Sitting on the stairs, Nisha was trying to catch her breath, taking her time to this task so as to enjoy the sun on her skin.
She didn’t know for how long she had been asleep, but she felt that it must have been for quite some time for her to long for the sun’s’ warmth to this extent.
She noticed that the swaying was not limited to the room she had woken up in, it seemed to affect the whole construction. Now that she was outside, the injured dragon could clearly see why: the building on which she was roosted was moving.
What kind of building could it be to move like that?
“What is this place called, Anna? How can that kind of thing move?”
Under other circumstances, Nisha would have been perfectly fine with not talking and wait for her sister’s return; but seeing the unfamiliar situation, she had felt the need to ignore her exhaustion and question Annabelle.
The little girl shifting in her arms, an excited glint lit in the older woman’s eyes, she looked around before starting to move her lips but didn’t voice anything, hesitating.
“This is one of this world’s wonders, accomplished through magic! I’ve never seen anything like this before either.
Lance Corporal Hale has been really kind to us when you fell unconscious, she explained to us that this thing was called a [Navis Terram].
The soldiers won’t tell me how it works, however, I can tell that this is a flying ship, from its size the amount of mana it must require being sustained should be too much for any source of this world to sustain… There are so many things I can see on this ship that I had thought impossible!
I can’t wait to show you around, but I’ll need the lance corporal’s approval first.”
Based on the passion showing through Annabelle’s answer, the ship they were on fascinated her. Nisha knew that her older sister had always liked to study enchantments and other particularities of magic, so even if the dragon wasn’t that interested in the way a ship could fly – Eldrin had already told her about ships, and they were sailing on water – she just kept silent and listened to Annabelle as she went on about the specifics she had discovered so far, how many soldiers were able to be accommodated here, and so on.
The cascade of information was cut short when footsteps approached them from behind, one set of steps had a metallic ring to them and were so loud that even the injured dragon could hear them easily.
Three silhouettes settled on the steps around the two girls.
From their smell Nisha already knew that Lydia had returned with Hale, and to the dragon’s surprise, Luthais had also accompanied them.
It wasn’t that she disliked the half-elf, she just felt a certain discomfort whenever he was talking to her, although she wasn’t the kind to blame him for that.
I haven’t known him for that long, after all, it’s natural for us not to trust each other.
It is nice of him to show up, though.
Pulling her attention off the single man of the group, the dragon displayed a small and reassuring smile in front of Lydia who had fetched the lance corporal, before focusing on Hale.
Gabriel had given her a small hint on the captain’s involvement in her recovery; and her wound was covered in linen bandages, that had never been included in the emergency kit in the carriage, the dragon being able to dress injuries with her dark mana; so it was obvious that she had been cured through unconventional means.
If there had ever been a need for gauze, I think I would have cut one of those useless silk bed sheets into strips.
Somewhat disconnected from her surroundings, Nisha came back to the present when the lance corporal took her wrist and pressed two fingers on the front veins after having looked her up and down, she was most likely checking her condition.
In all likelihood, the signs satisfied the woman, as she released her hand with an approving nod.
“I didn’t think you would wake up on your own before reaching a temple. You have been heavily injured, Nisha, a part of your heart has been sliced, and you slipped into a comatose state.
You awakening is a very good news, it means you are slowly recovering, and also that the operation was a success.”
Luthais flinched at the mention of the word ‘operation’, and even Lydia and Annabelle looked slightly paler than a minute earlier.
The term was completely unknown to the dragon.
“What’s an operation?”
Lance Corporal Hale seemed happy to elaborate and promptly gave in to the injured girl’s request.
“A good question, indeed. But let me explain some details first, so you can understand the whole story.
Unlike what’s required in other armies”, at that point, she shot a murderous glance at Luthais and his uniform jacket, “everyone can apply to the legions of Terus. We don’t differentiate between noble and commoner in the army, everyone has a chance to reach the higher ranks, provided that the abilities are there, learning is open to all.
Soldiers are even encouraged to pursue another career path besides the art of war, in case they want to leave when their service ends or if they get too badly injured to be of use anymore; hence, there are plenty tailors, smiths, and other crafters among us.
I, myself, studied to be a medicus in the [Universitas Aesernia], a famous school situated in one of the major capitals subjugated by our Empress when she rose to her position.
