a hand along her face. It scraggled back; the woman was still young, but was coming up on an age where hair started to grow out on her face. She wasn’t old enough to need a shave yet, but she dreaded the inconvenience of it. Admittedly, she was only just coming to terms with the idea of living long enough for it to be an issue - but why should it , chimed a voice in the back of her head. I’m making my own body. I, the genius Cagliostro, certainly needn’t settle for just surpassing death - if I’m going to live forever, I should cut out annoyances like this one.

The idea gave her a second wind. She pulled forth another sheet and gripped her pen

with newfound vigor, making alterations to her design and for the skin of the new body as she worked. Why stop at getting rid of some body hair? Her skin always annoyed her. Rougher than she liked, prone to breaking out, never quite as pretty as she liked - all things she had no reason to settle for living with. By the time she was done, the design looked about identical to previous iterations, but it was surrounded by notes, edits, things she wanted to test out with reagent balances to achieve her new goals, and finally, it felt right. She was completely ready to put it into practice and finally escape her doomed flesh.

Well, almost. Damned thing got tired so easily, and she couldn’t even bother going to bed. Flumping into the couch in the corner of the lab, Cagliostro went to sleep, with the body she was born in, for the last time.

_______

A week had passed since that fateful day. The first day after was the happiest of Cagliostro’s life. The one after that was a good runner up. The whole week felt incredible, really, how couldn’t it? Not only had she escaped the life that was tormenting her so, but she did it in a way that proved she was a miracle-working, perfect genius, and beyond that, as minor as she was, her skin had never felt so good. Sure, she was mostly happy about the “no longer doomed to an early death” thing, but damn, if she didn’t appreciate her new life a lot more knowing that she’d trumped fate in both big and little ways. Her sister was ecstatic seeing her so happy, the townspeople had never seen the little recluse so outspoken as she damn near skipped throughout the streets.

But as the week turned into two, and two turned into a month, and then months, there was a gnawing at the back of Cagliostro’s mind. She’d spent so long dedicated to figuring out how perfect her body, and she’d certainly done so by that Cagliostro’s standards… but she now felt like perhaps there was more to do. Not just alchemy for its own sake; she’d been doing that, improving the art alongside her sister, even taking in new disciples who wished to learn from her genius. No, she wanted something for herself, but she just couldn’t figure out what.

And so she returned to her lab. She hadn’t been in here since that night, spending most of her days outside, or confidently lecturing to her students. She sat in that same chair, held that same pen and pulled a piece of paper from that same stack, but nothing came out. What did she want to change? She wracked her brain for it, swinging back and forth in her chair. 

And then, she fell. Flat onto her back looking up at the ceiling with a thud. It didn’t hurt, of course, with how strong her new body was, but it covered her face in hair. She hadn’t cut it in a month, having been occupied with other things, and the brown locks were thick and longer than usual. Sister’s hair is a much nicer color, she thought, looking at it in the moonlight. Mine’s not great. Maybe blonde would be fun? Delicately, she reached a hand up to her forehead and tugged at the strands for a better look at them. Bah, they’re so messy… Oh, to have gorgeous, flowing locks. Cagliostro sat there lost in thought for a moment, imagining the possibilities.

And then she realized she circumvented death, and was now yearning for something she could achieve with some dyes and hair care. Burying her face in her hands disappointedly, she got up and sat herself down in the chair, setting about drawing and plotting.

_______

By two days after, Cagliostro had already made the jump. A new body, easily replicated from the stock of materials they had for the initial experiment, identical to the first replacement, apart from the golden cascade flowing down its back. Her sister was a touch surprised at the sight, but she complimented Cagliostro’s aesthetic sensibilities. As they prepared to go out for another day on the town, Cagliostro paused, and asked if her sister had anything around that might have looked good with the new look, and more importantly, help her adjust to all this damn hair getting in her face. Happily, the younger girl sat her sister down in her room; they didn’t have much, but they had hair ties, and one bound the hair into a neat ponytail, with a lock on either side left loose to frame her face. Smiling at each other, both sisters knew that the look was downright adorable.

That day, there were some merchants coming through, bringing goods for barter that Cagliostro absolutely wanted her hands on. She had a few commercial valuables in her stores that offered little alchemically, and she happily pawned them off for far more commonplace ingredients that had better alchemical applications. As she walked away from the stand, she heard the salesman yelling back after her: “Thank you for your generosity, ma’am!”

For a moment, she froze. Immediately, she considered correcting him, but as she stayed there, she realized that she didn’t want to. She turned around with a beaming smirk and a gentle wink, and chirped an ecstatic “no, thank you!” as she made her way back home.

That day, it didn’t take her any time at all to get to work in the lab. She practically flew into the chair, putting pen to paper as she drafted every change she wanted to make. Her frame, her proportions, her height, even her weight distribution; she didn’t want to make the most tremendous changes to any of them, but she still needed each to be perfect . She worked painstakingly into the night, and spent weeks after collecting the necessary reagents until everything was assembled, enough to make herself a new body and then a dozen after that, just in case of emergencies.

This time, she was sure beyond a shadow of a doubt that she was satisfied. She looked at the form before her, a form that she could take, and beamed. Cheers came from both her sister and disciples, all in support of their cherished mentor once more telling the circumstances of her creation that she was mistress of her life, not fate. As she fell asleep in her third body for the last time, she woke up in her fourth to boisterous applause, her audience captivated by her effortless transference no matter how many times they witnessed it.

Rising and walking into the adoring masses, she adjusted her skirt and her robes with a grin, admiring both her body and her genius that enabled it. From the crowd came a question; “Founder, do you still want to be called Cagliostro?” It caught her off guard. She hadn’t considered it yet, but the answer came quickly as she giggled with a newfound vigor.

“Of course! I am Cagliostro, genius founder of alchemy, and the cutest , smartest , most perfect of all time! Any who wish to complain about any of those titles are free to try proving me wrong!”