The sorceress left in anger and fear, and she left me a mess and poor weather. The rest of the night, after she departed, I sat at my tea bar and stared into the dark crack in the cave wall. Dawn came and brought with it a terrible weariness. I slipped off the barstool and drifted to my bedroom. All the while trying not to think about the shattered teacups and teapots crunching under my feet.
The next four days were cold and wet, the drizzle never relenting. I swept my polished wooden floor over and over again, but continue to find tiny broken pieces of colorful ceramic embedded in the cracks between the boards. It took 4 days of cleaning before I felt satisfied that every fragment was accounted for.
I didn’t know what to do with the shattered remains of my tea shop, so I swept them across my threshold and onto the large smooth rock next to the waterfall. I didn’t want to push them over the cliff edge, however. They had been mine and it wasn’t their fault they were all broken now. I just left them spread across the flat stone. The colorful shards of ceramic created a mosaic against a backdrop of gray.
Only one teapot and one teacup remained. They were under the tea bar when the sorceress wrenched the world with her terrible scream. I don’t know why they didn’t shatter with the rest of my precious collection, but I was grateful I had at least these two dishes. I was still a tea master.
On the fourth day after the sorceress departed, I built my fire again and waited for a visitor. This time, however, I waited by the waterfall. I watched how the light shining through the cascading water twinkled across the shards of my broken collection. I realized then, that the rainbow mosaic looked a little like a flower; perhaps even like a rose.
Eventually, I looked into the waterfall and found my own reflection. I knew it was me, and part of me recognized the face I saw there, but it was like remembering a dream. I knew that face, but I couldn’t understand how I knew it. I’m not sure I’d ever seen my reflection before. I didn’t understand why. So much of my memory felt cloudy. Only the last 23 days, the days marked in my journal, stood out clear and sharp. Things did happen before that, of that, I’m sure. What they were, I don’t know.
For a long time, I sat before the waterfall staring at a reflection I didn’t recognize next to the shattered remains of my rainbow. Hours passed as I cried. Finally, a tiny mouse scurried into my cave and towards my shop. I had not seen which direction he came from and was quite surprised to find his little gray form darting across my threshold. I got up sniffling and followed. I found him passing my bar and stove. He was a fast little guy.
He scurried up to the crack in the wall left by the sorceress. Whiskers twitching, the little mouse stood up on his hind legs and sniffed at the darkness. He moved from one side of the crack and then to the other; stopping periodically to stand and inspect the gaping black hole.
He then returned to the shop and scurried up the side of the bar. I couldn’t help but be amazed. I had no idea mice possess such agility. Once upon the bar, he sat back on his hindquarters and stared at me.
I began to heat the water.
As we waited, my tone flippant and relaxed, I idly asked the tiny mouse, “what was the great lesson of this life?”
When he answered, his voice was deep like a drum or rolling thunder but carried gentle compassion. Part of me felt surprised by seeing a tiny mouse speak, but somehow I knew this was right.
“The great lesson? Yes, I understand why you ask, but in asking you find an answer. All roads form a circle. When nothing matters, everything matters no matter the size. When everything matters, no matters have great consequence.”
I felt confused, so I said nothing and pulled my last teapot from under the bar. It was a muddy brown and the spout twisted at an off angle. It was mine, and it was beautiful. I poured the hot water over chamomile leaves. As I let the tea steep, I reached for my Deck of Secrets and realized only two cards remained.
“My last visitor was a powerful sorceress. How does a tiny mouse know a woman like that?”
The creature’s little gray head tilted to one side and its enormous ears wiggled up and down. “How does the mouse know power? Yes, I understand why you ask, but I’m afraid you misunderstood your own question. There is no power without weakness. One cannot gain power if one is not first weak. Truly, I know the woman of whom you speak because I am, in fact, her greatest desire. Which is limitless potential for power.”
I rubbed my forehead and took a deep breath. Speaking with this tiny being confounded me. I felt as though I were in a maze and was frustrated that I could not find my way out. I served the tea and placed my Deck of Secrets on the bar. The mouse did not move; he simply sat on his haunches, staring at me. Eventually, I felt compelled to ask my final question. “You hid something. What was it?”
The mouse moved to the cards and flipped one over. On it was the image of a biscuit, split open, golden butter melting on both halves. The mouse looked up, “What did I hide? Yes, I understand why you ask, yet it is impossible for you to truly grasp the intrinsic nature of the thing. Therefore, I shall answer in a metaphor and hope you glimpse an approximation of the truth. I hid a key to the universe; because some locks are better left unopened.”
I felt quite unnerved by the answer. Then, the mouse picked up his card, which was bigger than his tiny gray body, and ate it. After he finished his meal, my tiny little visitor scurried down the side of my tea bar. Before he left my shop, he turned back and stood on his hind legs. He said “Your curiosity has opened your heart. You ask people to do the same and together you find truth. You seek to right the world with honesty. Yes, you are truly a worthy Master of Teas.” He then turned and left my shop.
Bewildered I watched him go and disappear into the never-ending drizzle just outside my cave. After a moment, I sat at my bar and drank the cup of chamomile tea I made. It helped calm my nerves.
This is the second to last chapter in my “The Last Tea Shop” playthrough. As you progress through this unique game, you are given “visitors” as writing prompts. These visitors are selected with the role of the dice. The mouse, unique amongst the list of visitors, is the last to be selected in this manner. I found myself very lucky that I just happened to roll a 4 and was able to write this chapter.
This particular visitor offered a lot of opportunities for creativity. It’s a mouse, after all. He could say anything. The next chapter, the final chapter, will hopefully tie everything together and reveal the truth of our Tea Master. If you haven’t read the other chapters, I implore you to do so. An ending doesn’t make sense without a beginning.