It’s not practiced like other healing professions, in which we can find the likes of that great priestess in charge of [Blackquarry]; a medicus relies on knowledge, about anatomy, illnesses, sicknesses and any other ailment that might afflict a patient, we don’t just pour mana in the wound until it closes by miracle.”
Hale made another pause in her explanations, despite Nisha being obviously stuck to her lips, highly interested in the topic, to glare again at the half-elf, this time much more menacingly.
Placing a hand on the little girl’s shoulder, the lance corporal started to slowly unwrap the bandages on her wound, carefully rolling up the linen as she took it off her patient and placing it next to them on the stairs, softly pushing the injured girl to sit upright.
It had gone unnoticed by Nisha, but the small trickle of blood that had been constantly running down from the injury had receded to its initial size. By removing the compress, a clean-looking hole in her otherwise white and unblemished skin, the source of the crimson liquid was unveiled.
“You sure had me worried when that lunatic impaled you with his spear, I was about to punish him my way when your friendhere showed up and knocked him down.
I’d still like to show him what being really scared feels like, though.”
Almost leaning on the elvish girl to wipe the blood from the wound and look at her back, the lance corporal whispered the last sentence in Nisha’s ear.
Once again she was surprised by the way Luthais had acted, they both were close to Eldrin, but the half-elf had always manifested a will to keep a certain distance with her, and Nisha had therefore thought that he was only taking care of her because of his sense of responsibility, which was particularly developed.
I’m glad he doesn’t dislike me, he even hit that soldier for injuring me. Maybe I should try to talk more with him, and stop playing pranks, for a while at least.
“To sum it up, we rushed inside carrying you and I operated you to remove the spear from your wound and provide you with basic treatment.
Imagine my surprise when I saw that the weapon was touching your heart.
Luckily I had my tools with me and was able to remove the parts damaged beyond salvation and focus on healing the other impaired areas; the heart injury was the only one beyond my abilities.”
Hearing that Hale had butchered her body was terrifying and exciting at the same time; Nisha had never even thought of treating a wound by cutting out the injury and healing with a precise application of mana before this day.
“The priestess” – the reason why the lance corporal was harbouring such a grudge against someone she didn’t even know a few days earlier was still obscure to Nisha – “couldn’t heal it either, and when Marshall Dharnas asked her to take a look at you, the only thing she could do was scream at me for injuring you further.
But you don’t have to worry, we are only a day away from Thurgau, our ship is travelling fairly fast, we got a good wind.
There should be a priest capable of treating you there, I don’t approve of their practices but we can’t help you at the moment; however as I said before it is a good thing that you have woken up, it seems to me that you are starting to heal by yourself.”
Talking in a conclusive tone, Hale applied the new set of bandages she had brought with her on Nisha, her dexterous fingers enabling her to avoid to put any stress on the open injury or inflicting any pain on the girl she was treating.
To Nisha, the idea of having a hole in her body sounded somehow impossible; she watched the doctor doing her work, unable to say anything, Lydia and Annabelle staring anxiously at her while the half-elf seemed indifferent.
“To be honest I had imagined your sisters differently when you told me they were waiting for you while you were looking for your relative.”
The dragon had already experienced the lance corporal’s fast mood changes, a second ago she was talking about serious medical stuff and now she was already back to teasing.
“They aren’t quite as elvish as you, but I understood who they are since they cried as soon as they saw you soaked in blood and rushed to your side.
It seems like your family hides an interesting story, you’ll have to tell me more about it one day.
Aside from nearly escaping death and getting skewered, are you alright?”
“I’m feeling very sore and every move hurts, but I guess that comes from ‘nearly escaping death and getting skewered’ like you’ve presented it so nicely. And I’m so hungry that I’ll probably start eating the bed sheets soon. Or maybe I’ll go for that nice dark wood you seem so proud of… What use is there in your ship if it can’t provide food when you’re starving?”
“If you can still be sarcastic, you’ll be running around in no time, humor is the second best medicine, right after a medicus’ knowledge.
Do tell me nevertheless if you have any concerns, as your medicus I don’t care where it hurts or if it is embarrassing, the only thing a medicus worth its salt cares about is to cure the patient.
Let’s get you something to eat, lunch has just been served in the mess hall, I think I can get you a serving so go back to rest in the room, I won’t take long.
Annabelle, Lydia, will you help her to her room, please?”
