"Hey, you two, I'm gonna sit down for a minute."
I said as I leaned against the doorframe of the smithy's entrance. We were currently waiting there for Callum and Mother; they were still not back from fetching the chickens. I was drowsy since the night prior I had a set of nightmares. The first was clearly from earth, and the other was an incoherent dream from Kiyomi's memories. Some riding on a cart, and random scribbling into a book that looked extremely familiar. I'd gotten enough sleep, but I still felt exhausted to some degree.
"You sure you're okay?"
Vaughn asked, his arm's crossed as he leaned back against a fence post.
"I'm sure... just a moment of shut-eye."
I slowly brought my knees to my chest and crossed my arm's over them, with my tail curling around my legs. It didn't take long for me to doze off; the last thing I could recall directly at that moment was Vaughn and Beryl taking a seat nearby and talking about something.
...Great... This again... can I not get any peaceful sleep?
"Sergeant... Sergeant! Wake up!"
No... not this one... please not this one. I already had it last night...
I was being shaken by my shoulder, my body was shivering thanks to the slightly chilly temperatures and sleeping outside of our tents. I was off of watch, replaced by our platoon leader, who had pulled me off of performing double shifts to get some rest.
"Sergeant, wake up-"
"Rawlins, what in the flying fuck is it?"
I snapped under my breath at the private who was shaking my shoulder rather gently.
"Lieutenant Reyes wants to see you, Sarge. Say's you might have a better idea of something we're seeing just outside the wire. It's really blurry on the NVG's."
I cracked my eyes open, the lids scratching over my eyes, giving an itchy feel.
Every damn time, it almost doesn't feel like a dream.
"And he specifically asked for me?"
I asked, shooting Private Rawlins a sour look.
"And I quote, 'Private, go get the Staff Sergeant' after he put down the NVG's."
I dropped my head back in frustration, my helmet stopping me from looking straight up.
"God damnit, sir... Alright, Private, give me a minute."
Over the next minute or two, I was waking myself up. Checking my magazine pouches, grenades, and weapon. Barely caring for appearance much at the time, I even remembered pulling out an empty sports drink bottle and urinating in it on the spot, trying to keep the ground we slept on clean.
Pulling back the charging handle of my 'M4', I checked for a chambered round before setting out.
"-Let's go see what the 'Sir' saw."
Over the course of five or so more minutes, Rawlins and I walked through rather hastily made barricades and fortifications. Ducking into a wooden bunker where we had an 'm240' emplaced. Upon entering, I saw our platoon leader staring out into the darkness with a set of 'NVG's', scanning the void. Radio chatter from the com's system was the only thing making noise other than the eventual chorus of crickets and our own breathing.
"Sir, I brought back the Staff Sergeant."
Rawlins said, moving to the bunker wall next to the Lieutenant, leaning on it as he pulled out a can of chewing tobacco.
"Thank you, Rawlins. Staff Sergeant-"
LT. Reyes nodded to me as he folded his 'NVG's' upward.
I asked, moving to the LT's opposite side, pulling out a canned energy drink I'd had in a cargo pocket.
"Roughly three, no, four hundred meters or so. I thought I saw some flickering earlier, and we've had blurred movement at the edge of the woodline. None of our spotlights will reach that far. Wanted your second opinion before I woke up the whole camp with flares from 'Thumper.'"
Fucking, of course, god damn fresh LT fucked us that night... It... I should never have taken his offer... Fuck me, I was useless though! I was on four shifts! I was up a full twenty-four hours by the time he relieved me! I couldn't have known! Why the fuck did they send someone fresh from school?
"Too easy, sir."
Casually cracking open the energy drink before folding down my own 'NVG's,' everything seemed normal. There was no movement in our sector of fire, and the neighboring sectors we could see appeared baren as well. There wasn't much here at all; it looked normal for the most part.
"Hey, the bugs jus' stopped chirping!"
Rawlins spoke up suddenly, a sound of weariness in his voice. True to his words, most of the noise from any wildlife had died off almost simultaneously.
