Chapter 70 – Unpetrificiation

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Worried about what was going to happen with the axe once he became unfrozen, I stood behind Graham. I wasn’t sure how far I could send [Heal] with the fan, so I stayed within arm’s reach. I opened the fan and tested a ‘light’ dose (as light as I could make it, anyway,) then saw in my fairy sight that I wasn’t spreading it over his entire body this way.

I also wasn’t sure if I would really spread it out evenly through the fan, so I folded it and stuck it back into my sword belt, then placed my hand on his back. By doing this, I could directly coat his whole body with healing the same way that I coat my sword with Earth mana.

Pulling in a deep breath to steady my nerves, I began summoning the mana. I had to be sure it was enough, so I pushed it to the point that I felt like my arm was in front of an open furnace, if not inside the thing.

“[Heal].”

I learned my first true control technique for mana output while doing this. Holding and circulating the mana like that had the effect of pushing the output higher. Mana kept flowing into me at a faster rate for every moment I held it back, and my arm soon felt like it was being roasted alive. The feeling spread across my shoulders and up my neck, then I could feel it pouring up my torso, heat blasting upward into and through my chest as it poured through there into my arm to my hand. Soon I could feel it down to the soles of my feet, as if knives were simultaneously stabbing every inch of my body.

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“Isn’t she… starting to glow?” I heard Ceria ask.

Even though my breathing had begun normal, I became aware of a hoarse, heaving pant, and realized it was coming from me. At no point had I held my breath, but I now felt starved for oxygen.

My ears began singing and my arm began to shake. I reached up with my other hand and grabbed it to keep it in place. I grew afraid I still couldn’t hold it there, nor keep myself up on my feet. In desperation I stepped forward and wrapped my arms around him, both for support and to keep pouring the mana into him.  My arms barely fit around his massive abdomen, but I was able to hold on.

I don’t know how I knew– perhaps it was something I had heard at some point– but I felt certain that it would be dangerous to Graham if I stopped. I gritted my teeth and bore the torment. Then, my wings materialized on their own, without my commanding them, fully spread. I had my head turned in order to press my body up against his back, so I was able to see my left wing. I really was glowing, just like Ceria had said. My wing was white instead of black, and I could see strands of white glowing hair out of the corner of my eye…

A woman’s voice was screaming out a wordless howl with every decibel they had. After a while, I became aware that it was my own voice.

Then suddenly Graham pulled himself out of my grip, bellowing out in pain. It must have been instinct that caused me to do it, because I jumped backward, just barely avoiding his axe as he whirled and swung at me.

I did not know that adrenaline would affect my wings. They had grabbed a mighty scoop of air in a single hard wing beat that extended my leap backward a half dozen paces from where I had been before my feet landed. Which was a good thing, because Graham whirled and charged me, drawing his axe back like a baseball bat, ready for another swing.

I could barely stand in my exhaustion. Thankfully, Ceria appeared before me. She projected a powerful magic wall that repulsed his weapon. He was preparing another swing when Bruna’s glaive came up under his chin, stopping just before slicing into his neck.

His eyes blazing, he yelled at me, “You thrice-damned vampire b**ch. You followed us!”

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My legs crumpled and I collapsed to my knees, my wings vanishing. My entire body ached like I had been run over by construction equipment, but I rasped as I pulled out my fan, “Bruna, Ceria, get away from him, quick!”

The miasma freed up from the petrification was covering him like a full body suit, and a possibly lethal dose of it would penetrate him long before the rest dispersed. I gathered up the mana I needed as I opened the fan and held it up, facing him. His eyes still raged, but his scowl filled with uncertainty.

Bruna quickly stepped away, but Ceria hesitated.

“Do it!” I ordered her with vampire Command. The bracelet probably protected her a bit, but I had put force into it. She jerked, then nodded and stepped out of the way.

Graham had pulled in a deep breath. He let out a bellow, pulling his axe back up. It was his [War Cry] mana defense, a kind of crude wind magic.

“[Purify!]” I called.

