Chapter 160: Healing Procedure
The mysterious figure cast a suffocating pressure throughout the cavern as it stepped out of the gate. Even Sylvie, who had been so eager to leave, was frozen stiff as she helplessly peered down at the sight below.
As the rest of its body appeared through the teleportation gate, my eyes immediately became fixed on its horns.
The horns I’d seen on all of the other Vritras so far looked menacing—as if they were part beast—but looking at the two spikes protruding from above the figure’s temples and veer back toward the crown of its head, they exuded a sense of prestige and regality, like a tiara placed gently on its head. Unlike the murky black horns I’d seen up until now, this Vritra’s obsidian horns all but glowed like precious stones, contrasting starkly against its pearl-colored mane that flowed back past a set of narrow shoulder.
As the Vritra indifferently surveyed its surroundings, I was able to catch a quick glimpse of its face before retreating back behind the entrance of the tunnel out of fear that the Vritra would be able to sense me even with Mirage Walk activated.
It was then I realized that this oppressive aura had come from a girl that looked no older in appearance than Tessia. She possessed elegant features, dark eyes and a thin frame underneath a fur-trimmed obsidian robe, yet even amongst a crowd of dwarves, she appeared small and petite.
After a few seconds, I mustered up the courage to look down once more.
“L-Lady Nezera?” a barrel-chested Alacryan soldier greeted as he remained genuflected in front of the crowd of kneeling dwarves, confused.
“Where is Cylrit?” the female Vritra asked cooly, facing one of the many Alacryan soldiers surrounding the gate and the kneeling dwarves.
The female soldier that Lady Nezera acknowledged immediately rose to her feet. “Commander Cylrit is currently stationed near the northern coast of Sapin, awaiting you before he begins his attack, Lady Nezera.”
“Very well. Let us depart.” Her soft voice spread like a cold breeze, sending shivers down my back despite the distance between us.
“Yes, Lady Nezera!” The female soldier saluted, rallying her troops to follow after the dainty Vritra.
However as she walked past the soldier who had first called out her name in surprise, he spoke out. “Forgive my rudeness, Lady Nevera, but what of the new scythe? I was instructed to take him to Commander Uto.”
There was a moment of silence as everyone in the vicinity anxiously shifted glances between Lady Nezera and the large soldier. She peered down at the soldier with a cold, emotionless gaze until she finally spoke. “He’s not ready. Melzri and Viessa are still working on him.”
“I-I see,” the soldier replied, his shoulders visibly relaxing. “My apologies for wasting your time.”
By her speech, it was obvious that she herself was a scythe as well but a part of me didn’t want to believe it—that such a being, comparable even to an asura, was an opponent I would ultimately have to face. Better yet, the number of scythes we had to worry about had increased.
<em>‘Another scythe?’</em> Sylvie echoed, her voice dripping with worry.
<em>Come on, let’s get out of here,</em> I sent to my bond. Now that a scythe had entered the war, getting this information back up to the castle had to be done quickly.
I took one last quick glance at the scythe named Nezera when she looked back over her shoulder as well.
For a split second, her gaze passed by the tunnel where we’d been hiding and our eyes met.
Her gaze eventually swept past me but in that flashing moment, her cold eyes had locked onto me with the focus of a predator.
There was no doubt about it; she knew I was here.
My body stiffened as if every ounce of blood in my body had congealed. My hand grew clammy while my heartbeat rose to the point where I feared the entire cavern would hear me. Yet, she turned back and continued up the stairs in the same curt manner she had before—unfazed and uncaring.
<em>‘What’s wrong?’</em> my bond asked.
I stood still, afraid to move. It was only after she’d left that I let out a breath. <em>I think she saw me.</em>
Feeling my apprehension, she knew I wasn’t joking, making her all the more restless. <em>‘Now can we leave? Or do you want to wait until the rest of the </em>Alacryan<em> army knows we’re here…’</em>
I couldn’t help but let out a wry smile. It was in these rare moments that my bond showed glimpses of her immaturity. <em>Yeah. Let’s go.</em>
Exiting the tunnel, we were greeted by the ever-pleasant slap of desert wind. Sylvie and I had agreed to hold off on flying until we’d reached the forest on the border of Sapin and Darv. However, after a mile of careful trekking, my body had succumbed to a fit of shivers. Constantly using Mirage Walk in case nearby Alacryan soldiers sensed my mana fluctuations had drained my meager reserve of mana. Using the rest of the mana to strengthen my legs, I was left with only my cloak to protect me from the sharp sand-embedded winds.
<em>It’s been a while since I’ve gotten this cold.</em> I clenched my jaw to keep my teeth from chattering. Leaning my back against a boulder for temporary shelter from the wind, I wrapped my cloak tightly around me.
<em>‘Just a little more. We’re almost there. Should I use aether once more?’</em> my bond asked as she gazed up at my pitiful state.