"I hear it, Rawlins."
After a few moments, I was able to make out some dirt shifting. It wasn't a lot, just a small puff of dust. But it was enough to put me off, even if it weren't for the next thing I caught a glimpse of in the night vision.
"Sparks... Sir... Radio... "
Motioning to the LT., I was prompting him to hand me the radio handset as I sat the drink can on the bunker ledge next to the 'm240.'
"Rawlin's, I want you on this '240'."
I ordered, pointing from the Pvt to the 'm240' machine gun. Slowly looking over the landscape through the night vision, I could feel a slight shakiness as I clenched the button on the handset.
"Thumper, this is 'Red Elk' Five, over."
I sounded into the handset, listening for a response as I fumbled to pull out a grid map that we'd pre-determined coordinates through.
"'Red Elk Five, this is Thumper, Lima-Charlie, over."
"Thumper, I need illumination on grid coordinate fife-zeero-fife-niner-zeero- break -wun-tree-tree-zeero-tree, how copy? Over."
Rawlins lifted the feed tray on the 'm240' momentarily before slapping it back down and pulling the charging handle. I could feel my own throat drying up. My opposite hand was now on my rifle, ready to flip the selector to fire.
"'Good copy Red Elk Five, illumination on the way."
Not a moment later, a loud, metallic 'thoop' sound resounded. Handing the handset to the LT., I brought my rifle level while flipping up my 'NVG's.'
"Rawling, remember, fire at the closest possible target. Don't choose farther targets; they're a waste of time."
Not long after Rawlins acknowledgment, the landscape was lit up by a sudden bright light. A one-hundred-twenty millimeter mortar illumination round was now slowly descending, illuminating everything under it as if it were the sun. And in the moments following, fear ran through every single one of us.
The landscape was littered with 'Ravagers', upright walking, partially furred, lizard-like beasts. As soon as light fell upon them, they began quickening their pace as they came within three-hundred-fifty meters.
"Thumper, this is 'Red-Elk Six', we need indirect fire on the last stated coordinates! Fire for effect! I say again, fire for effect!"
Rawlins opened fire, the loud retort of the machine gun nearly blocking out all sound. From what I could remember, the LT. began calling Company headquarters next. Everything from there was a blur, as what tipped us off fully, the source of the sparks, emerged from the ground, throwing up a plume of cinder and dust. Revealing a hulking, burning mass, with tendrils that began reaching out just as 'Air-burst' Mortar rounds were exploding overhead.
Fuck, not these!
Strangely enough, my memories stopped lining up. One of the last things I could hear was the alert system blaring as one of the monsters was already upon us. Somehow in our bunker, the beast grabbed me, pinning me against one of the walls. And then-
My head shot up at that moment, my reflexive reaction nearly forcing my head into the door frame as I scanned my surroundings. After my mind had caught up and I realized I was awake, my body relaxed. Letting my legs slide back down from my chest and my tail now swaying with energy, I scanned once more. No longer weary of some unseen danger, I was now seeking the presence of the two that were waiting with me. Sure enough, still sitting at the fencing, I spotted Vaughn and Beryl conversing.
Thank the gods... I didn't have to finish that one...
I could feel myself smile weakly in relief, breaking it only to yawn. My body quaked as I stretched, and as I stood, I could feel my energy returning.
"I should have-"
I proceeded to yawn once more.
"- should have at least gotten some good sleep last night."
I thought back to mothers words last night.
What she said... 'It's something you should never have to worry about; lower demons are on par with most other races for lifespan.'... I'm not a lower demon... I... how long will I live? Not once have I actually looked at any books detailing the races of this world... I'll try and convince Lorn to let me direct my topics... if I can.
I was sure that looking through the 'attribute' tab with my race would explain more, but I was afraid to look. Four days and I was still unable to will myself to look. It would be difficult just asking for some kind of help; however, I felt wary about Lorn now. Like the fight had made me naturally subservient to her, it put me off.
