Uncle Arken, as it turned out, did not know.
When I got back, the atmosphere was still heavy. I caught Lute’s eyes several times; he was openly glaring at me. Melione was overtly trying to ignore me. Once I had finished a light lunch,– bread left over from breakfast, plus some skewer meat I had bought on the way back from the Jobs Office,– I told him about what happened.
“Healing just started casting on its own?”
Yes, Uncle. That’s what I just said. Rather than saying this, I simply nodded. He mused about it for a bit, then told me to try it on him.
Healing Magic is a sort of general application. You don’t really do anything complicated. You just suffuse the patient’s body or the part of it you are concentrating on with that type of magic. The magic simply eliminates foreign substances and expands on the patient’s body’s ability to do the rest on its own.
And it has another distinctive difference from elemental spells (spells of Light, Fire, Wind, Darkness, Water, Earth, or Aether.) Those have a focus and a source. Healing only has a focus, the living creature you are trying to heal. Some scholars call it ‘life element’ magic, and say that the mana is gathered within the healers themselves, rather than gathering in an elemental source, but that really doesn’t make any sense. Life is not an element; it absorbs mana from the environment, so it can’t produce it.
It isn’t actually known where the mana used for healing comes from. To someone with eyes like mine, which can see the mana flow, healing mana appears out of nowhere.
This is why natural healers tend to not show any strong affinity to any element. If they had an attribute, they would acquire that mana and use that magic instead of healing. They are sort of my exact opposite; they gather a tiny amount of mana from all sources while I gather a massive amount. I am absolutely the last person likely to do healing with innate, natural magic.
When I thought about a natural healer’s poor supply of internal mana, I realized I should have never let Melione feed me. Her internal mana is quite small, regardless of how good her healing is. She would run low and become vulnerable much earlier than the average person.
That’s when I realized that, while the King probably didn’t understand that, Mother and Arken surely did. And yet, they had allowed Melione to support me. Had they intended for this to happen? I was certain they never told Melione if they did.
Like most natural healers, Melione has no formal training as a mage, so she has never studied magic theory like Tiana did. I decided I should never tell her that they could have warned her.
But I also decided I would confront Mother and a certain uncle on this matter later. I was now really annoyed and I wanted an explanation. I was having very confused emotions about it at that moment, while facing Arken, but I couldn’t talk about it in front of Melione.
He finished contemplating, and said, “Cast it on me.”
I hesitated. “I’ve… never done that to someone else. Are you sure it’s safe?”
“Tiana, it’s strange that you would spontaneously develop the skill, but it isn’t strange that someone with your potential can heal. Frankly, it’s far stranger that you haven’t been able to learn it the normal way. I am quite sure what you are casting is safe, so, please proceed.”
Melione had been showing every sign of still being upset with me, but professional curiosity enticed her to kneel on the floor nearby to watch. After I pulled in a very deep breath, I gathered mana in both my hands, held my palms over his chest, and intoned, “[Heal].”
I felt the flow begin, and heard Melione catch her breath. My fingertips had a slight glow to them that I hadn’t seen in the sunlight. I had seen this glow before, when Melione cast healing during a nighttime battle.
I learned something as it continued. There is a feedback. You can feel the magic seeing the problems and adjusting to fix them. It’s your mind doing it, but the knowledge of what to do comes from the body you are healing. The body tells your mind where it needs mana to do the repair.
After several seconds, Arken said, “Stop.”
Immediately, I cut the flow, growing alarmed. He wore a terrible, strained look. I felt the blood leave my face. “Uncle Arken? Are you okay?”
He nodded. “Quite well, but… it is very powerful when you do it. Like twenty healers all using it on me at once. No, maybe quite a few more than that. It’s almost too strong to bear.”
I remembered the searing heat when the HR manager healed me, and cringed. “I’m sorry.”
“No… I should have expected it. When a powerful mage casts healing, they have to be very careful to release the mana slowly, to avoid overwhelming the patient. It is a much gentler process than elemental spells. Naturally, although you have strength like your mother, you have no practice in how to do this.”
Melione spoke up, puzzled. “I don’t have to do something like that.”
Arken chuckled. “You wouldn’t need to. Natural healers are quite weak in mana flow, normally. Even the best healers like yourself, whose healing magic is extraordinarily effective, don’t have the sort of force I’m talking about.”
“But it was really healing magic?” I asked, still anxious. If I had hurt him…
“It was exactly that, My Lady,” he assured me. “I’m lucky to have received a double dose. Melione was healing me earlier…”
He cut off, his eyes narrowing in a glint of intrigue. He turned to Melione.
“When you were healing me earlier, you said it seemed like you had an extra boost for the first moments, and then it stopped.”
She nodded. “Yes.”
