Orisa launched herself into the air without a second thought. Her sharp and focused state of mind reminded her that she had forgotten to think about the landing, thus was likely to break some bones. Despite that, Orisa was still adamant about Marina; she completely denied the fairly realistic possibility that the girl was already dead.
Orisa was slowly flying over the Beasts that were still rushing the gorge, albeit not as eagerly as before. A flash of worry ran through her mind for a moment, but Orisa decided to believe in her friends that she left behind. 'They should be alright.'
Her flight, in fact, was in no way slow and only due to her focused state she was able to study the surroundings. There were no signs of Marina during Orisa's jump when she began to lose altitude, which meant that the wolf threw her even further away. When she was about to land, Orisa tried to push Mana beneath her feet to soften the fall. Lacking any intent or form, Mana merely dissolved in the air. Remembering some long-forgotten parkour lesson, Orisa tried to perform a roll while landing on the ground to reduce her inertia. Despite her attempts, the speed was too high to roll properly, so she stumbled instead and flew uncontrollably for more than ten meters.
The Thickness barrier empowered through one of the Seals on her gloves performed a miracle. Orisa ended all sore and in pain, but her injuries were limited to a sprained ankle, broken nose, and a dislocated left shoulder. But her wounds were left unattended to perform a crucial task. Without wasting a single second, Orisa sat with the help of her intact right hand and launched the Fog spell twice, towards the gorge and into the opposite direction.
The first Beast attacked while she was still on the ground. It was a lizard that almost stumbled over Orisa while blindly strolling inside the Mana fog. Acting almost reflexively, she trapped the Beast inside a Block Prison and launched five Blast Shells into the hole between the Blocks. But now she had announced her presence loudly and was running out of time.
Gritting her teeth and letting out a yelp, Orisa fixed the dislocation. While helping herself up, she simultaneously channeled Mana into her left glove and activated the Regeneration Seal. A warm and soothing feeling spread over her body. It was considerably weaker than Kanai's spells but still better than nothing or if compared to Orisa's own healing attempts.
While focusing on the feeling of the surrounding Mana through her Seal, Orisa was attacked by Beasts a few more times. She slowly moved through the fog, her ankle aching with every step. At least her nose stopped bleeding and clicked back to the norm after several more Regenerations.
After walking for thirty meters, Orisa felt a faint flow of familiar Mana. She renewed the fog and ran in that direction. Right in the middle of the road lay the body of Marina in a pool of blood. Her legs and arms were all bent in wrong directions, and fang marks on the belly looked horrible as well. She was staring into the distance with open but unfocused eyes full of tears.
Infusing the Regeneration Seal with Mana, Orisa pressed it against the dying girl. Status spells revealed that Marina had little time left.
"Yes. Don't talk. I'm healing you."
"Can't see... a thing," Marina's voice became even weaker.
"Stop talking, damn," Orisa whispered, pressing the glove to Marina's belly wounds time and time again.
"Sorry... too late..."
"Shut up, would you!?"
Orisa almost yelled, outraged by Marina's words. She wanted to scold the girl, but a volley of splinters shot in her direction, two of them hitting her right side. Thanks to empowered Thickness, one barely grazed her skin while another struck her rib, causing a lot of pain but little damage.
"Triple Block!" - "Triple Block!" - "Triple Block!"
Orisa channeled Mana through the Steel Skin Seal and conjured several walls to buy them some time. More Regenerations were used on Marina, but her conditions were the same. The power of this Seal was enough to prolong Marina's suffering, nothing more.
"I'm sure... you are wrinkling your face again, sis. Stop it, or... you'll end up like me...old, ugly, lonely hag..."
"You either shut the fuck up, or I'm going to slap your ass!"
"...can't feel anything...below my neck..."
Orisa managed to react in the last moment when a grey dog jumped out of the mist. She let it chew on her Force Guard while pressing her left hand against its eye-slits and sending the Palm Push Strike. The Beast wailed and took a few steps back, letting Orisa throw two Blast Shells at its face. Another Beast jumped and forced Orisa's attention, but she still managed to hear Marina's whisper due to her heightened senses.
