Haemish allowed his mind to slowly come back to the present where Marasa stood in front of him, slightly dishevelled from sleep. “Yes, I have thought of one thing, or rather I should say Boren thought of it and then had to head off to his training or something.” Haemish’s face must have given away more than he intended because Marasa looked worried.
“Lori and Baldwin?” She asked. Haemish nodded, and her frown deepened, as did the creases in her forehead. “They have been pushing him hard, but he is not disappointed with the results. Perhaps it is for the best?” She didn’t seem convinced, but there was nothing more than Haemish could say that would bring comfort. Instead, he moved the topic back to the patient they might be able to help.
“So, I have brought a few things back at Boren’s suggestion. Thought it was worth a try. What do you think?” Haemish held out the various vials and dishes to Marasa. They had to dump their contents into the bucket and see what happened. Still, it was best to make sure they were unanimous in their decision.
“I don’t suppose there is anything else we can try with them. Let’s go for it!” Marasa confirmed after a couple of seconds. She didn’t need to think about it much, considering the alternative. “It can’t hurt any more than what is happening now.”
Marasa had cleaned up from her rest five minutes later, looking annoyed. Haemish didn’t understand but didn’t feel like asking about it. The most important thing left to do was this; add all of the vials and fluids he and Boren had been working on throughout the day. Had it only been yesterday? It felt like a lifetime ago. Indeed this whole process had been grating on him.
“I do not know you go through this each time you have another patient. It is a whirlwind of emotions and exhaustion. Mostly exhaustion, and I do not think I have even been so tired mentally.” Haemish admitted and turned to Marasa, who seemed surprised at his admission.
“I have gotten used to it, I think. You never stop feeling it; you just stop allowing it to affect you as much, I suppose. Though with Aarav, it has been difficult to block it out when the Prince is involved. But then, Boren, it has always made it hard for me to separate my personal and professional sides.” Marasa gave Haemish a tired smile and then let out a small laugh.
“Right you are. That boy does have a way to warm one up. This one is not half bad at it either!” Haemish said, pointing to the bucket. Shall we?” Haemish said, and then both unconsciously held their breaths as Haemish poured he carried into the bucket on top of Aarav’s form. At that moment, Haemish couldn’t help but feel he had poured all his hopes and wishes into the bucket with the vials. For a second, nothing happened. Then with a hiss and pop, the liquids seemed to drain into Aarav, bolstering his volume a little and then stabilizing.
Then, nothing. Absolutely nothing, zero. Nothing changed; Aarav did not magically appear healed or return to the Slime’s original state in front of them. Haemish and Marasa both let out the breath they had been holding and visibly seemed to deflate; this had been the last chance to save the Slime from whatever was happening.
“Ahh, did you manage to come up with anything else while you slept?” Haemish asked, a little hope colouring his words. “That was my last idea; I have nothing left.” The defeat was evident, but he still looked at Marasa, hoping against all odds that something had occurred to the woman.
“Sorry, Haemish, I really tried, but this one has me stumped completely. None of my usually helpful abilities is working on Aarav. I…I’m at a loss.” Marasa whispered.
The reverent silence stretched between them, neither wanting to be the first to speak. Haemish could only assume that what was going on in her head was similar to his own. The worry and fear plagued him and what would happen with Boren when he found out that they could not save Aarav.
A collective sigh escaped their lips, and they stared at each other, seeing their last hopes fading with the liquid in the bucket. “Shall we take a walk? Perhaps a smidge of fresh air will do us some good. I have no idea what we can do next, but we still have some time, by my estimates, another twenty-four hours. There is plenty of time to think of another idea, even if we have never encountered anything like this.”
“Come on, Boren, we have time to make up for, don’t we?” Baldwin called with his annoyingly chipper voice. Boren couldn’t stand the sound; it only meant more pain for him. His Endurance had gone up a point just in this training session alone. A Training session, hah! More like torture! But despite that, Boren could help but grin. Only two weeks ago, he would have said it was ridiculous that he could take this much punishment without dying. But here he was, not only still standing but able to throw out a few punches of his own as well.
For a few precious moments, he could forget the worry that plagued him over Aarav’s condition and fully immerse into the fight, the struggle for survival. He was sure that anyone who wanted to become strong had to go through this type of training, and if they could endure this, then so could he!
I will never be weak! I will never again be weak!
The light of determination burned brightly in his heart and mind and was reflected in his eyes. “That’s it! That’s the fire I want to see! Come on, let’s fight! I want to see how long it takes me to extinguish it this time!” Baldwin’s yell echoed in the basement training hall, causing Boren to grit his teeth. But this time, his fire would not be put out. He would fuel it with every defeat and every loss until he started winning against this monster.
Marasa and Haemish were dejected, tired and even if they couldn’t admit it to themselves, ready to give up on finding a solution. The only thing that remained was to just wait and watch to see if Aarav revived by himself before his body withered away to nothing. It was not a satisfying or happy prospect. Haemish was resigned to collecting samples of Aarav’s Slime to work on in the lab to revive or rebirth him that way, but it was a sombre hope. Even if it worked, he would not be the Aarav they had shared laughs with and enjoyed pastries.
Marasa grasped Haemish’s hand and squeezed it in sympathy, and Haemish squeezed back, not daring to let go of the human contact that his life had sorely lacked. They continued to walk in complete silence, each in their own thoughts, but the human touch remained.
“Let’s go again!” Boren called, just catching his breath from the last exchange. He felt like he was getting better, but he might have been getting delirious with exhaustion. “I can do better!” Baldwin just laughed and nodded. Boren knew this would be their last exchange before he was too tired to keep going.
“Very well, I can respect that.” He said before rushing towards Boren. The practice sword was loose in Boren’s grip. Stepping forward into Baldwin’s strike, Boren ducked at the last instant. This allowed his opponent's weapon to painfully clip his left shoulder before getting inside Baldwin’s guard. At the same time, he brought his own sword up into Baldwin’s inner right thigh, hoping to get the man to spin to the side. Still, the blow landed by some stroke of luck or Baldwin deciding to go easy on him.
Baldwin’s eyes widened momentarily before the wood snapped and broke on the man’s muscles. Its shock passed down the timber and into Boren’s hands. The Prince cried out as he released the wood and shook his hands. “Well done!” Baldwin said in genuine appreciation. “if I had been a weaker opponent, you might have managed to hurt me! Now things get really interesting! I can actually stretch my limbs a little now that I know you can handle it!”
Boren groaned inwardly, he knew Baldwin had been holding back, but from the way the man was speaking, one would think he had been asleep for the previous training sessions. Maybe he was. I am not exactly a challenging opponent for him. Boren needed an opponent that he could fight against on an even footing so that it wasn’t a single exchange skirmish each time. A more drawn-out fight would be a lot more fun and educational. If I suggest something like that to Baldwin, he might take it as an excuse to beat me around the room instead of just one exchange and rest.
“Baldwin, wouldn’t it be better for me to fight against someone of my own skill level? Instead of a master while I am a simple and humble beginner?” Boren tried a different tactic.
“That is already in the plan, my young student!” Baldwin Gunther’s perpetual grin turned a little feral. “We intend to pit you against people you might call talented compared to you, and you can’t learn if you fight inferior foes. For now, though, you need to survive against me without being knocked out!”
“Oh crap!” Was all Boren had time to yell before Gunther was upon him.