156 Rush for a Cure
– “Are you kidding me?” Lith’s mind refused to accept Solus’ words.
“No, I’m not.” She replied. “Do you remember what happens every time you overcome a bottleneck?”
“Of course that I do. The world energy flows into me, because after the transition my mana core is empty…” When Lith managed to put two and two together, his mind went blank, and so did his face. –
“Are you all right?” Kilian couldn’t see through the mask, but Lith’s sudden silence, freezing in place for several seconds, could only mean bad news.
“Peachy.” He replied with a hoarse voice.
– “Exactly!” Solus continued mercilessly. “Nature abhors the void, so once we cure them, if their mana cores have degraded too much, when the world energy fills them, the patients may be able to perceive the mana flow, discover their cores and become true mages.
It’s not like it took you much too, right? Your breathing technique is just a crutch to better perceive the energy flow. What if an already powerful core, after being depleted, suddenly goes back from green to blue?
The sudden mana flow would be so intense that only an idiot would not notice it. At that point, discovering true magic would only be a matter of time. Humans and magical beast alike, have a static mana core in their natural state, that grows slowly over time.
But this parasites changes everything, and that’s why I think it’s an unintended side effect. No one in his right mind would ever make his enemies even more powerful.”
“Wait, how is this different from what happened to Tista? After I cured her, her core went from deep yellow to bright green, and it’s still evolving. Yet she hasn’t Awakened.”
“It’s completely different, you silly.” Solus first giggle after days of weeping she had hoped Lith wouldn’t notice, was the only silver lining among the madness.
“Tista had a naturally weak core because of a natural illness. Her body simply couldn’t handle stronger energies, so it didn’t let the core develop for years. After you cured her, the core started to grow, yes, but slowly, over time. Tista’s core was always at full capacity, even if underdeveloped.
For the infected, instead, their core is already fully developed, let’s say it’s blue, but because of the parasites is temporarily down to green. Just like you after a bottleneck, their core will strive for the world energy, getting filled in days, not in years like in Tista’s case.
If I am right, in the worst-case scenario, by recovering their powers, they will experience a ‘breakthrough’ on a daily basis.”–
“Lady Zeir, are you aware of this odd blue vein?” Lith tapped on her neck, trying to keep his voice calm.
“Yes, thank you for your care.” In any other circumstance her smile would have been contagious.
“The previous doctors and healers never cared about it, even after I pointed it out to them. One of my tent mates noticed it about fifteen days after we got imprisoned. The scary thing is that everyone I befriended in the tent has one or more of them.”
Lith swallowed a lump of saliva.
“Everyone.” She nodded.
“Captain, how many residents has the tent?”
“A little over four hundred.” Kilian replied after checking his notebook.
The thought of having so many true mages pop out like mushrooms after a rainy day made Lith’s head fuzzy.
He was sure not being the only Awakened one in the world, but at least each one of them had gained his powers with constant study and discipline, just like him. Also, according to his theory, those who were deemed to be unworthy or too stupid to wield such power had been killed throughout history.
Sure, maybe not all those four hundred would become true mages, and a good number would be killed by whoever was in charge of the culling. But Lith wasn’t used to plan his life around “maybes” and “ifs”.
First and foremost, the infected were humans, and he expected from them to be horrible people. In his experience, power didn’t corrupt, it would just bring out a person’s real nature.
Lith didn’t want someone like Garith Senti having even one more ounce of power, the new world sucked already as it was. Letting a bunch of strangers achieve true magic, was like handing a flamethrower to a pyromaniac.
He wouldn’t allow some madman to go on rampage, for a very good reason.
He hadn’t spent years, hiding his abilities, just to let a group of idiots ruin the fruits of his hard work. Not to mention that if any of them started to spread the secret behind being an Awakened one, he would lose all of his advantages.
His strength, his speed, even his recovery ability would become the norm. The new world would devolve in a nightmarish and chaotic place were might makes right. With his limited talent and knowledge, Lith had no doubt he would meet a foul end.
Lith tasked Solus to memorize the personal details of his specimens, now determined to find a cure as fast as possible, while keeping an eye on them. He still had the advantage of experience. A newly Awakened one would need weeks, if not months to sort out his new abilities and learn true spells.
Lith decided to exploit that knowledge gap to make sure that an “accident” would befall those he deemed too dangerous.