"Don't spend...all your time...on books, promise me?"
"Block Rush!" - "Blast Shell!" - "Block Rush!"
"It's easy...to run away from...mean people by hiding inside the books."
"I swear, if you won't shut up, I'll-." - "Block Rush!" - "Triple Block Rush!"
"When you... the first month... the school, it's hard to... fit…"
Orisa got pinned down by a bird that dived from above. While it was smashing its beak against her Force Guard, Orisa charged the Regeneration Seal and pressed it against Marina's broken arm. The girl didn't even flinch or otherwise reacted to the touch; she truly couldn't feel a thing.
"Then... the college... you are already too... scared of people..."
Orisa found the tactic of letting the Beasts chew on her Force Guard and then shovel something explosive into their mouth or eye-slits extremely effective. The only downside was that her right hand was sore, cut in multiple places, and one finger already broken. She renewed Regeneration effects on Marina and herself and returned to a more pressing matter.
"…got a job, but... it's all the same... so you... your life inside the books..."
It became harder to fight when two more Beasts attacked her at the same time, supported by someone still shooting spikes from afar. Her already weak Regeneration couldn't keep up with all the wounds, so now Orisa standing on one knee with her left ankle pierced by a spike.
"Found another... as a librarian... this was the end..."
Orisa could barely hear Marina now. She slammed a few more rows of walls and crawled to the girl, charging the Regeneration Seal.
"Promised myself to... start living... but when I finally... shit together... hair... grey... wrinkled..."
"Why can't you be silent? Would it kill you to postpone this confession to a later date?"
"Te-he... sis is cool... not... me..."
"You are plenty cool, idiot. So beautiful, cheerful, and strong. I'm sure you are lying about your past, too. It's hard to believe you were like that, you know?"
"... woke here... promised... live... fulfilling... to be... great girl..."
Orisa renewed Regeneration and Blocks around them. Four Beasts were slamming against her walls now, and only the gloves with Steel Skin helped her maintain the barriers. 'I need time.'
"Mana Transfer!" - "Mana Transfer!" - "Mana Transfer!"
"Was... I a good... girl?"
Orisa's Mana pool was almost depleted, but she knew what she was supposed to do. She only needed some time. Some more time for the girl by her side.
"...scared... don't... want to..."
Orisa focused on the spells and Seals she knew, ignoring the tears that were raining from her eyes. She tossed the spells inside her head, looking for a better way to do what she envisioned. For the first time, she was concerned about Mana and how little was left of it.
She turned to Marina only to see the girl's eyes closed, her body motionless. The sound of Orisa's teeth-gritting was deafeningly loud. She charged Regeneration Seal again and slapped the girl's cheek so hard that her head turned in the opposite direction.
"I know you are still here! Stop joking, you idiot!" Orisa could feel Mana flowing inside Marina, although its pulse was slow and weak. Like Marina's own heartbeat.
Orisa channeled Mana through the Steel Skin Seal and conjured the Bulwark Seal and the Seal of Empowerment. Concentrating on the intent of the spell, she conjured a tiny spherical barrier around them. Now she only needed one Mana layer to support this shield, and could finally focus on Marina. After refreshing Regeneration on the girl, Orisa took off her tattered jacket and shirt and tore off the remnants of Marina's top.
Most of her Force Blocks were now destroyed, and the Beasts directed their attention to the small glowing barrier, the last line of her defense. With every bite and shot they took, Orisa felt the remnants of her Mana slip away. But she ignored it all and lay on the ground close to Marina. Gritting her teeth from the pain of her broken finger, Orisa pulled Marina's body over herself. The girl's back felt cold on Orisa's burning stomach. Pressing both her hands to Marina's chest, Orisa ordered:
"Cast your healing."
"Your source healing or whatever, use it now! Don't ask questions, please!"
She activated the Regeneration Seal again, but Marina was still silent. Almost ten seconds had passed before the girl channeled every last bit of her life force into the spell:
Orisa felt Mana rush through her belly and into her hands, agitating Marina's own flow and commanding it to heal its owner.