Maybe tomorrow, I'll have to be careful with asking questions, though... Disguise is still hiding my race... is it that important, though? Why does it even hide my race?
Frustrated by my own thoughts, I settled on pushing them to the side. Deciding it would be better to focus on today's lesson for the time being. Deciding just to rejoin my friends.
"Oh? She's awake. Kiyomi, you weren't asleep that long."
Beryl said, lifting a brow.
"Can't nap right now... Nervous about the training."
I lied through my teeth, but the answer was accepted. While I was accustomed to harsher training, in some part thanks to earth, these two were probably shaken fr0m yesterday. Knowing that Beryl was going to be healing myself and Vaughn probably made them both extremely so.
"So, what have you two been up to while I napped?"
"Nothing really, we're just waiting. Not much else to do other than look at clouds. Anything else could make us too tired."
I kicked some of the soil as I took up a post along with Beryl and Vaughn.
"Ever guess the shape of clouds?"
I asked, trying to perk up the mood. Earning a giggle from Beryl and a shrug from Vaughn.
"Kiyomi, we're not THAT young."
"I mean, got a better suggestion to pass the time?"
I asked as I brought my tail around to my front, idly brushing it.
When exactly did I get a nic on my tail?
"Well, she has a point. Unless we want to let our brains go stale while we wait."
Vaughn shrugged, doubling up on my suggestion.
"Well... when you put it that way-"
On cue, the three of us proceeded to blow maybe an hour on cloud watching before anything happened.
"Vaughn, that's a frog... "
"What do you mean?! Listen, it looks just like a bird."
"Nnnnope, really looks like a frog."
Vaughn and I'd managed to start arguing whether a particular frog-shaped cloud resembled a bird or the alternative. Vaughn was now looking at me as if I was messing with him.
"Beryl, back me up on this."
I looked to Beryl, who was looking at me the same way now.
"Actuallyyyyyy, that's... a bird..."
Beryl was averting my gaze.
Okay... fine... it's a bird, I guess.
"Ugghhh, fine. Bird it is."
I admitted defeat, now that both of them were against me.
"Okay, next cl- Oh, hey, they're here."
Beryl's next train of thought was interrupted as Mother and Callum rounded the corner, catching her attention.
"We were caught looking at the same bird you three were."
Mother said as she approached with a mischievous smile and tone.
"Oof, betrayed! Et tu, mater?"
I groaned as I jokingly held my chest, twitching my tail behind me.
"Hahah, Kiyomi, stop speaking gibberish."
Ah, right... Latin probably isn't a thing here.
"Hello, Miss Hatsumi."
Beryl greeted Mother as she walked next to me, hugging me by my shoulder for a moment before letting and righting herself.
"Hello Beryl, Vaughn, now that I'm here, we can start the lesson. Callum, you can butcher one, but we'll need the other for now."
"On it, just let me get the chickens' loosed."
Callum walked into his shop. As he turned, I saw the aforementioned birds' slung over his shoulder. After a moment or two of clucking and a curse or two, Callum walked back out with one of the chickens held by its neck. Tying off a piece of string around its wings and legs, he placed it on the ground next to Mother. The animal was jostling its body for a few moments before giving up and becoming still, only its head poking around from time to time.
I don't like this... why am I feeling bad for the thing?
"Now, before we move on..."
Mother clapped her hands, prompting Beryl, Vaughn, and I to seat ourselves in front of her.
"A basic description of healing. Healing is the application of a mana flow towards any wound, infection, or identifiable disease."
"Applying the mana flow directly, at a controlled pace, will result in regeneration, melding of a wound, or in the cleansing of infections, and aid in the body's ability to fight off diseases. This can be done to one's self or to another. You can use your own mana flow for this or the individual you are healing. In most cases, you will use your own, as only experienced Healers have the control needed to direct the mana flow of someone else."
Mother looked at me before explaining further.
"Kiyomi, I need you to understand, do not do this unless it is a life or death situation. Because of how your mana veins spread out, you will simply create scar tissue on yourself, and you won't even be able to heal another person. Do you understand?"
