The Best Gift of All
In his own personal quest of learning everything about the many different forms of healing, Lynus was once again studying in the reference room at the hospital. The wall to ceiling bookcases were overflowing with books and medicals scrolls and documents, some of which were very old. He had found many a fascinating journal, some of them insightful and interesting. Others…not so much.
As far as Lynus was concerned, using Death Stems as a diet pill was a disastrous idea and who ever came up with such a ludicrous notion needed a slap across the face. He was sure that Dr Stiles and every other healer in the hospital would agree with him. It was a good thing that the book was in the hospital library and not somewhere the general public could easily access.
Even though some of the recipes for tonics and potions were a little suspect, Lynus had never encountered anything that would be considered malignant or forbidden. That was, until he found a small book tucked away in the back corner of an overcrowded shelf.
In all honesty, Lynus didn’t know what drew his attention to the small book. It was no larger than a notebook, the kind that medics and nurses would carry around to jot down patient symptoms or keep track of medicinal dosages. The cover was made of leather and a dull brown in colour. The pages were tinged yellow and seemed quite fragile. No doubt that the notebook was old.
Despite the trepidation he felt when Lynus took hold of the book, he opened it. The first page, however, was completely blank. As was the second page. He flicked through several more pages to find one that had words scrawled across it in faded text.
Lynus furrowed his brow as he trailed his fingertips across the lettering at the very top of the page. “Phoenix…?”
It appeared to be a healing spell of some kind. But…he didn’t exactly like the way it was worded. It sounded powerful and yet…final. As if it they were to be the last spell, the last words anyone would utter.
“The sacrifice of one to save the lives of four?” he murmured to himself.
Before Lynus could read any more, the book was suddenly snatched from his hands, almost harshly. He jumped back in surprise, his heartrate spiking from the fright, and he looked up to see Dr Stiles hastily stalking across the reference room to cabinet that had been locked tight for as long as Lynus could remember. And in his hands was the book he had been reading.
Dr Stiles seemed to be mumbling under his breath as he fished around in his pocket and pulled out a key.
“I’m sorry,” Lynus blurted out, automatically thinking that he had done something wrong, something he wasn’t supposed to.
“I thought I got rid of this thing,” Dr Stiles murmured as he stabbed the key into the padlock on the cabinet and twisted it harshly.
Lynus watched in stunned silence as Dr Stiles opened the cabinet enough for him to toss the small notebook inside and winced when he quickly slammed it shut. “I’m sorry,” Lynus said again. “I didn’t mean to-”
“How much did you read?” Dr Stiles cut him off by demanding as he hastily clicked the lock back into place.
Lynus felt a sense of fear appear in the pit of his stomach, his hands fidgeting with the hem of his shirt. “Not all of it,” he confessed.
“I don’t want you to have anything to do with that spell,” Dr Stiles said in an unexpectedly harsh and commanding manner.
“But…it’s a healing spell,” Lynus murmured uneasily.
“It’s not a normal healing spell,” Dr Stiles countered briskly. “And I don’t want you looking any further into it.”
For the umpteenth time, Lynus was stunned into silence. He had witnessed Dr Stiles angry many times before; at disruptive patients, at overly enthusiastic rookies, at staff who weren’t equipped at looking after themselves. But he had never seen him so…incensed before. Never.
“I’m sorry,” he murmured again, not knowing what else to say. “B-but you’re scaring me right now.”
Immediately an expression of remorse appeared on Dr Stiles’ face and he sighed wearily. He leaned against a counter and clutched his forehead. “No, I’m sorry,” he muttered as his shoulder drooped unexpectedly. “I don’t mean to be so harsh. But that spell…”
Cautiously, Lynus approached the head doctor. “Is it dangerous?” he asked as he hand rose to fiddle with the collar of his coat.
“It’s also called Final Gift,” Dr Stiles explained with a soft voice as he folded his arms across his chest, a tight frown on his lips. “But I wouldn’t exactly call it that.”
Clearly, Dr Stiles wasn’t at all comfortable with talking about what kind of spell that book contained. And Lynus didn’t want to push him. But he was also curious. For Dr Stiles to react in such a way was frightening.
“Please tell me,” Lynus requested gently.
The expression on Dr Stiles’ face darkened. “It’s a spell where the medic uses their last ounce of strength to greatly heal those of their party,” he explained. “But for it to work, the medic must die first. A permanent death.”
