After all that had happened, Rae slept for hours. When she woke, Rae looked around, trying to place where she was.
“You’re finally awake.”
She looked over to see Luca entering the room.
“Where am I?”
“My room above the tavern.” He sat on the edge of the bed, watching her with concern. “How do you feel?”
She looked down at her hands. “I honestly don’t know. Tired. Sad. Angry. Happy. Everything.”
He reached out lifted her chin to meet his gaze. She once again noted the starburst of green in the center of the brown of his eyes. It was the worry she saw in them that had her managing a smile for him.
“I’ll be okay. It’s just…” She sighed. “None of this has been fair.”
“No.” He released her chin, though he kept that intense gaze on her. “Life rarely is. Still, you made a difference. King Leone is calling the nobles back to the capital to discuss changing the laws against magic. He should be able to make it happen now that one of the magi sacrificed themselves to save everyone, including the crown prince.”
“What will you do now?” he asked her.
“What do you mean?”
“There is a Cavosian ship here. You could leave and be free of all of it. I’ve met Captain Cilmion before. He would take you.”
“Oh.” She looked back at her hands for a moment before shaking her head. “No. I’ll stay and work in the clinic. Even if King Leone can’t convince the nobles to change things, although I think you’re right and he will, I’m needed here. I couldn’t just abandon everyone. Besides…” She clenched her hands around the blanket. “Mirko asked me to save them. I have to.”
Luca smiled at her. “You really are a fool.”
A surprised laugh burst from her before she could stop it. “I’ve been called that before. By you.”
“Well, we’ll just have to make sure you’re kept safe,” he said on a sigh.
“You don’t have to, Luca,” she grumped at his annoyed tone.
That intense gaze moved back to her. “Yes, I do.”
“You helped me enough already. You don’t owe me anything more for Gio’s treatment. Besides, I never really thought of you as owing me anything anyway.”
“I know. This isn’t because of Gio anymore. At least, not just because of him.” Luca stood. “We should get you back to the clinic if you’re feeling up to it. The others will be worried.”
She got up, still frowning at him. “Then why? You said so yourself. You’re not selfless. So why feel the need to help me?”
“Does it matter?” he asked over his shoulder as he walked towards the door. “Are you coming?”
Still feeling a little put out by his lack of answers, she hurried after him. “I can go back by myself.”
“Not a chance.”
He spun so suddenly she yelped. Her chin was in his hand again as he made sure she met his eyes. “I almost lost you in that temple. No one else knows what happened in there. You won’t tell them because you don’t want them to worry and I’ll respect that. But, I will not be letting you take that kind of risk again if I can help it.”
She reached up and gently touched his face. “I’m sorry I scared you.”
“You should be. I don’t scare easily.” He released her. “Take more care with your life, Rae. Some of us won’t be the same without you.”
She smiled and nodded.
Satisfied, he released her before continuing to the stairs. As he walked down them, he muttered something she couldn’t understand.
“I’m sorry. What did you say?”
He glanced over his shoulder with something new in his expression. She couldn’t be sure what it was she saw, but it made her heart beat just a little faster for a moment.
“I’ll tell you later. Let’s let the others know you’re okay.”
“Okay,” she managed around a sudden case of unexplainable nerves.
Luca wasn’t wrong. The others had been very worried about her. Ada hurried over the moment they stepped through the clinic doors.
“What happened? Gio came by and told us that something happened at the temple, but he didn’t give us any details.” She wrapped her arms around Rae.
“I’m okay. Mirko…” She swallowed around a lump in her throat. “Mirko gave his life to save everyone.”
Ada tightened her grip. “I’m sorry, Rae.”
“How did he do it?” Santo asked. “We saw the magic that passed through the city and it looked like yours.”
“He was the same thing I am. A Healer. So, the power was the same. With Chesed’s help, he was able to amplify it enough to cover the whole city.”
“Then we all owe him,” Ada said as she stepped back, examining Rae carefully. “I’m sorry you couldn’t save him, Rae.”