After Lady Zeir, Lith visited as many infected as he could, before running out of mana. Instead of checking for their conditions, he would only take note of the status of their cores and the blue veins.
At the end of the day, he had barely managed to visit around fifty persons, and the results were bleak. All of them showed signs of deep mana poisoning (AN: the blue veins) and their mana cores were discoloured if not downgraded.
The good news was that the stronger the core, the higher its resistance. Blue and cyan cores had just turned to deeper shades, only from the yellow level and below they had suffered an almost complete colour change.
The bad news was that at high levels, even changing a shade was a big deal. Lith had gained a whole set of new abilities just going past the middle level of cyan. There was no saying what an even stronger mage would experience.
During dinner his mood was gloomy, searching the right words for his report. He needed all the help he could get, but couldn’t tell the truth, at any cost.
– “Now not only I must find a foolproof cure, I also need to make certain that no one Awakens. I can achieve it in two ways. Either I make the cure slow and prolonged over time, or I do not extract all the toxins after killing the parasites.
Either way, the specimens wouldn’t be able to perceive the mana flow in their body while the cores recover their strength, and my a*s would be out of the frying pan. Both methods have evident flaws, though.
The first one could be improved by other healers not aware of the dangers it will pose. As for the second one, with no more parasites, I don’t know how long the toxins would retain their potency. I need more data.” –
Lith’s trains of thoughts was interrupted by Colonel Varegrave.
“What is the problem with those blue veins that Kilian was telling me about?”
“It’s a sign of the infection nearing the critical point. At this rate, the patients will be dead soon.” Lith’s lie killed two birds with one stone. It would give him plausible deniability if he was forced to kill someone, and ensure his research to get priority.
“I see.” Varegrave didn’t seem surprised, mostly worried.
“Are you going to extract more toxins tomorrow?”
“Most likely. Why?”
“Because we need to establish a safer chain of custody.” Varegrave handed to him a gold ring with the Royal family’s crest engraved.
“Only people with one of these will be allowed to handle the vials containing the toxins. Use it to stamp the custody release note every time you produce a vial, and always check the courier has a ring too.”
Lith took the ring, pondering about the implications of the sudden increase in security. His mind went to the most paranoid answer.
“Let me guess, you want to weaponize the toxins.”
Varegrave was taken aback, he didn’t expect a kid to understand the severity of the situation.
“Yes. If we manage to stabilize them and apply them on clothes and armours, we could obtain anti magic protections. But that’s not the only reason. Today an alchemist was discovered trying to steal a vial. He is currently being interrogated.”
Lith inwardly scoffed at their wishful thinking. If such a thing was possible, he had no doubt that Hatorne would have already found a way to do it and sold her merchandise for a high price.
On the contrary, he expected Hatorne to prevent it from happening. She was a mage too, after all, he doubted she could be so stupid to leave behind something that could take away her greatest weapon. Yet Lith could benefit from their wild goose chase.
“Whatever they discover about the anti mana toxins, I need to be informed as soon as possible. Without a cure, all the infected will die shortly, and with them all your precious toxins will be lost forever.”
Varegrave didn’t miss Lith’s hidden allegation, and was outraged by it.
“Are you implying that the army would care more about a possible weapon rather than the lives of the citizens of the Kingdom?” He indignantly stood up from his chair.
“I’m not implying anything, I know it.” Lith replied between mouthfuls.
“I wasn’t born yesterday. ‘It’s too dangerous to let it fall in the wrong hands. It’s for the greater good. Collateral damage and all that stuff.’ Isn’t the way the army works?”
What Lith had just stated were the bullet points a small faction within the army was actually using to try to convince the King to not cure all the infected, but keep some of them as human breeding grounds for the parasites.
The mana blocking parasite, was the one that had raised the most expectations. In a world were a single mage could obliterate a battalion, it would give a chance to those without great magic powers to fight on equal footing.
“What can I do to help you?” Varegrave didn’t have the strength to lie anymore to Lith, so he preferred to change the topic.
“I need the strongest mages among the infected. If I find a cure for them, treating the others will be easy. I’m not capable of devising a single spell to cure them, but I’m confident to find the right steps that will later be merged into one.
No one aside me must interact with my patients.”
“It will be done.” Varegrave nodded.
“I know you have no reason to trust me, but I need a favour from you. Please, find a way to kill those monstrosities before I’m ordered to do something that I would regret for my whole life.”