Dr Stiles listened silently and intently as Lynus told him what he had learnt from the mysterious hexer Mahogany. About how he theorises that a band of rogue academy students were possibly behind the curse plague, and how whoever tried to remove said curses would likely receive painful retaliation.
After Lynus was done, silence reigned over Dr Stiles’ office, the head doctor staring forward with his hands folded under his chin and a truly intense look of thought on his face.
He suddenly slapped his hand atop of his desk, the sharp crack breaking the silence and causing Lynus to jump in his seat. He gripped onto the arms to prevent himself from actually falling out of it.
“Ok, now I’m pissed,” he said with an irritated twitch of his eye. “A group of rogue hexers on the loose? Great, just what we need. Though, it does explain a lot.”
Lynus gave Dr Stiles a half smile as he settled himself back into his seat. He knew that he wouldn’t have been pleased, but the hit against his desk still caught him by surprised.
“Where is this hexer now?” Dr Stiles asked him as he, too, tried to settle himself down, to not allow his frustrations to get the better of him.
“He’s still resting at the inn,” Lynus explained. “From what I could gather; he’s been suffering from the same curses as our patients.”
Dr Stiles nodded his head as he mused to himself for a moment or two. “Do you trust him?” he unexpectedly inquired.
Lynus pressed his lips together as he mulled over the question. “Well, honestly, trust is a board term, isn’t it? Let’s put it this way; he’s truthful and not a threat.”
That answered seemed to satisfy him enough and Dr Stiles nodded his head once again. “That’s a start,” he muttered as he leaned back into his chair and pulled his glasses from his nose to idly clean with a piece of cloth he pulled from his pocket. “Speaking of starts, what do you suggest we should do? We are receiving more patients with curses by the hour. And I refuse to let you heal them all. Not after what happened yesterday.”
“I’m afraid I don’t have much to offer you,” Lynus said with a sigh as he idly rubbed the centre of his chest. “Keep them comfortable until we can find a way to remove the hexes without receiving pain in return.”
He couldn’t help but release another sigh. As a medic, he was supposed to stop the pain in others, to ensure that they have the highest quality of life possible. So leaving patients with aliments he knew he could remove himself was troubling. But…he honestly couldn’t go through that pain again. Especially not after he healed Mahogany. That pain lingered for far too long.
“Still, at least I have a better idea of what we’re dealing with,” Lynus continue. “I’ve done a little bit of research on hexers in the past and thanks to the events of yesterday, I have a slightly better grasp on their skills. I’m going to spend some time in the library. I want to look up ways, potions or even accessories, to prevent people from being cursed in the first place.”
Dr Stiles nodded his head in acceptance as he placed his glasses back upon his nose and idly pushed them up. “Other than removing them, that’s all we can do at the moment,” he said before he placed his hands atop of his desk and pushed himself to his feet in a subtly haggard manner. “I better warn the other staff. To be on guard and made aware of possible more patients. But we’re going to need a bigger hospital if this keeps up.”
Lynus pushed himself to his feet as well and immediately reached for his medical bag that sat near his feet. “I’ll work as quickly as I can,” he promised as the two of them quickly vacated his office.
As Lynus followed Dr Stiles out of the office and into the hallway, he felt a soft smile spread across his lips when he noticed that Axel was there, leaning with his back against the wall next to the door and arms folded. He had escorted him to the hospital that morning and chances were that he was going to be shadowing him all day.
Not that he was complaining.
“I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that I am now under armed escort everywhere I go,” Lynus said light-heartedly as Axel pushed away from the wall and immediately reached out to him, his arm slipping so effortlessly around his waist and tugging him toward him.
Axel gave a small laugh as he pecked him lightly on the cheek. “Not surprising at all,” he said as he pulled back before an expression of unease and concern appeared on his face. “Things are getting pretty bad, though. I’ve never seen so many patients at the hospital before.”
Lynus sighed as he subconsciously leaned toward Axel to seek his comfort. “Yes, and I’m afraid we’re no closer to bringing it to an end. If Mahogany is to be trusted, then we have more than one hexer causing trouble.”
“Yeah…” Axel murmured as he glanced around warily. “Any plans at all?”
“The library,” Lynus said as he motioned down the hall with a tilt of his head. “I’m going to do some research since Dr Stiles won’t let me see to any patients today.”
Axel kept his arm around Lynus waist to ensure he stayed at his side as the two of them headed in the direction of the library. In all honesty, though, Lynus wasn’t entirely sure he would be able to discover any useful information in the hospital library. The powers and skills of hexers weren’t exactly widely known. The vast majority of them didn’t understand their own powers themselves. They use…knew how to use them. Nothing more.
Still, it was better than sitting around and doing nothing.