Rae managed a sad smile. “Thank you.” Looking around, Rae asked, “Did the patients all go home?”
“Yes,” Santo answered. “They weren’t only recovered, but they were also better than ever. That magic healed not only the plague but everything else too. You’ll have a few easy days. The entire city has been on shut down for the plague. Now that it’s cured it’ll take time for things to get back to normal.”
“Easy days will be nice,” Rae replied as she sat on one of the chairs. “It’ll give me time to replenish my energy and supplies.”
Santo’s prediction became reality. Rae was able to take things slow as she replenished her energy from the grueling work of the plague. She took the opportunity to restock herbs and medicines as she’d fallen behind during the plague.
The people of Corthira slowly began returning to work and lives that had been put on hold for the illness. Nobles from the other provinces of Vitali came at King Leone’s request to discuss the changes to the anti-magic laws. It was just a few days after the gathering that King Leone came to her clinic with Prince Dante.
It was just her and Luca for the day. Ada and the others had work to return to themselves. None of this seemed to effect Luca all that much as he seemed to work as well from here as he did in The Docks.
“King Leone, welcome,” Rae greeted with a smile.
“Thank you. I came to tell you that it worked. The nobles agreed to the changes in the anti-magic laws.” He gave her a knowing smile. “You are now safe from them.”
“I could tell.” King Leone admitted. “You were so annoyed when the other physicians went with you to the infirmary and your success rate with saving the plague victims was a little too good.”
Rae smiled a little sheepishly. “Well, I’m glad that you didn’t feel the need to arrest me.”
“I had bigger things to worry about, and besides, you were the only one able to save anyone. Well, you and Mirko.”
King Leone looked over at Luca. “I guess I won’t be needing you to deport magi on the sly anymore.”
“No, your majesty, but I’m sure we’ll stay on good terms. I’m going to be keeping an eye on our little healer here.” Luca remained relaxed and calm. “She’s a little too soft after all. Someone a little meaner should be ready to make sure no one takes advantage of that.”
Rae shot Luca an annoyed scowl. “I do not need babysitting.”
“Sure, you don’t,” Luca agrees a little too easily.
Leone chuckled. “Good. I’ll leave her in your capable hands then.” Gesturing his son forward, King Leone said, “Well, Dante, what do you say?”
“Thank you for saving my life, Rae,” Dante bowed to her.
She crouched so she could hug him. “I’m just glad you’re alive to thank me.”
“We better get going. There is still a lot to do,” King Leone said.
Rae stood back up and bowed to them both. “Gods all bless, King Leone.”
“I think they blessed us the day you came to Corthira,” Leone informed her.
After he left, she couldn’t help saying, “I wouldn’t go that far.”
“I would.” Luca took her chin so she’d look at him. She was blushing. “There is no one more a self-sacrificing fool than you.”
“So, you keep telling me,” she replied with a roll of her eyes. “And yes I’m aware you think I should be more cynical and less kind.”
“I never said that.”
Rae shot him a disgruntled look. “You keep saying how soft I am and that I need looking after because of it.”
“Yes, but I never said you needed to change.”
She threw her hands up in frustration.
He cupped her face in his hands so she’d look at him. “Do you not understand why I always volunteer to be the one to look after you?”
She shook her head.
“You are kind in a world that is usually cruel. You are soft in a world that is full of hardness. You love where others hate.” His thumbs brushed over her now blushing cheeks. “So, I don’t want you to change anything. Be as soft as you want. I will make sure no one takes advantage of it.”
“Okay,” she agreed, still blushing.
Both Rae and Luca turned to the door to stare at the new arrival. Luca with annoyance and Rae with a blush.
“We need help,” the newcomer begged. “One of the farmers got hurt.”
Shedding her embarrassment, Rae grabbed her medicine bag and hurried after him. “Let’s go then.” Pausing in the doorway, she looked back at Luca. “I’ll see you later?”
He nodded. “I’ll be at the tavern when you’re done saving everyone for the day.”
With a smile, she hurried out to do just that.
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