In front of them stood in front of a three-story apartment. Wooden beams fixed vertically at each corner, horizontal ones overlapping in the spaces between two beams for every floor. Plants grew in the shard estate garden, a path cutting through to the entrance. It was a building with a floor plan of about 1000 square meters with each floor housing 7 individual apartments.
Ruth and Ellis followed Kelp up the third floor, it was at the height where they could see the rooftops of other surrounding building. What Ellis found interesting were the oddly shaped spinning chimneys, steam billowing from it. There were also wild corals growing together with moss and fish silhouetted weathervanes.
It was the late afternoon.
They walked down a path alongside a low parapet. Kelp stopped upon a door, digging through his pouch, he took out a key. The door was unlocked with minimal noise.
"Wait here, I'll go ask about it," and Kelp entered.
Ellis leaned over the parapet, the wind brushed her face. The higher the altitude, the stronger the wind current. It had always been like this during her voyage with Curtis. Conversely, air at a low altitude, close to the caustic barrier, was thick and stifling.
Ellis let out a sigh. Kelp's situation reminded her of her own family for once.
A voice of contempt could be heard bursting forth from within the apartment.
Ruth strained her ears, it was most probably his mother, "Guests?! What guests? Can't you understand our situation right now?!"
"Mom please, at least let her check on dad's condition, maybe she can help."
"Since when did you learn to talk back!"
Then the place fell silent. Ruth stood outside the door unable to comprehend what had just happened. Ellis on the other hand shook her head a little sentimental.
'So this was another reason why.'
The door swung open, Kelp looked at Ruth, his mother's nagging still reverberating in the background.
"Can you really do this?" Kelp squeaked.
Ruth replied a little hesitant, "Yes," It had been weeks since she last practised the healing spell. So she wasn't all too confident in treating Kelp's father. The last time she used the spell was when a guild staff fell from the stairs, driving her head into the wall much like an ostrich— Fortunately, Ruth had been able to save her head from further bleeding, but, she lacked knowledge on how to treat the aftereffects to her mind..
The spell had been fabricated from the original recovery spell used by Curtis. The one Ruth held had been simplified. Because of this, Ruth brought together with her Curtis' Spellbook. He did not have it together with him back when he was 'kidnapped'.
Kelp's situation was a little troubling, so Ruth thought that Ellis should wait outside, to which she agreed.
Kelp reaffirmed his decision He proceeded to violate her mother's warning, for the better sake of his father.
From the living room, it branched into 3 other rooms and a corridor that led somewhere. There was an open square window opposite to the entrance. Ruth guessed that two of the rooms were bedrooms and past the corridor was where the kitchen laid.
Kelp's mother had her black-grey hair tied into a bun. A smile hung on her face, both hands overlapped, placed in front of her. Ruth wondered if she saw wrong-- her mouth twitched from time to time. Ruth greeted her, but she did not reply. A cold awkwardness spread in the room.
Ruth had heard of such treatment before-- the way parents treated their kids. If Ruth were to say honestly, this would be her first time witnessing a family conflict with her own two eyes.
Kelp held onto one of the door handles.
"Kelp," his mother still held her smile, speaking gently with a voice as sharp as a knife, "I'm warning you."
"Ruth, you go check on my dad's situation," Kelp ignored his mother.
Ruth nodded, with two spellbooks in hand, she entered. Kelp turned the lock on the door as soon as he entered, leaving his mother outside.
"Kelp, what.." a hoarse voice came from the direction of the bed. It was Kelp's father. He cut his words short when he saw Ruth.
He had to strain his neck quite a bit to look behind. Belly first on the bed, his shoulders were aching with bandages wrapped all over it.
"Mr Winster, was it? Good afternoon, my name is Ruth. I'll be attempting to treat your wounds today." She pulled over a chair.
Kelp with his back against the door.
"Kelp, what is this?" Winster noticed that in her hands were two spellbooks.
"She's going to try a recovery spell on you. Remember I told you about yesterday's ice incident? Ruth is his younger sister."
Winster widened his eyes.
"Kelp," looking at the blood present on the bandage, Ruth gulped "Do you have any extra bandages? Just in case."
"We do, it's on the shelf beside the table."
Ruth gazed in that direction, seeing the bandage in rolls, nodded, "Thank you, Kelp. Now, Mr Winster, I'll have to remove the bandage so please bear a bit."
"Are you sure such a thing is possible?" Winster had been in this miserable state over the past few days. His condition wasn't getting better either. Rather, he felt that his condition was worsening. If this continued, as afraid as he was to accept it, he would not survive. Even if his wounds were to heal, it didn't mean that he could return to work at a moment's notice either.
His eldest son took up the responsibility to replace Winster while his wife took unpaid leave to look after him. The financial burden of the family would only increase.
"If my brother were here, the chances are a hundred percent but…" Ruth unravelled the bandage, Winster groaned in pain, "I'll try my best."
Ruth had run through the original repertoire a few times before coming. And to be frank, she thought the essence of the spell was incredibly tricky to grasp. The simplified healing spell had rid of most of the significant tuning components, leaving only the essentials-- which was difficult in itself. Ruth could achieve the full effect of the simplified model of the spell without a problem.