“Sorry, I don’t know how long I’ll be,” Lynus said as he stopped in front of the two large doors leading into the library.
Axel nodded his head in understanding. “I’ll wait. It’s not like I can do anything to help, though.”
Lynus glanced up at Axel with an empathetic look. He was more than certain that Axel was inwardly furious that he couldn’t do more to help. And he was more than certain that there were many others who felt the same way.
“We’re all helpless right now,” he said before he reached out with his hand to take Axel’s hand in his, squeezing gently as he gave him a small smile. “But you can still help me. I need books on hexers and curses. If you could search the selves for me, that would be incredible.”
A flicker of relief appeared in Axel’s eyes and he quickly nodded his head in acceptance. “Sure, I can do that,” he said as they both stepped into the library.
Lynus gave him another smile as he led him into a secluded corner where some of the more contentious medical journals and documents could be found. Since he was dealing with hexers, he figured it was the best place to start.
After dropping his bag next to a table and chair set, both Lynus and Axel turned their attention toward the tall bookcase. Needless to say, Lynus looked at the lower shelves while Axel focused on the higher shelves.
A few silent minutes passed and Lynus finally managed to snare a book that looked somewhat promising. “I think I found one,” he said as he pulled it off the shelf and turned toward the table to sit down and take notes.
“I think there’s a few more,” Axel muttered as he flipped a few books himself. “Not many, though. I think it’s a bit cruel to have cures to severe back pain on the top shelf, though.”
Lynus felt a laugh bubble from his throat and he shook his head as he sat down. Carefully placing the seemingly quite ancient book on the table in front of him, he reached into his bag to pull out a notebook. He needed to write down anything even remotely useful or plausible at this point.
As he flipped through the worn textbook, he found his thoughts drift back to yesterday. Other than learning how painful it was to remove numerous hexes at once, he had also discovered a few other very important things while he dealt with the patients in the critical care unit. All their auras had been weakened in some way, so it made sense when Mahogany said that the hexers were after the vulnerable.
So…he had to find a balance between protecting against harmful dark magic while allowing for restorative light magic to strengthen a person’s aura. He also needed to find a way to prevent curses from entering the aura without restricting the aura itself. Restricting the aura was to actually weaken it, allowing for curses to take hold.
It was definitely going to be a balancing act.
However, as he flipped through another book Axel managed to find for him, he realised that there were ways to limit such status attacks or curses, but not outright prevent them. Full immunity seemed to be a problem. Also, they only protected the wearer from one type of curse at a time.
Lynus wasn’t…happy with that. Surely there had to be a way to protect an individual (or better, groups of people) from cursing?
…Before all that, though, he needed to find a way to protect himself from the repercussions of the hexes. Taking care of and healing himself had never been his strong points. It was going to be a very steep learning curve for him.
“There isn’t much information on hexers here,” Axel’s voice pulled Lynus from his musings.
“No,” Lynus murmured before he sighed and looked up at Axel who had moved to stand next to him, a hand on the back of his chair. “They’re a mysterious bunch, alright.”
Axel furrowed his brow as he nodded his head. “Discover anything useful?”
“Well, sort of,” Lynus answered honestly as he motioned to the book in front of him, prompting Axel to lean slightly over him to have a look himself. “Theoretically there are ways to limit the chance of a curse taking hold, but as far as I am aware, these accessories and potions haven’t been made yet. I wonder if there is a reason for that.”
Axel was silent for a moment as he eyes ran over the pages before his frown deepened. “It’s going to be a bit hard placing complete faith in something that hasn’t been used before.”
Lynus sighed and rubbed at his forehead with his hand. “Precisely. This isn’t exactly something we can afford to use trial and error for. Looks like I’ll have to ask Mahogany more questions. Hopefully he can shed some light on the seriousness of our situation.”
“Then my timing is impeccable.”
“Oh?” Lynus murmured as he glanced over to the door of the library, immediately spying a certain war magus as he stepped into the room. “Hamza?”
Hamza granted him a small smile as he nodded his head. “Our mysterious hexer guest is awake. And wishes to speak with you.”
“Oh, good,” Lynus said with a tone of relief as he closed the book he was reading and allowed for Axel to help him take to his feet. “We honestly need all the help we can get.”
Hamza simply tilted his head forward in acknowledgement before he indicated toward the door with a slight wave of his hand. “I take it you wish to speak to him now?”
Lynus nodded his head idly as he scooped up the book with possible tonics and potions, and placed it securely into his bag. “The sooner the better,” he said as the three of them quickly stepped out into the hallway and headed straight for the exit of the hospital.
Along the way, Lynus couldn’t help but notice how frazzled and haggard his fellow medics as they passed him appeared to be. And that made him feel a sense of guilty as well as concern.