<em>No. I can barely keep Mana Rotation active in this state. Using aether might set off the soldiers, or worse, the scythe.</em>
<em>‘Okay.’</em> Pressing against my leg to do what she could to keep me just a little warmer, we stayed still for a brief moment until the wind died down just a bit.
After painstakingly walking back toward the forest, walking zigzag from one boulder to another in case of any Alacryan soldiers hidden from the faint light of the crescent moon, I almost broke into tears at the shadowed figures of trees in the distance.
Just a few minutes into the forest, the wind had died down significantly and—despite it being the same temperature—my body slowly began to thaw.
<em>‘Let’s rest here for a bit,’</em> Sylvie said, pointing with her snout at a nearby hollowed log.
We should… get back to the castle, I replied, my eyelids growing heavier with each word.
My bond nudged me toward the log. <em>‘We need to put some more distance between us and the soldiers ahead anyway. Just a one hour nap. At this rate, you’ll freeze without mana to protect you while flying.’</em>
There was a comforting power to her words that seemed to drain the rest of what little energy I had left in me. Suddenly hit with a wave fatigue, I stumbled into the hollow log. My consciousness slowly faded into darkness with the last thing I witnessed being Sylvie dropping a mouthful of leaves on top of my body for warmth.
Despite my feeble state, deep sleep eluded me. From the tension of being out in harm’s way with little strength to protect myself and the recent turn of events, my mind worked overtime to stay at least half-conscious.
After about an hour of resting my eyes and body, Sylvie and I climbed out from the comfort of our blanket of leaves and departed. Without the need to use mana to strengthen my legs while riding Sylvie, I was able to protect myself from the prevailing winds.
The journey back to the castle was silent aside from the howling gales. Conversation was almost nonexistent between us as both of us had become lost in our own thoughts.
The war had just gotten exponentially more complicated now that we knew the dwarves were aiding the Alacryan forces. It wasn’t as black and white as us versus them now. There was still the possibility that it was only a specific faction of the dwarves that were aiding our enemy, but if Rahdeas, Elijah’s foster guardian and now leader of the dwarves, had something to do with this, then that meant we were potentially down two lances.
Assuming the worst, the only positive that came out of this was that Rahdeas was still acting as if he was on our side. This meant that he either had more to gain from being a double agent or that he wasn’t confident enough to openly defy the rest of The Council.
<em>‘We’re here,’</em> Sylvie announced.
Looking up, I could see the floating castle floating amidst the layers of clouds. Dotted around the large structure were soldiers mounted on flying mana beasts on all sides. With the unabated sun shining directly above, casting shadows on the sea of clouds below the castle and flying guards, it was a rather awe-inspiring sight that would surely make the jaws drop of anyone who had never visited, but for me, all I looked forward to was hibernating on the first comfortable surface I came across inside.
Most forms of entry came through teleportation gates so when we approached, the guards immediately gathered between us and the castle. Weapons glowed brightly at the ready as the bonds the soldiers were mounted on also prepared for battle. However, once we got close enough for the soldiers to make out who we were they formed two lines, creating an aerial path for Sylvie and I to follow into the entrance.
“General Arthur!” The guards saluted in unison atop their flying beasts. As we slowly made our way through the pathway, the double doors that towered over even Sylvie slowly creaked open just ahead.
It was obvious that Captain Auddyr had already arrived since there was a team of medics and emitters waiting for me. The landing chamber was a flurry of activity as soon as the large double doors opened. Medics and emitters who were assigned to remain there until I’d arrived—some of which were casually playing with a deck of cards—all dropped what they were doing and immediately prepared to treat me.
The area had turned into a flurry of activity with indiscernible noises bombarding my ears from every corner of the expansive room. As soon as Sylvie landed, the medics got to work by bringing over a contraption similar to a gurney.
“I’m okay,” I croaked, my voice hardly coming out. “Let me talk to Virion first.”
“Strap him in and don’t let him walk,” Sylvie rumbled, startling everyone in the room—including me. My bond had always refrained from talking to anyone but me, and even then she preferred to communicate telepathically.
Taken aback by my bond’s sudden commands, I complied to Sylvies wishes and allowed myself to be carried by the gurney as both medics and emitters began examining me. My bond transformed into her fox-like form and trotted along beside me as I was being moved from the landing chamber to a proper medical facility.
It didn’t take long for the medics to determine where my injuries laid during our little trip to the medical room; better yet, I heard one of the medics sighing that it was probably easier to list the places of my body that weren’t damaged.
That was always reassuring.
Coming from a period and place that was technologically advanced, I had always looked down on the medical field of this world, but it turned out I had wrongly underestimated it. What this world couldn’t achieve through technology, they made up for with magic. Teams of deviant mages, whose powers were all specialized toward the medical field, were all waiting for me as I was pushed into a large square room with vaulted ceilings.
