158 First Impressions 2
Lith unceremoniously lifted the grey shirt all the way up, revealing Nindra’s flat and smooth belly. He then enhanced her metabolism with light magic, covering her abdomen in milky droplets of sweat saturated with the toxins.
His eyes and hands moved nimbly, careful to not miss even one bead of the precious liquid. The fate of the Kingdom, but even more importantly his own, depended on the alchemists finding a way to neutralize them or at least analysing their properties, making Lith’s work much easier.
Even if her partner didn’t care, Solus stared in envy at Nindra’s full and perky breasts going up and down while she heaved in panic.
– “If I ever get a body, I would really like for it to be like this one.” She thought to herself. –
Nindra’s fears quickly got dispelled by Lith’s careful touch, filling one containment vial after the other without taking pauses to look at the scenery, or worse taking advantage of her helplessness.
During over a month of captivity, she had learned to recognize the lust in the men surrounding her, be them other infected or soldiers. After the prolonged period of isolation, people were easy to fall in desperation and act like animals.
Guards were relatively safe. They couldn’t go past the casual grope because they feared getting infected the most. But her tent mates were something else. With nothing to lose, they would often lose decency, fighting among themselves for a slice of bread or harassing women.
Usually the guards intervened quickly, but other times, when they were bored, they would let things slide, watching at the r*pe attempts like they were just a theatrical performance, laughing and commenting without a care.
They would still intervene before something really bad happened, but that didn’t make any of it less traumatic. With her powers gone, pride was the only thing Nindra had left, and she would do anything to protect it.
When she had first met Lith, she had assumed that behind the mask there was just another perverted old man, and treated him accordingly, taking take to remind him her status in the Association and her knowledge of the Queen.
But now, watching him work relentlessly, she couldn’t feel anything. He was cold, like a machine, allowing her to hope that for once since her imprisonment, the man in front of her was really a healer.
As the last drop was collected, Lith carefully placed the shirt back down, avoiding any unnecessary contact, before using Invigoration again. The zone surrounding Nindra’s mana core was now clear from all the toxins, only the cocoons remained, with the parasites still hidden inside them.
– “Any change, so far?” He asked Solus.
“None, it’s still too soon. Even for you it takes some time. Don’t worry, if I notice her core recovering or her mana circulating like that of a true mage, I’ll let you know.” –
Without the toxin’s dampening effect, Lith could now spot the worms and attempt to kill them. His plan was to test on Nindra the first cure he had devised. It consisted in cleansing first the mana core, allowing it to recover, while the rest of the body was clogged by the anti mana parasites.
His theory was that even if the core were to be flooded with the world energy, Nindra wouldn’t be able to perceive it in such status.
– “If I’m right, I need to make up some medical babble to justify the passing of days before treating the rest of the body. I can’t allow other healers to rush things up.” –
He then targeted the cocoons closer to the core, sending multiple tendrils of dark energy to seep in and kill their inhabitants. Just as he feared, the cocoons were just a highly packed toxin mass.
Sending magic through them was like pushing the proverbial SUV uphill, but this time with the hand brake on. Since this was within his expectations, he moved to plan B. He used his cleansing spell to remove the outer layers, while he enhanced with light magic Nindra’s metabolism.
The effect was similar to doing cardio, the blood pressure increased and the muscle contracted and relaxed cyclically, hastening the dispersion process of the toxins, by both natural flow and osmosis.
The hours passed, and soon Lith was too exhausted to continue.
“This is what we will do from now on, more or less. Can I have your answer now?”
He asked after removing the gag.
Nindra’s eyes were still cold, but contemptuous no more.
“Are you aware of what happens daily in that tent?”
Lith shook his head.
“If I accept to help you, I want the security to be increased, and the soldiers to be punished for their behaviour.” Nindra asked, after briefly describing to him her dreadful experiences.
“I’m just a healer.” Lith shrugged.
“I can talk to the camp’s supervisor, but I doubt there’s much even he can do. Humans will be humans. I could have him give you a detail, though.”
“One more thing. I want your promise that you won’t lay a hand on me if not for medical reasons.”
Lith found her demands reasonable, and he needed her trust.
Solus believed to be able to determine if someone was Awakened, but that didn’t mean that Nindra couldn’t manage to feel the mana flow, and by remembering it, Awaken weeks, if not months after being cured.
“Deal.” Lith released the restraints, allowing her to shook his extended hand.
“There is one thing you should know. These blue veins…” He tapped with his finger on her arm and behind her neck.
“…are a sign that the infection is nearing the critical level. My procedure should prevent it to become lethal, but it’s still experimental. There are still a lot of things that could go wrong, so if you feel anything funny or unusual with your body after one of our sessions, you have to tell me.”