“Hamza?” he called out to get the war magus’ attention, who of which was walking in front of him. “Do you think it’s safe for Cedric to be on his own? He’s still recovering himself. And Mahogany said that these hexers are targeting those they believe are vulnerable to their curses.”
“I understand your concerns well, Lynus,” Hamza replied with a stoic expression, but the tightness of his jaw indicated that it was a thought that had been troubling him for quite some time. “I may have to move him temporary into the inn. Perhaps I could talk Macerio into rooming with Lirit and Rahas.”
Macerio might feel better rooming with the two of them as well.
“If I can make something to ward off hexes, I’ll give it to Cedric as a back-up,” Lynus said as he idly readjusted the strap of his bag upon his shoulder. “Those his lungs have mostly healed, I don’t want to take any chances.”
“I’m sure he would appreciate that gesture very much,” Hamza returned with a genuine sense of gratitude in his voice.
After Lynus spoke with Mahogany, he would take a closer look at the tonics and possible accessories in that book he found. Whether or not they were able to do as they claimed, it was all they had to try at this point in time.
As they headed down the stone steps from the hospital, Lynus felt a soft twinge at the back of his mind and he looked up at his surroundings with a confused look. When he did, he immediately noticed an elderly woman being aided up the stairs with two others, they on either side of her.
The elderly woman suddenly lifted her head up and her gaze locked with his. And an expression that could only be described as desperation appeared on his face and she made a motion toward him with her hands.
“You,” she breathed. “You are the Miracle Medic, aren’t you?”
Lynus stopped a couple of steps away from the woman and he felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand up on end. He didn’t need to read this woman’s chakra points to know that she was suffering from a curse. He could see it so easily. It was a small one, seemingly placed there recently. One that was slowly draining her of her energy. And since she was elderly, she didn’t have all that much energy to begin with.
“Oh, ah, I’m a medic,” Lynus said in response.
“Please,” the woman wheezed as she reached out to him and Lynus allowed her to take one of his hands in her, her grip desperate but weak. “Miracle Medic, please bless me with your wonderful healing light.”
Bless? He wasn’t sure if he could ‘bless’ her, but he could ease her of her curse. Though he had promised Axel and Dr Stiles that he wouldn’t remove any more curses until he knew how to prevent himself from suffering the consequences, but one more wouldn’t hurt. This woman was obviously suffering.
Lynus gave the elderly woman a soft smile as he clasped her hands with his. “I can offer you some relief,” he said. “Please close your eyes. This will only take a moment.”
The elderly woman surprisingly closed her eyes readily, she having great trust in him which was somewhat…unexpected. He chose not to dwell on it, though, as he lifted his hand and gently pressed his palm against her forehead. It only took him a short moment to find the dark spot causing her trouble and after a soft refresh, he removed it.
Once again he had to bit the inside of his mouth to prevent himself from physically reacting when he felt a sharp tang in the centre of his chest. And the woman reacted in turn, shuddering as she drew in a deep, sharp breath.
“Thank you, oh thank you, Miracle Medic,” the elderly woman unexpectedly sobbed as she gripped his hands as tightly as she could. “Your blessed healing is truly a gift from the heavens. A true blessing you are.”
Lynus simply smiled at her and gently patted the back of her hand, not knowing what to say. How could he tell the elderly woman in front of him that he didn’t bless her, rather cured her of a curse? Would she know the difference? Would she accept it? Never mind that, how could he tell her that she had actually been cursed? Should he ask her if she had a run in with a hexer?
He honestly didn’t know what to do.
“N-no, it’s fine,” he finally managed to stutter. “It’s just what I do.”
It took him a further minute or so to convince the woman to let go of his hand and to return to the hospital should she develop any of those strange symptoms again. However, she insisted that since he had ‘blessed’ her now, she was in no danger of ill health again.
Lynus rubbed the back of his neck as he watched the elderly woman and her companions move away from the hospital. A blessing, huh? Were his healing skills that…outstanding in comparison to the other medics and healers that worked at the hospital?
“I don’t know how to feel about that,” he murmured under his breath.
Axel slipped an arm around his shoulders and tugged his to his side once more as the three of them continued on their way back to the inn. “At least they’re putting their faith in an actual medic, and not some crackpot standing on a soapbox around the corner.”
That was one way of looking at things. But it was worrying, too. There could be potentially be more suffering from curses but were somewhat unaware of them or were reluctant to seek help for whatever reason.
A chill, one that could only be described as deathly cold, suddenly raced down Lynus’ spine, causing him to stiffen and turn around, unwittingly pulling himself from Axel’s grip. He gripped the strap of his bag tightly as his gaze turn toward a shadow alleyway that was located close by.