Lance Corporal Hale agilely climbed back the stairs, completely disregarding the heavy armor she wore, patting the dragon one last time on the shoulder in a surprisingly gentle gesture.
Annabelle next to Nisha had clenched her sister’s hand tightly throughout the medical examination, only now did she notice what she had been doing, slowly relaxing her grasp.
Compared to the rest of my body, it didn’t hurt that much.
“We haven’t heard anything new about your condition since we boarded the ship, you were sleeping. I am really glad so see you walking and joking, Nisha, we were so anxious.”
“Yes, you don’t know how scary it was when those soldiers knocked on the doors of the inn, looking for us. The owner, this old geezer didn’t hesitate a second to sell us out when they asked for our names.
At least we got a good view of the stupid look on his face when they thanked him and told us that the marshall was requesting our presence and that they were here to escort us. Serves him right.”
Describing her perspective on the events, Lydia settled at the dragon’s unoccupied right side and took her hand; then the two older girls carefully helped their younger sister to get on her feet again, something that would have been seriously bothersome for Nisha if she had attempted it alone.
Chatting on various trivial matters, the trio arrived in this manner at the open door, and they followed Luthais inside the room.
“Nisha, I have to apologize to you. It was my responsibility to ensure your safety, and I have failed you.
I know that no apology can make up for that.
Tomorrow, as soon as we reach the city we will head for a shrine to get you healed, no matter the cost.”
Bowing his head before her as soon as the door closed, the usually upright and stern man appeared very contrite, entirely blaming himself for the wound she had received.
Nisha was amazed at the strength of character he was demonstrating, Eldrin had always taught her to admit her mistakes, running away from responsibility was the act of a coward, but this was no easy task to place oneself at the mercy of someone else.
“Please raise your head. The fault is mine as much as it is yours, I was the one who insisted on leaving a secure place.
I will gladly accept the offer to be healed at a temple, this really hurts a lot.”
The half-elf looked like he had more to say, but Nisha wasn’t inclined to discuss on who the fault rested and simply shrugged the matter off to a later date.
The rumble of her stomach reminded the young girl of something else.
“For how long have I been sleeping anyway? What day do we have?”
I hope I didn’t talk for too long with the goddesses.
Pondering on her experience of [Ataraxia], her memories were slowly put together, and Nisha couldn’t help but inquire about her coma as her companions were lying her back down on the bed.
Lying down in itself didn’t alleviate the pain, but it did not strain her further.
Appearing unsure on how to answer, Annabelle walked aimlessly around for a bit while Lydia was biting her lower lip; luckily Luthais had fewer reservations.
“The attack on the town ended on the same day it began. Your friends here, the Second Legion, rounded the remaining attackers up and imprisoned them, they are currently awaiting their judgement.
That was the Day of Water, and now it’s the Day of Darkness, so you were out for four days.”
Remorseful to tell her how much time she had missed, Luthais appeared extremely apologetic, he had yet to forgive himself, even if Nisha didn’t seem to mind it.
Inwardly Nisha was shocked, the time she spent in [Ataraxia] did not feel long enough to cover the span of four days. She lightly smiled for her relatives.
“Four days does seem enough for me get this hungry. Hopefully, you won’t take me for a pig when Hale arrives with the food.”
“Don’t worry. We already knew you’re one! You might not have noticed, but a young dragon’s shape is very similar to a pig’s, especially those big bellies of theirs!”
The small smile turning into a big one, the dragon took the teasing of her eldest sister with pride, she was simply happy to be with her family again.
“One more day and we arrive Thurgau. You have never been in a big city, have you, Nisha?”
Lydia’s eyes gleamed, filled with excitement, when she thought about how she would return to the place of her birth as a free citizen, a trader affiliated with a major noble house at that, that of a duke.
“Yes, I just need to go to sleep and when I’ll wake up, I’ll be in a city. But wasn’t [Blackquarry] a city as well?”
“That can’t be compared at all! You need to see it, to understand the difference, I can’t wait to see your dumbfounded expression!”
Talking about superficial matters, Nisha’s exhaustion grew and grew and she came to yawn very frequently.
When Lance Corporal Hale arrived with a tablet full of food, the little girl had already drifted into a deep slumber in the bed that used to belong to the lance corporal, who only smiled and left the food on a table in the corner of the room before retreating outside.