"Good girl. My great girl. Keep it up."
"JUST DO IT!"
With every spell, Marina's voice became firmer. It was unbelievable but pointless all the same.
"Sis... I won't be able to heal... everything even if... if I had more Mana. My Magic is... too weak."
Everything in front of Orisa's eyes swayed as she blanked out for a second. Her Mana pool was empty; several more bites and the last barrier would dissolve. Orisa sobbed quietly. 'It's unfair. I tried so hard and still… Unfair!'
"Marina, I'm sorry for giving you hope," she muttered, admitting defeat.
"Idiot, you were supposed to run... away. I'm so glad that I... met you, stupid sis."
Orisa sensed a huge Mana source nearby, and something big crashed into the Beasts that were chewing her barrier. When the last bit of Mana left the shield, Orisa saw a horse pressing down one of the dogs, and two figures climbing back to their feet from the ground.
"Empower!" - "Arcane Scattershot!"
"Go! I'll manage!" Tiana's voice sounded frightened, almost hysterical.
Orisa felt Kanai's spells go through her body and yelled in rage:
"Not me, her! Heal her! She has legs and arms broken, and probably spinal cord, too."
"Orisa, I can't heal wounds like that. Not with how much Mana I have now," he answered with a pained expression.
"I'll give you Mana, just do something!"
"Okay, but I'll run dry in a few seconds, are you ready?"
"JUST DO IT!"
Kanai straightened his back and aimed at Marina with his wand. He took out a deep breath and chanted:
A thick jet of greenish Mana shot out of his wand and into Marina's chest. Just in a few seconds, his face turned chalk-white from severe Mana exhaustion. Orisa squeezed his leg and yelled:
"Whatever happens, keep healing!" - "Mana Transfer!" - "Mana Transfer!"
After one more spell, something rose up in Orisa's throat, and she vomited a lump of blood. At the same time, something clicked loudly, and Marina's right hand straightened, no longer bent and broken. With hope burning bright inside Orisa's heart, she gripped Kanai's leg even tighter.
"Mana Transfer!" - "Mana Transfer!" -"Ma-."
She blacked out.
When Orisa came back to her senses, it felt like she was sick, feverish, menstruating, and poisoned at the same time. Her entire body ached, burned, wriggled, while her head was spinning, leaving her on the brink of vomiting again. She was too afraid to open her eyes.
"Here, drink it," something cold touched her lips, supported by a gentle voice.
When the contents of the Mana potion moved into Orisa's stomach, she felt better. Shuffling a little, Orisa noticed that she was lying horizontally, and her head was resting on something warm and comfy. Still wary, Orisa slowly opened her eyes.
What she saw was a beautiful face looking at her worriedly, platinum blond hair hanging down and blocking most of the view. Orisa slowly turned her head around and finally noticed that she was resting on Tiana's lap. The girl stopped caressing Orisa's head and asked anxiously:
"How are you, Orisa? Does it hurt somewhere?"
"I'm more or less fine, just a little dizzy. How is Marina?"
"She is here, sleeping," answered Kanai. He was sitting nearby, observing both girls. "The city guards helped us a lot. It's too soon to say now, but they think there won't be any serious lasting effects for her."
Orisa let out a sigh of relief and relaxed. Tiana immediately resumed her patting duty, calming Orisa even more; the girl's palm felt so warm and soothing that Orisa almost fell asleep again.
"How are others?"
"We... are glad that you both are alright," muttered Kanai. Orisa didn't like his voice.
"What is it?" She instantly rose up but was assaulted by severe dizziness. Calming her raging insides, she asked, "What happened?"
"Orisa, I'm sorry..." Tiana muttered and took Orisa's hand.
"Kanai, what is she sorry about?"
"Mantis. Evolved mantis jumped from above. I don't know how he got there. Maybe climbed the mountain or just jumped high." He was silent for a few seconds. "He sliced Clemen in half. There was nothing we could do."