That feeling was nothing short of ominous. Something was watching them. Something with a dark aura. But they weren’t a monster. But…something else.
“What’s wrong?” Axel asked as he placed his hand on his shoulder.
“There’s…someone here,” Lynus muttered as he kept his gaze focused in on the alleyway, mildly noticing that Axel and Hamza had moved to stand on either side of him.
From the shadows, a figure suddenly appeared. With pale white skin that was oddly youthful despite the sunken eyes and cheeks, with robes of black and orange tied to a lithe frame with silver chains appeared. A male hexer by appearance and aura, he unexpectedly muttered a low string of words under his breath, his piercing yellow eyes unblinking in their direction.
Next to him, Hamza suddenly made a low grunting noise and as Lynus turned to look he saw that Hamza now had dark green vine like bindings tied tightly around his abdomen and torso, effectively pinning his arms to his sides.
“H-Hamza?” Lynus found himself stuttering out in alarm as the war magus gritted his teeth and took a stumbling step back as he pulled and strained against his bindings.
“The hell?” Axel hissed as he reached out to snare a hold of his axe in one hand, the other instinctively reaching out to push Lynus behind him. “Who-?”
Turning his piercing gaze toward him, the hexer spat out another string of words. And as he did, those same green vines coiled up from the ground and wrapped themselves tightly around Axel’s ankles and knees, purposely pulling him off balance and to fall to the ground.
Axel grunted as he landed half on his back. “The fuck?”
“A landsknecht is no match for my curses,” the hexer said with a slightly haughty tone to his voice. “Even you are vulnerable.”
“Axel!” Lynus cried out in surprise as he turned to face Axel on the ground only to stiffen in alarm when he felt the hexer’s piercing gaze fall directly onto him. His grip on his bag tightened as he spun around the face the unnamed hexer. “What are you doing?”
“You,” the hexer hissed at him. “Did you just remove my curse?”
Lynus took a half step back from the intimidation of the hexer’s aura. “Your curse? That elderly woman? Why?”
The hexer, of course, didn’t answer his questions, instead narrowed his eyes so menacingly at him. “Medic,” he said lowly again, his voice causing yet another cold shiver to race down Lynus’ spine. “Let’s see how you’ll deal with a cranium curse.”
“W-what?” Lynus stuttered as the hexer began to recite yet more disjointed words.
He, however, winced as he prepared himself for the restricting binds of being head bound. Though he had never endured such a thing previously, he had been told that it was akin to that of a terrible migraine. One where thinking rational thought and using skills that required mental exertion was near impossible.
So he braced himself but gritting his teeth and reaching into his bag for a bottle of medicine that would be able to at least ease the symptoms of the head binding.
But as the hexer muttered a string of words he could not understand and the coils of his tattered robes all but bristled…
Lynus furrowed his brow as he mentally inspected himself. He could focus just fine. Absolutely no dark spots in his own aura. He wondered if he somehow managed to avoid the curse. Perhaps because he had experienced with different types of curses now?
The hexer suddenly narrowed his eyes at him, confused and somewhat unsettled. However, he soon glared at him before he drifted backwards into the shadows, his eyes staying focused upon Lynus until they abruptly disappeared along with the hexer himself.
And Lynus could no longer feel his ominous presence. As suddenly as that hexer had appeared, he disappeared.
He breathed a shaky sigh of relief before he turned on his heel and hurried over to Axel, who was still tugging at the vine like bindings around his ankles.
“Are you all right?” Lynus asked as he reached down and easily pulled the bindings apart, the vine-like coils disintegrating in his hand as he used an unbind spell. And as he did so, he felt that unfortunately becoming all too familiar pain in his chest. But, as before, he ignored it.
“Yeah,” Axel answered in a slightly frustrated way as he kicked at the rest of the bindings. “I take it that piece of shit is one of the hexers from the Curse Academy.”
Lynus sighed as he pushed himself to his feet and quickly made his way to Hamza, doing the same with the bindings locking his arms to his sides. “If we are to assume anything, yes. He seemed agitated that I removed that curse from that elderly woman.”
“How did you know he was there?” Hamza asked as he idly rubbed at his arm where the binding had dug painfully into his skin from his struggles.
“His aura,” Lynus answered truthfully as Axel quickly climbed to his feet, his hand upon the handle of his axe again. “It’s not human, but it’s not like that of a monster either. I think…I should be able to sense him again should he come close enough.”
But because of that short and abrupt spectacle, they now knew for certain that at least one hexer had been going around and cursing people. And Lynus doubted that he was working alone. There had to be more. How many? Well, that was a question for Mahogany to answer. Hopefully.
“Things may escalate from this point,” Hamza said as he cast a wary glance at their surroundings. “Let’s hurry to the inn. We need as much help as possible.”