157 First Impressions
Kilian was aware of the political struggle that was taking place within the military’s highest level. After Marth had created a cure with Lith’s help, the fear of the infection had been replaced by personal ambitions and dreams of conquest.
Unlike Lith, though, Kilian knew there was still a silver lining. Varegrave was one of the most loyal men the King had, so if his final decision was to destroy everything, Varegrave would obey, leaving no stone unturned.
Generals and strategists could rant as much as they wanted, the final say on the matter rested on the King alone. Despite that, the pressure on him was bound to be enormous, just like the one the Mage Association was bound to exert on the Queen for that same matter.
It was easy for Kilian to imagine what was happening in the royal palace in that moment.
The upper echelons of the army against those of the Mage Association, with the Crown caught in the middle. Another crack had just appeared in the government of the Griffon Kingdom.
– “Life sure has a twisted sense of irony.” Kilian thought. “To think that so many lives rest on the shoulders of someone devoid of mercy. If Lith manages to find a cure fast, the political situation can still be salvaged.
Thanks to the information blackout, the camp is cut off from the outside world. Nothing gets in or out, not even information. We can wipe out the plague, and then pretend to know nothing about the military’s plans for the parasites.
Worst case scenario, Varegrave will take the fall for everything, allowing the King to get away with it.” –
“Don’t worry, Colonel. Even if you didn’t ask me, I wasn’t going to spare any effort to find the cure.” Lith’s tone was so full of determination that both men doubted about his psychological evaluation.
He was indeed cold and cynical, but seemed to truly have at heart the safety of the Kingdom.
– “F*ck, that’s why I hate the military. They would weaponize even dirty socks if given the chance. If I don’t act fast, there is no telling what damage those idiots could cause.” – Was what Lith actually thought.
That night, he and Solus had one of their rare quarrels.
– “Are you really willing to kill all the patients in the last ward?” She asked bluntly.
“Honestly? I would rather be at the academy worrying about the second trimester exam, instead of being here playing doctor Fleming. But what do you expect me to do? Wash my hands of everything and hope for the best?”
“But… there are also women, children and elderly. We saw them during the round of visits. How can you even think about doing something like that?”
“How could I don’t do it, you mean. Women are no better than men, and being old doesn’t make you a saint. As for the children, their cores are too weak, the risk of Awakening is insignificant, I’m more worried about them dying because of the parasites.
I have noticed that most of them have red cores. I don’t know what happens when a red core gets downgraded, but I don’t think is anything good. Please, Solus, try to understand my point of view. You don’t know what someone is capable of, until he is given the power to avoid the consequences of his actions.
A good person can easily be hiding his true nature or simply too scared to follow his instincts. Law and order work because people are afraid of the punishment. Back on Earth, a man called the Buddha said that evil comes natural to humans, while good needs to be taught.
If we are right, and that alchemist, Hatorne, is behind the plague, why do you think she did it? For money. Why do you think the army is willing to sacrifice innocents to preserve a biological weapon? For power. But you know what’s the scariest thing?
Ask any bully, any violent man or woman why they do what they do, they all answer the same thing: because they can. If you really want it, I can let all of the patients go, but remember, whatever happens next, all the death and misery they’ll cause, will be on you.” –
Solus knew how harsh Lith’s view on humanity was. After all she had seen, Solus couldn’t completely refuse his reasonings anymore. Her only hope was to be wrong about the mana blocking parasite side effect.
The next day, Lith took extra precautions. He was about to meet his main specimen, and first impressions could not be taken back.
In case everything went well, he had arranged a comfortable medical table, a chair and some comfort food.
Hidden behind a curtain, there was a stretcher with leather straps, a straightjacket, a mouth gag and some manure if the specimen turned out to be a troublemaker or Garith Senti.
The person that walked into the tent wore no restraints. Lith would have considered that a good sign, if not for her attitude, with eyes filled with contempt like she owned the place and wasn’t happy with her guests.