Lynus was unable to prevent a gasp from passing his lips. That was what the words meant. The death of one for the life of four. There was such a spell?
“It’s meant to be used as a last resort,” Dr Stiles enlightened, his voice still just above a whisper, yet growing harsher in tone. “But that’s just it; it has never been used as a last resort. There have always been other options. But because they knew of the spell, they ignored all other possibilities and decided to go with the heroic sacrifice. As if dying was the answer to everything.”
Dr Stiles practically spat those words. It sounded…as though he was talking from experience.
Looking down at the floor, Dr Stiles continued. “It’s so pointless. These medics should have concentrated more on keeping themselves alive to ensure the safety of their teammates rather than simply sacrificing themselves. What happens after they are sacrificed? Who ensures the healing of their teammates afterwards? Didn’t they realise how desperately their teammates would be trying to revive them instead of concentrating on finishing the battle?”
Lynus’ gaze softened as he looked at the other man. Frustration and helplessness was abundant in his voice. That spell…it sounded as if it could be considered both selfless and selfish. Depending on perspective.
Dr Stiles pushed himself away from the counter and suddenly took Lynus by the shoulders, and looked straight into his eyes. His gaze was stern yet pleading, something Lynus had never seen before. “Promise me,” he said. “Promise me you won’t have anything to do with that spell.”
Lynus’ hand flew up to his lips to smother another gasp. He was honestly surprised by how desperate Dr Stiles sounded. He was pleading - almost begging him - to him on a level that went beyond the professionalism of a doctor or mentor. He was asking him as a friend. As a family member. He sincerely and honestly didn’t want anything to happen to him.
Standing before him was a man who was honestly afraid of losing him. He knew of Lynus’ desire to learn about healing and to help those who were suffering. And that frightened him because he didn’t know whether or not Lynus would ever reach that point of no return.
Lynus lowered his hand from his mouth and pressed it against his chest. He couldn’t help but feel a wave of sympathy and empathy wash over him. The grip that Dr Stiles had on his shoulders was telling. He hadn’t just experienced the death of one or two medics after the use of this spell. He had witnessed many. And they haunted him.
He never wanted to be in the situation where he was guaranteed to die. Where he would die and nothing could be done. He was certain his guild would never allow him to be in such a situation. He understood Dr Stiles’ fears. But...
It…couldn’t hurt to know the spell, would it? For...just in case? If he were to die, then his guild could live on. But would they be able to move on? That...was a question he couldn’t fairly answer. Axel wouldn’t. Not for years. Not for a very long time. He may even do something drastic, something Lynus wouldn’t be able to prevent. Guilt and doubt would plaque him day and night.
And the others...?
No. Lynus wasn’t selfish enough to do that to them. He wanted them to live long, healthy lives. But how could he pass knowing that he left them in such a way? Leave them with the guilt and pain that he used his last ounce of strength to heal them all instead of stubbornly clinging to the promise of keeping everyone alive so they could build a future together?
He couldn’t risk it. He couldn’t allow a moment, a split second of sheer desperation and insanity to dictate the future for his friends and family.
Learning more about healing was important to Lynus. He wanted to help as many people as he could. To ease them of their suffering. But there were times when the cure was worse than the condition.
“It’s all right. I don’t need that spell,” Lynus said as he granted Dr Stiles a reassuring smile. “There’s nothing to worry about.”
Dr Stiles was almost overwhelmed with relief. “I’m…glad to hear that,” he said as he removed his grip on Lynus’ shoulders. “And I’m sorry again for scaring you. It’s…”
Lynus shook his head. “Thank you for being honest with me,” he said, surprising the brown-haired doctor. “This way I can ensure that I don’t do anything reckless to cause unintentional pain to others.”
And since it frightened Dr Stiles so much he would also safeguard its secrets so that no one else could learn of it. Like those who suffered greatly from trauma. Like those who were afraid of being left behind. Others like…Macerio. They didn’t need to know of the skill. No one did.
“…You really aren’t like other medics,” Dr Stiles murmured, more to himself than to Lynus.
Lynus wasn’t entirely sure what he meant by that, but he didn’t ask. It was just nice to know that the other man cared for him so much. And he promised to himself not to cause Dr Stiles any further pain with pointless deaths. Not when he was equipped to stop them. And to keep them from happening by continuing to live himself.
There was more to being a medic than healing, after all.