As time trickled by, I could feel the injuries and deprivations of my body catching up to me. With the adrenaline that had been keeping me able dwindling, it felt like my limbs had turned into lead weights. I struggled to stay awake as medics and emitters began carefully probing my body.
After they finished another round of preliminary examinations, an elderly mage by the name of Mendul arrived into the room. The thick, square-jawed mage introduced himself as a deviant capable of adjusting and fine-tuning his vision using mana to be able to individually perceive the different layers of any living thing’s body. Whether it was the skeletal, muscular or even nervous system, he was able to see them all.
Mendul continued scanning my body using an ink pen to draw dozens of areas directly on my body while taking notes as I focused all of my efforts on staying conscious.
“Where’s Commander Virion?” I asked after Mendul had finished marking my body like some sort of map.
“My apologies, General Arthur. Commander Virion is currently away from the castle,” a thin, middle-aged man dressed in a pale-green robe stated.
Judging by how he had been coordinating the other medics, emitters and other deviants in the room, I could only guess that he was the head of the medical team here. While normally, I’d be a bit more courteous to man who was in charge of healing me, I couldn’t help let a tone of impatience slip while talking. “He’s away? Where? When’s he going to be back?”
“H-He did not say,” he replied apologetically. “I was only able to see him leave with Captain Auddyr and Captain Glory along with General Aya.”
I sank further down into the elevated bed I had been moved to since coming to this room, careful not to keep my eyes closed for too long in fear that I may slip into slumber. If Virion had left with Auddyr and Vanesy and had to take a lance with him, they were most likely going back to where I had defeated the retainer in the forest near the southern border of Sapin.
Despite my condition, I couldn’t help but worry. <em>They might run into the </em>Alacryan<em> platoon that was marching up north. Worse, that scythe might try to find the retainer I killed</em>.
<em>‘I’m not too worried about the scythe, since she seemed to be leaving in a different direction, but you’re right about the platoon,’</em> my bond replied.
<em>Maybe you should go and warn them?</em>
<em>‘And leave you here alone? After finding out that the dwarves are allied with the Vritra? Has your brain left you?’</em>
I took a quick glance around the room to see both elves and dwarves along with the human medics, all waiting for further instructions as they prepared tools and different medicines.
<em>Damn it,</em> I cursed, knowing she was right. Fine. I guess we can only pray for their safety.
<em>‘Virion has with him a lance, after all. Don’t try to handle everything alone. They’ll be fine without you,’</em> she comforted<em>. ‘I’ll be right here, making sure these medics aren’t doing anything suspicious. Just rest and focus on healing.’</em>
“What about Aldir?” I asked hopefully.
“Once again, I’m sorry.” the head medic dipped his head. “Only Commander Virion knows the whereabouts of Lord Aldir. I, myself, have only seen him once—very briefly.”
I could only let out a sigh of frustration as the last ounce of strength left me. “It’s fine. So what’s the plan here? Were you able to come up with a diagnosis for my injuries?”
The head medic turned to Mendul, who stepped toward me and looked down at his notes before speaking. “General Arthur, your injuries are rather unique in how complex they are. To be frank, it’s only because of your assimilated body and the level of your mana core that you’re even able to remain conscious. Even then, I can’t help but say I’m surprised to see you so lively—all things considered, of course.”
I managed to shift my gaze down at Sylvie, who was sitting on the ground beside my bed. <em>I have you to thank for that.</em>
<em>‘You’re welcome,’</em> she replied curtly.<em> ‘Although, I fear I’ll have to do this again in the future.’</em>
I shot my bond a weak grin before looking back to Mendul. “So what sort of procedure should I expect?”
The deviant shifted uncomfortably as he stroked his short beard. “The injuries on your lower body have healed, but not perfectly. In order for you to be able to walk without the use of mana, we’re going to have to, very accurately, break your bones and tear your tissues in very small increments and guide them to heal properly.”
Prying open my tired eyes, I locked gazes with the head medic who had been silently waiting for further instructions. I wasn’t sure whether it was because I was so desperate to be in full health again or because I had undergone countless surgeries after battles during my time as a king in my previous world, but my mind was at peace.
I took one last meaningful glance at my bond before closing my eyes. In a place where anyone in this room could potentially harm me, I was thankful to have Sylvie here.
“Yes, General Arthur!” the thin medic nodded vigorously. “Rest assured; upon hearing news of your condition from Captain Auddyr, Commander Virion spared no efforts in gathering the most elite mages of all three races to make sure you are back in full strength.”
“I’ll be in everyone’s care.” At my whispered words, the mages and medics in the room immediately bowed.
“Seldia, you’re up,” Mendul barked.
A young female elf approached me, giving me a gentle smile. She extended her hand, pressing my forehead with her forefinger. “Excuse me for the intrusion.”
As she closed her eyes, a soothing wave radiated from her fingertip into my head and down the rest of my body. My eyes fell shut as a gentle blanket of darkness wrapped around me.