However, the simplified model lacked control-- this was where the original version had to come in. Both spells were similar, the difference was in the additional notes and complex variable clauses. Control over the healing effect meant that it came with a range of possible alterations.
To put it in other words, the simplified model was general while the original model was precise and nuanced. Small wounds, big wounds or even the wounds of multiple people, depending on how one altered it, could be achieved by the original version of the spell.
What Ruth needed was to implement the area adjustment clause and fine control clause to her current mastery of the spell. She knew couldn't invoke the original spell, so she improvised— choosing certain areas to alter using the simplified model she had already mastered as the base.
Ruth's spellbook shone in a dazzling light. Twisting into strings, the green glow soothed the inflamed parts of Winster's shoulder.
Winster was surprised, he felt no pain, but a pleasantly cool sensation instead. It was different from putting ice on his back.
The inflammation was suppressed, with impurities like germs, dirt, and bloodied bandage pieces removed.
The next step.
Ruth swapped her spellbook for Curtis' one.
"Why do you have Curtis' spellbook?" Kelp realized that a while ago. If his spellbook was with Ruth, then where was Curtis? How could he have parted with his spellbook?
"It's complicated," Ruth didn't think Kelp should know, turning to the page where the recovery spell was located.
She took a deep breath, "Mr Winster, please bear with the pain for a while."
The real effect of the spell shouldn't hurt. But because Ruth was to use an altered version of the spell, there would be an imbalance. The pain mitigating effect would probably be diminished.
A golden glow weaved in red came upon his wound. Winster felt searing heat stretch from the top of his shoulder down to his lower torso. As if his entire body was struck down with a high fever, he imagined smoke rising from his back. Pangs of pain came in conjecture, he gritted his teeth, trying his utmost to endure the pain.
Kelp who observed from the side noticed that Ruth had her eyes closed. Her fluttery eyelashes, loose strands of hair that for some unknown reason fell back in front of her face.
'Her eyes are closed?'
This led Kelp to formulate a theory. This was a habit Kelp had seen Curtis doing too-- what kind of effects did it have? Normally, one would keep their eyes open at the repertoire. Could it be that they had already memorized it? Perhaps that was the key, to not reach the point of being able to evoke the spell but to thoroughly master it, to the point where it was no different than lifting a finger.
Kelp noticed sweat condensed at the tip of Ruth's nose, and the wound on his father magically closed up.
It was over.
Ruth let out a deep exhale. "It's shoddy work, so please don't move too much for a few days. Your body still needs to recuperate naturally."
Winster lifted his hand to touch his back. The sore feeling of heat remained but the wound disappeared. It actually disappeared!
He sat up, feeling his spine and ribs hurt from the many days of laying in the same posture, rotating his shoulder-blades he couldn't believe it was healed. He assumed her advice of 'don't move too much' referred to his job as a transporter.
And shoddy work? This impossible feat was shoddy work?!
"Thank you," Winster said in a low sincere tone. He had seen people healed by Angel Tears as a medium of recovery, but he felt that her magic outperformed even that.
"I just came over to help," Ruth smiled. If Winster learnt that he was to her, a practice dummy, she wondered how he would react. "Oh, also" Ruth fumbled through the pages of Curtis' spellbook and cast a light recovery spell on Winster. His body was enveloped with golden light for a moment before it disappeared.
Well-- Ruth couldn't maintain that spell unlike how Curtis could, even allowing Tia to leave light trails behind her.
'A little bit of this should help his recovery somewhat.'
"Kelp, where's Adrienne?" Winster, seeing as Ruth wasn't asking for any compensation, asked Kelp.
Kelp sighed and unlocked the door. At that moment, Adrienne burst through.
"Kelp you..." then her gaze landed at Winster, sitting up with his shoulder-- perfectly healed.
Kelp beckoned Ruth out of the room.
"Thank you," Kelp said sheepishly, "I'm sorry for my impulsive actions yesterday."
"It's fine, it would've been unusual if you didn't act that way. We are human beings that have emotions after all," Ruth headed straight for the exit.
"Wait, we haven't repaid you yet," Kelp saw that Ruth had already stepped out the door.
"Then repay me by not repaying me," Ruth then looked to the ceiling, recalling the chaos caused during the time she healed the ostrich girl who turned the action of planting her head in the wall a habit. "Or… don't let this news spread too far, have your parents keep it a secret if they want to repay me."
"But…" Kelp swallowed back his words. Even if she said no, he could always repay by sending her a present or something in the future. Honesty, if it weren't for those stupidly crazy spells Curtis had ever practised in front of him, his eyeballs would have fallen off seeing Ruth casting a recovery spell of such a high calibre "I understand, thank you."
Ruth nodded. "Ellis let's.."
Ellis was silently leaning over the parapet. Her hair dishevelled from the wind as her gaze continued past the vast kingdom, towards the boundary of the sky. Ruth called out to her a few more times, she didn't reply.
"Ellis," Ruth twisted her body to face her.
"Ah, um, it's all done?" Her expression was of a blank surprise.
Ruth furrowed her brows in worry, "Let's go," she pulled Ellis, "Kelp, we'll take our leave first."