I woke to a familiar feeling. Maybe I should call it a texture. Now that I had experienced it a few times, it had become familiar. I can only describe it as a state of awareness that feels like neither reality nor dreams.
The room was lit much better than the one small magic lantern near Arken’s cot could explain. The three who had been in the room when I slept were still sound asleep, but the room now had two additional inhabitants.
The HR manager was seated at the end of one of the benches of the table where we had shared dinner. She had her legs crossed, and held what I am absolutely certain was a paperback romance novel. I couldn’t see clearly, but her hand was partially obscuring what I am certain was a standard bodice-ripper cover.
Standing next to the Manager was a younger woman wearing glasses with large round lenses and her hair up in tight braids. Instead of the manager’s tailored skirt and jacket, she wore what looked like an Asian-style office lady uniform. She was reading over the Manager’s shoulder.
Braids Girl was asking, “But why would she care about him helping the maid? The basket was too heavy for her to carry, after all.”
“She’s afraid he might be more interested in the girl than in her,” the HR manager explained. “Remember, she still worries that he’s only playing with her body and might later throw her away. Mortals have a strong fear of abandonment.”
“She’s afraid of something like that, just because he’s helping the girl?”
“Um…” I hazarded. “Excuse me?”
They both looked up at me as I pulled aside my blanket and sat up.
“Good. You’re awake now,” the HR manager said while bookmarking her page and slipping the book into her briefcase.
“This is about what I did to Melione, isn’t it?” I said. Regardless of how much like a businesswoman she appeared, she was some sort of angel, after all. Was she here to deliver divine punishment?
She pursed her lips and pressed her glasses into place. “You are referring to putting that girl under blood bondage, I presume. It is not the subject that brings us here, no. Not directly, anyhow.”
“Your loss of control was not commendable, but your response afterward was on the balance appropriate. Although I would like to point out that you have yet to offer her any compensation for the harm you have done her.”
I felt some heat come to my face, as I realized that was true. I had said sorry a dozen times, but I had never said a thing about making up for it.
“However, as I said, your interactions with the young healer are not the subject of our visit. Nor would it be my job to render judgment on your actions. We do an accounting of the complete life, not the day by day details.”
“Then why are you here?”
She gestured towards Braids Girl, “As a result of something you did today, my colleague needs to meet you. She is a field agent from the R&D Department.”
“Research and Development?”
“Um… actually, it’s Rectification and Deconfliction,” the ‘Field Agent’ corrected in meek tones. She swept some loose hair out of her eyes. You would think an angel could trim her bangs more carefully, but… maybe she liked that look?
I expected her to say more, but she only stared back at me, as if waiting for something which, of course, didn’t happen. Since I had no idea what was going on.
The Manager let out a long breath and pressed her glasses into place again “Agent, you had something to discuss with her, I believe?”
“Oh!” she blinked. “Yes. It seems that your link to the healer has given you her healing ability… are you able to use her other magics?”
“Um… I was able to see how she did the spell that puts him to sleep.”
Even though I and Melione had done two more rounds each of healing on him, he still had a long way to go to recover. Elven bodies are stubbornly slow to heal. But Melione had done a different sort of casting on him at bedtime, which caused sleep rather than healing. Apparently the pain had been preventing him from falling to sleep normally.
“The somnolence casting, yes. So she had to do it before you became aware of it? Do you believe you could do the same thing?”
Once again, I had felt it as she did it, and the knowledge had unlocked within me.
“I think so, yes.”
The HR manager said, “Test it.”
“On whom?” I wondered.
“Cast it on me,” the Agent suggested. When I hesitated, she smiled and assured me, “You won’t actually put me to sleep and it won’t harm me. But I will be able to tell if you’re really casting it. “
I nodded, pulled my blanket aside and stood up from my bedroll, glad that Melione was asleep and couldn’t see me displaying myself in this skimpy clothing as I moved close to the agent. With my hand up near her chest, palm facing her, I gathered the mana and cast the magic I had felt Melione use earlier.
The agent’s eyes rolled back as she slumped.
“Whoops,” the HR Manager said with a wry smile as she wrapped an arm around her colleague’s waist to prevent her from toppling. I hadn’t even noticed the woman getting up from the table where she had been sitting, but she’d clearly expected the result and maneuvered into position for it.
After she placed a hand on the Agent’s forehead, the Agent’s eyes fluttered open. “Wha… what happened?”