Nindra was shocked by his words, looking at her own veins like snakes in the grass.
After the stick, Lith provided the carrot. Upon a small table he placed the comfort food he had prepared, a bowl of water with some towels and a change of clothes.
“I would like to offer you a proper bath, but with water magic unavailable, that’s the best I could do.”
The delicious smell of real food made her stomach grumble, his offer was too good to turn it down.
– “I’m not going to refuse some clean clothes, since they give us a change only once a week. But why the bowl?” – Nindra thought, before realising that between her panic and the light magic’s effect, she was drenched in sweat.
Her shirt was stuck to her like a second skin, her erected nipples piercing through the thin fabric made her feel naked. Before she could cover her chest with her arms, Lith was already outside, pulling the curtain back.
– “I could continue her treatment after lunch, but I want to give it time. I’ll resume tomorrow, after a good night rest. Solus says that the core recovers faster during sleep. This afternoon I’ll try out my second cure.” – Lith thought.
“Captain, I’m done with this patient for today. This afternoon I need another strong magician. I want to try out different approaches and see which one works best.”
Lith handed him all the collected vials, and Kilian sent one of the soldiers to call a courier.
“Not a problem, but you already know Kandria’s second strongest magician. Do you want me to pick the third best instead?”
The plague mask hid Lith’s wolfish smile.
“No, mister Senti perfectly fits my bill.”
– “With his talent and experience, if he can’t feel the mana core after my treatment, no one can. Also, if he actually Awakens, he is the kind of guy I can kill without losing one second of sleep.” –
“Are you talking about Garith Senti, the head of Kandria’s mercenary guild?”
Nindra’s voice came from behind the tent.
“That’s the guy.” Lith confirmed.
“He’s a little too stuck up, but a good man. I can talk to him, if you want. I’m sure if you make him the same offer you did to me, he will accept.”
– “A good man?” Lith inwardly sneered.
“Yeah, aside from his good looks there wasn’t much to him. Either we misjudged him, or after all she went through, her standards for ‘good’ have considerably lowered.” Solus pondered. –
Lith needed all the help he could get, so he accepted Nindra’s offer.
Later, that afternoon, their second meeting was more polite, but the cold in the tent would have put the ice age to shame. After how Lith had disrespected him, Garith normally would never agree to help a filthy military dog.
But after over a month of prison food, with no baths or privacy, he was desperate enough to accept. Despite all the hatred he felt toward that arrogant doctor, Garith couldn’t avert his eyes from the steaming steak in front of him.
Also, Nindra Luce was one of the few people he respected, and when she told him about the meaning of the blue veins, he had been forced to rethink his priorities.
– “When I get my powers back, I can always hunt him down, if I still want to. But if I’m dead, then everything is lost! As much as I hate to admit it, I need him more than he me.” – Was Garith’s reasoning.
“I’ll get food at every session, right?”
Lith nodded in reply.
“I want a detail too. I’m sick of men and women sneaking in my bed while the guards do nothing but laugh at my expenses!”
Lith gave his word, so even with their mutual spite still standing, he could start testing his second theory. Thanks to the experience acquired by treating Nindra, things went faster and more smoothly than in the morning.
The plan was to kill all the parasites, while leaving enough toxins in his system to make impossible for Garith to Awaken while his mana core recovered. During the first session, Lith first cleansed a small patch of Garith’s arm, making it easier for his mana to circulate during Invigoration.
Then, he proceeded to extract all the toxins, until he was too tired to continue. In the following days the two treatments diverged more and more. Nindra’s was slower, first he removed all the parasites in her abdomen while checking her core status, leaving the rest of the body untouched.
Garith’s was faster but much more exhausting. Lith had to partially cleanse the toxins and kill the parasites as soon as he could, always starting from the abdomen region.
As Solus had predicted, she was soon able to perceive the world energy flowing in their bodies to fill the void. Aside from that, their mana would not circulate but remain still, proving that the Awakening hadn’t happened.
Thanks to the forced cohabitation, both patients soon came to appreciate Lith’s efforts and dedication. After every treatment, while hidden behind the tent, they would try executing the simplest light spell.
All their attempts failed, but they could feel something changing within them. They expressed their joy to Lith, only to rise his worries through the roof.
One morning, Lith was killing the parasites in Nindra’s arms. Her core had long recovered, so he decided it was time to cross his fingers and cure her for good.
Lith was about to finish, when a soldier barged into the tent. He held in his arm a child that couldn’t be older than two years. The veins in his body were sky blue, bulging out like small hands were trying to rip open his skin to escape.
“Sir, this child has just collapsed. The healers don’t know what to do, we have never seen something like this. I’ve been told to ask you for orders.”
Lith was forced to decide if to cure him, risking for him to Awaken, or let him die.