“Cast healing on me again. I know you haven’t rested enough yet, so just do it for a few moments.”
With her eyebrows bunching up and her lips in a slight moue, Melione held her palms over him and began casting. I was a bit jealous how she could just instantly gather mana like that…
I let out a gasp, as I realized I could feel the mana flow of healing inside me again.
“It’s just as I thought,” Arken nodded as Melione looked over me, confused at my reaction. She kept going, and then…
“It’s happening again! It’s much stronger than usual again, right?” Melione asked him.
He nodded. “Very much so. You should stop.”
She stopped, confused. He explained, “We don’t know what this is doing to Tiana.”
I responded to her confused expression with, “I felt it again, inside me. Healing mana flowing.”
“I could see it,” Arken nodded, then put his fingers against his chin. “Is it possible? Does a blood slave magic user draw mana from her mistress? I have never heard such a thing. Or perhaps it’s a mutation caused by your fairy side?”
“You’re already worn out from healing the normal way, right?” I asked her. “Could you could keep going if you used my mana?”
Arken made a disapproving ‘hmm’ noise. “You should be careful about letting her tap into you like that. We don’t know what it will do to you.”
I shook my head. “We should try it. Melione has only been keeping you from getting worse. We need you to get better, Uncle Arken. Please, Melione. Give it a try.”
She looked worried, but she nodded and pulled out her folding fan. Her magic focus was a beautifully painted thing far fancier than what one would expect a girl of Melione’s humble origin to own, apparently a precious heirloom. It had ribs made of silverwood, the same material as Archen’s staff or Brigitte’s bow. Using a focus like a staff or her fan makes it possible to work more carefully on specific injuries, and to more accurately cast at a distance. Holding the fan open over the stump of his leg, she restarted the healing.
I leaned against the wall and watched her work. She kept going for much longer than I had ever seen before, but at last, she withdrew her hands and the flow stopped. She sat back and let out a sigh. Then she looked over at me.
“You’re okay?” she asked.
I nodded. “No ill effects.”
Melione turned to Arken. “I never felt the flow drop, but I started feeling tired suddenly.”
He contemplated for a moment, then nodded. “You’ve probably never felt that before. You overtaxed your pneuma.”
Melione tipped her head. “Pneuma?”
It was the limiter for Elemental magic users, but healers rarely hit that limit. One must consume some of one’s own mana from within in order to draw the mana that is used for magic. A natural healer like Melione, having a tiny reserve, would normally use up her internal mana long before hitting her pneuma limit.
He hesitated, then shook his head. “It’s quite complicated. Just know that you should absolutely stop when you feel that way. Forcing yourself to continue would be a risk to your life.”
She nodded with a sober expression. “Alright.”
I wasn’t surprised he didn’t try to explain. Like most commoners, Melione had very little education. She could barely read, and simple addition and subtraction were a challenge for her. Trying to explain internal vitality to someone with so little learning would be difficult.
Besides, without my fairy senses, she probably didn’t even see the process that I saw, or feel the feedback that I felt. Healing was just this wonderful substance that poured out of her, into her patient. She had no means to understand on her own the difference between mana and pneuma, and how they worked with each other.
But Melione was the sort of girl who simply accepted that people like Arken understood and she didn’t.
Arken smiled at me. “Well, at least there’s a bright side then. It looks like she can borrow your power now.”
I knew he was trying to cheer me up, but suddenly I grew very upset instead. “There’s no bright side, Uncle! What I did to her was awful, so don’t say there’s anything good about it!”
To my dismay, tears had begun flooding my eyes. Embarrassed, I looked down and away, surprised by the sudden flood of negative emotion. It seemed I had been holding it back in order to do the things I had to do, but it had been eating at me, and it had turned out that the wall holding it back had been dangerously thin.
After I sat like that for a long space, a hand settled on my shoulder. I looked up and saw Melione looking down at me in concern.
“Tiana…” she began.
I could see the conflict in her eyes. No matter what she said, she was still angry at me. Despite it, though, her loving, ‘everybody’s big sister’ personality was winning out even over the evil of what I had done to her. I pulled in a deep breath, then shook my head.
“Don’t say it’s alright,” I warned her quietly. “Don’t you dare say what I did was alright. Do not ever say ‘it can’t be helped’, or ‘it will be okay’, either.”
For a moment, I was afraid she was going to hug me. But if she had shown me any mercy at that moment, I think it might have broken me.
I didn’t want anyone forgiving me, and especially not the one I had hurt. She of all people had to remember my sin. I know that sounds weird, but that’s truly how I felt at that moment.
Melione nodded and remained quiet.
After staring at the floor for a few breaths, I patted her arm. “I need to put together equipment for tomorrow. I need to borrow stuff from you guys or find a shop.”
She nodded again, and moved back to let me stand.