My tortured body raged at the renewed assault as the purifying mana poured through it into the fan and outward. I watched the wave overwhelm his defense as the pain overwhelmed mine and gray filled my vision.

# # #

I became aware that I was sitting on the ground with my back being supported by Ceria’s arm. Bruna stood square with her back toward us, her glaive in a guarding position, facing Graham.

The warrior was on his knees, his axhead rested on the ground, the handle still in one hand. The other hand massaged the back of his head.

Later, Ceria explained what had happened. I had already been near the limit of what I could endure, and had caught the portion of the [Purify] casting that had bounced back off Graham’s defense. He had taken a physical blow from the same strike hitting his mana shield. The majority of the purification passed through the shield and destroyed the miasma cloaking him, but he had been knocked off his feet in the process.

He glared up at Bruna, who was holding her position, as he resumed a two-handed grip on his weapon. He demanded, “Are you attacking or not?”

“I’m only acting to guard my employer. If you stop going after her, then we have no quarrel.”

“What happened to Brigitte?” he demanded.

“The fox-kin?” Bruna asked. “She’s all frozen like stone, about two hundred paced behind you. Just like you were, until the Lady unpetrified you.”

“What?” he retorted. “Don’t joke! That woman just swings a sword!”

“Believe whatever you want, fool,” Bruna answered. “I saw what the Lady did for you with my own eyes.”

“Are you okay?” Ceria asked me, concern wrinkling her eyebrows. I nodded and let her help me to my feet.

The fan was miraculously still in my hand. I closed it and tucked it back into my belt.

Graham still had a glower for me. I shook my head.

“Vampire b**ch, I think you said? Considering you’re an Atian  and a subject of the king that I serve, I should be demanding an apology as his knight.”

“Considering you lied to us, why should I apologize?”

“Gratitude, maybe?” Bruna shot back in my place.

Every nerve in my body was ringing with pain, but I needed to stand. I forced myself to stay on my feet.

The hem of my armor wasn’t really built for it, but the sea-serpent hide was just barely flexible enough to grab. I gave him my full curtsey. Ceria and Bruna both made noises of protest, but I ignored them.

“Mr. Graham, this knight deeply apologizes. I humbly admit I should have counseled my king to reconsider his command to me to conceal the truth about my nature from you.”

Receiving no response, I lifted my head far enough to see his scowl.

“What are you expecting from me?” he asked. Well, as a commoner, he might not know.

“A statement as to whether or not you accept my apology. If you don’t speak up soon, I will rise on my own and assume my apology has been spurned. Which, Mr. Graham, is an even greater insult than calling me a b**ch. If you say clearly to me that you won’t accept it, you at least do not sully my honor as a lady. As a gentleman, what will you do?”

His lip twisted, then he shrugged. “Fine. Apology accepted.”

I rose, and nodded.

“How long before you can take care of the other two, Lady?” Bruna asked me.

I shuddered a bit, but admitted, “I can probably heal Brigitte in a couple hours.”

“And how long until he’s recovered enough to help me?” she wondered, hooking her thumb back at Graham.

With a blush coming to my cheeks as I realized what she meant, I used my fairy sight on Graham, saw relatively strong mana flow, and said, “You could… probably get him to help you right now. Graham is as strong as a bull.”

“Ceria, set me up an alarm barrier?” She said. Her sister nodded with a smirk.

Graham had a wary glare for all of us, but Bruna just returned it with a bright smile, laid her glaive on the ground, hooked her hand under his upper arm and asked him, “Graham, may I ask you to assist me with something? We just need to go over to the other side of that big rock…”

From how quickly he switched from suspicion to cooperation, I guessed that Bruna’s kind use some form of bewitching magic to aid in seduction, just like succubi. Which left me wondering, was I turning my back on my former comrade as he fell prey to a monster, or helping out a bro?

Ceria laughed at the complicated expression on my face.

- my thoughts:

It took a while to come up with text that reflected how extreme the efforts she was undertaking actually were. I rewrote this chapter four times, I think.

Check out my other novel: Tales of the ESDF

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