“Sir, allow me to introduce to you Nindra Luce. She is Kandria’s strongest magician, and also the chairman of the city branch of the Mage Association.” Kilian knew what to expect from both of them. Diplomacy wasn’t the strong suit of any of those present.
“Nice to meet you.” Lith extended his hand, only to have it ignored.
“You are a member of the Queen’s corps, and a Captain at that.” She said recognizing the uniform.
“Why am I forced to stay in a mixed tent, and who is the pipsqueak?” Nindra was 1.67 metres (5’6″), barely a couple centimetres taller than Lith. Her remark aimed to emphasize the difference in their standing more than in their height.
“I’m sorry, but for safety reasons the infected must be kept together, or surveillance would be impossible.” Kilian replied with a flat tone.
“He will be your new healer, that’s all I am at liberty to say.”
“Another quack that would do nothing more than grope and probe me around for another month? No thanks!” She tried to walk away but the guards blocked her path, their hands on the weapons’ hilts.
Lith had to admit she was indeed a sight for sore eyes. Nindra was a beautiful woman in her early thirties, with bronze skin, light brown shoulder length wavy hair and hazel eyes.
She had long legs, and enough curves to make her attractive even while wearing a grey prison jumpsuit. Back on Earth, Lith would have asked her out for dinner, but in the new world he was at least ten years too young and lacked a ton of patience.
– “Great! A female version of that arrogant idiot. Luckily I came prepared.” –
“Release me immediately! I’m a member of the Mage Association. I demand to talk with the Queen!” She yelled in outrage.
Kilian was about to explain to her that she was in a quarantine zone, not a luxury resort, when Lith’s ignored hand turned into a fist that struck a liver blow. The sudden drop in blood pressure, coupled with the pain, made her kneel on the ground, incapable of speaking one more word.
“Strap her to the table and gag her mouth, I had enough of her rants.” Lith could have knocked her out by hitting her jaw, but he wanted Nindra to stay conscious. After the soldiers executed his orders, it was Lith’s turn to talk.
“I’m sorry for whatever harassment you may have experienced here, but people are dying. I have no time to coddle your ego. Let’s cut to the chase: to find a cure and give you back your magic I need your cooperation, but it may take some time.
You may either spend your next days strapped like an animal, or behave as a civil person and be treated as such. The choice is yours.”
Lith ignored her gaze full of anger and the countless muffled curses she threw at him, focusing only on his task.
He used Invigoration to determine the status of her mana core. Judging from the streaks, it had once been light blue, but now it was several shades darker. Lith decided to have her treated first, checking Solus’ theory at the same time.
He had already devised a way to beat the last parasite, but between though and action there were countless things that could go wrong. The first part of his plan was testing if the toxins harmed the core by being in its proximity.
Lith tried to extract the toxins from her abdomen, instead that from the arm or leg like he usually did. Not having access to water magic, he could only make them get excreted with the sweat, and let it drip into the vials.
Even with all his considerable magical power, making the mana circulate in Nindra’s body was like pushing a SUV uphill. Soon Lith was drenched in sweat, and only after a quarter of hour of unrelenting efforts he managed to bring to toxins at the skin level.
He had Kilian passing him the containment vials, and then grabbed her shirt, preparing to extract the sample. Lith felt her whole body going stiff, her limbs stretching the restrains to the limit.
– “If she has been molested in the tent, it’s natural that she doesn’t like being touched. I’ll try to be quick.” Lith thought.
“Yeah, and maybe having a little consideration for her would help.” Solus snorted. “She is restrained, surrounded by four men, one of which is about to undress her.” She added, since Lith seemed a little slow on the uptake. –
Lith turned around, noticing that all eyes were fixated on his hand. Those present were tilted to get the best view available, holding their breath in anticipation. Even Kilian was eager to spectate the next step, for academic purposes, of course.
“Sorry guys.” Lith shrugged, realizing his mistake. Having examined and treated countless patients of every possible age, he had become numb to the allure of certain aspects of his job.
“Doctor patient confidentiality.”
The sound of the curtain being pulled was accompanied by loud groans, caused by the awareness that their thirst for knowledge would not be quenched.