Mother asked, awaiting a response.
Oi, wait, what the hell? What is that... calm down, just ask.
"Mama... why the emphasis right now?"
She was confusing me with the timing.
"Kiyomi, you're an exceptional case. Your place in this class is to learn your friend's limits. To understand how far each of you can render aid. Letting you know upfront will help your understanding and prevent any incorrect assumptions. Okay?"
Mother asked, maintaining a soft voice.
I responded; it felt as if it sounded defeated, but I honestly had nothing else to ask for the time.
Scar tissue? So I can close up wounds... but it will be imperfect. I have to make sure I don't get caught in anything too tricky by myself.
Mother resumed her lecture.
"The first issue, in any case of healing, is time. When a wound is formed, there is a set point of time you have to beat. When a wound has gone untended for some time, any healing will result in scarred tissue, or in the worst case, no will healing at all."
Mother rolled up one of the sleeves of her robe, revealing a scar on her right forearm.
"This is an example of scar tissue from a wound that took too long to receive care. This laceration was three hours old by the time I was able to give it attention. We were too engrossed in the hunt at the time."
Mother said, smiling as she rolled the sleeve back down.
"It's inevitable that these small wounds will be missed from time to time, but be mindful that the stipulations apply to ALL wounds. Even if you were blinded in an eye or something along those lines, the most the healing would do is stabilize the eye from infection, and you'd be blind anyway."
Mother sighed, stretching her tail a moment. Continuing after checking if we were still following along.
"Alright, next is blood loss. You need to be mindful of how much blood the wounded has lost or are currently losing. You need to be mindful of prioritizing small areas rather than the whole body at once; this results in faster healing, less energy loss, and conserves MP."
Mother inhaled and exhaled before continuing.
"This will be difficult to show, but I'll do my best."
Exposing her palm to the sky, Mother took a claw and ran it across her skin. Blood leaked forth as she did so, running to the edges slowly.
"Fssss, Ah, it still kind of hurts. Okay, you three, come closer."
As we moved closer, Mother started to breathe in a slow and controlled manner. We watched as mana flowed forth, albeit at the barest of a trickle. Her wound, at first, was slowly closing all at once. Ceasing her healing, she redirected the flow of mana to a smaller section of the cut, healing the much smaller section at a greater pace than if she were to close the cut overall.
"Healing any wound like this can minimize the suffering AND damage a wound deals. It is important to know, even if you heal someone completely, it will have never mattered if they've already bled out through their lacerated carotid artery."
She signaled next to her neck before wiping her now healed palm in the grass, wiping the blood from it.
"Beryl, I want to see you heal a pinprick on Vaughn and Kiyomi before I have you heal the chicken, okay?"
Beryl flinched at the mentioning of the chicken.
"I'm... It's not going to be hurt too bad... Is it?"
Beryl asked, obviously uncomfortable with the thought of mutilating the poor creature. Mother frowned initially, but her expression softened as she brought a hand to Beryl's shoulder.
"It's hard, I know... But you don't want your first experience healing mortal wounds to be with someone you care about... You'll panic much more at that moment; you could end up not healing them at all... and we can't do this with bugs... it's too hard to see the effects. All the progress you make here, Beryl, will save not only your own life someday but Kiyomi, and Vaughn's as well."
Beryl nodded as she stared at the chicken, breaking her gaze on it to meet Mother's.
"I... think I can do it, Miss Hatsumi."
Mother nicked one of Beryl's fingers with a claw.
"We'll start with healing yourself, then Kiyomi, then Vaughn. That way, each of you has some direct understanding. Then, we'll go over some possible situations, and from there... we'll all be with you for the instruction with the chicken Beryl, we'll all be right here."
Over the course of the next hour, Mother continued with theoretical situations in which we may find ourselves, and how each of us would handle them. In a way, none of us were able to focus. Beryl, for the sake of the chicken she was about to be trained with, and myself and Vaughn, for Beryl's wellbeing.