“You badly underestimated Lady Tiana’s power,” the Manager told the girl, then told me, “You need to hold back the mana as much as possible. That was far stronger than what a being of the living world would require.”
I was still goggling at the spectacle, my brain struggling with the question, Wait. Angels sleep? It took about this long for my surprise to wear off. I stammered, “I… I’m sorry!”
“Not your fault,” she answered, helping the Agent lean against the table. “I suppose I need to explain what she needs from you. She’s out of it.”
Once she was convinced the Agent would not fall over, she let her go and turned toward me. “The R&D Department has determined that you have a strong possibility of encountering a situation which will require the healer’s third spell.”
“You’re talking about Purification?”
Melione had three castings she could perform, either directly on people or to turn liquid medium into potion. Healing, sleep and purification. I had seen her use the third one only twice, once to repel a monster that got into close quarters with her, and once as an area-of-effect casting, when we came up against a demonic necromancer. A half-dozen of his undead had fallen like dominoes, but only after she’d bravely let them come within feet of her before casting it.
“Have her purify something tomorrow morning, so you can learn it yourself.”
I felt the hairs on my scalp rise a bit. “I’m not sure if that is a good idea… my monster half…”
“Um…” the Agent said in a sleepy voice, “When you feel the magic, it will probably will be quite painful for you, but… your fairy half has a strong affinity for holy magic. You can’t actually be harmed by it.”
“‘Holy magic’? That’s not a thing. Real magic is only element magic or healing magic.”
The HR Manager pursed her lips, then lectured me.”This world has only a rudimentary understanding of magic, and there are things that they don’t understand correctly. There are many other kinds of magic, and what you call ‘Healing magic’ is actually just the low-level spells of a non-elemental category classified as ‘Holy magic’. They should have guessed this from purification being one of its forms, but the locals classified healers as somehow different from mages, and thus have misunderstood the significance of purification. Holy magic has the same mechanics as Elemental magic. The only difference is the source of the mana.”
I tipped my head. “Is it okay for you to tell me that?”
“You are of fairy blood, so it is.”
“And why does my fairy blood matter?”
“Fairies are the species in this world the most akin to we celestial beings,” she answered. “Thus all fairies have a strong affinity with holy magic, just as the young healer does. The things you call ‘fairy sight’ and ‘fairy sense’ are actually innate skills based on Holy magic. There are a few fairies in your world who understand this, so it is not knowledge unique to you.”
After a pause for another glasses adjustment, she added, “You, Lady Tiana, have inherited a freakishly strong fairy’s strength and affinity for Holy magic. Learn how to purify, before you leave tomorrow. Should you indeed run into the situation R&D foresaw, please use it.”
Tiana had experienced purification. Mother had used it once in an emergency, to subdue her miasma so she would last until she could get blood. I already knew exactly what the Agent meant when she said, ‘It will be painful’. I was totally unenthusiastic about the idea, but I nodded.
“You can’t tell me more?” I asked.
The Agent answered this time, “We cannot. You technically remain unrelated for now, until you encounter the subject in question. If the situation happens, you will recognize it. Um… My department may ask to rely on you for other requests in the future. Is there any objection?”
She had fully recovered from the sleep casting now, it seemed.
“There is another placement that you have already had a disruptive effect upon. The decision to place you in this setting has complicated multiple cases. I cannot tell you any more right now, but I would like to request your cooperation if my department determines it has become necessary.”
“Another placement?” Puzzled by this, I wondered, “Are you saying there are people from Earth ‘placed’ on Huade, other than Ryuu and me?”
The agent quickly nodded, “From Earth, there are currently three. From all worlds together…”
The Manager cleared her throat quite loudly, scowling over at her.
The other woman looked back in surprise, then her face showed understanding. “Oh… sorry.”
Her shoulders sagged just slightly with the second word. The Manager pursed her lips, then turned back to me. “Of course, that includes only those whose presence was the result of divine intervention. Summonees and drifters are artifacts of the living world, not products of our intervention, so Mr. Ryuu is not included.”
“And my presence could disrupt one of these other placements?”
“Hence the interest of R&D,” she answered with a nod. “You are currently the only Earther on Huade placed for heroic purposes. The other two Earthers were placed for other reasons by other departments.”
Her words made me wonder exactly how many of these ‘departments’ were running around doing things on Huade.