Attie's screams rang through the hallway as Gourry cut the spell with his sword. Out of the corner of her eye, Lina saw Gourry and Zelgadis surround Attie as she continued to scream. Yet Lina had to ignore it so she could focus on protecting them from Xellos. The dissonance that resulted was painful. To not be able to comfort your child when they cried was the most unnatural thing in the world! Yet if she let her guard down again, Xellos could very well kill them all. And she had already been such a fool to hesitate!
"Ragna spear!" Lina cried as she impaled Xellos. It was a spell that she had discovered with her team while researching Chaos magic, and it was a weak version of the Ragna Blade, one she could cast without needing amplification. It was still powerful, about at the level of the Dragon Slave, and its range limited enough that she didn't have to worry about destroying the town with it.
Xellos cried out as she pinned him to the wall, obviously wounded but not dead. Lina fought to focus on her enemy, to block out Attie's screams as she frantically worked out what to do next when, from the door to the basement, Lina heard the rest of the group arrive. "No!" Min cried as she came up with Sylphiel and Rubia from the basement.
Lina felt some relief as from the corner of her eye she saw Sylphiel run to Attie. But then her attention turned to the feel of intense bloodlust and a tingle of electricity and she realized that Xellos was about to launch an attack on her. But suddenly Gourry was there, the Blast Sword raised, and then Xellos' eyes widened as he heard the spell that Min was chanting: the Ra Tilt. And before he could endure the triple combo of an attack from Lina, Gourry and Min, Xellos disappeared into the astral plane. "Damn!" Lina said.
And then, Lina spun around and ran to Attie, with Gourry and Min close beside her. Lina felt herself sway as she clung to Gourry for support, and her first thought was that there was no way Attie was going to survive this. Her left side of her body was charred, her arm gone, as was her foot, and the burns so deep that her bones were exposed at several places. Yet, somehow, her chest was moving up and down.
"What's going to happen to her?" Gourry asked.
"Let Sylphiel work." Lina said.
"Do you think he'll come back?" Min asked, as she looked as where Xellos had disappeared.
"He's going to rest for a bit most likely." Lina explained as she knelt down on the floor beside Attie, and exchanged a glance with Zelgadis, who was on Attie's other side, looking grief stricken.
"I have some salves that can help." Rubia said as she ran out of the room as Lina felt tears start to slide down her cheeks.
I can't go through this again.
"She'll be okay?" Gourry asked hopefully, "Sylphiel can heal her, right?"
"Burns are…tricky." Min eventually said.
"What does that mean?" Gourry asked.
Lina couldn't find the words the explain. But she thought of Zolf, who had to be wrapped in bandages for a week before he recovered from her spell. And Zolf was lucky. For some spells, the burns were just too severe to fully recover from. Her mind raced frantically. They could contact Nes! But then Lina remembered Milgasea's prosthetic arm. Which meant that there were injuries that not even a golden dragon could regenerate limbs from! What if Attie's wounds were that severe?
"What does that mean?" Gourry asked again in alarm as everyone watched Attie in teared silence, especially as the minutes passed with no noticeable change, "Min, can you help?"
Rubia returned holding a container. "What's in that?" Min asked.
Rubia told her, and Min and Rubia knelt down and started applying it to Attie's burns before they started to wrap them. Eventually Sylphiel stopped chanting, "I think this is as good as it is going to get for now." She said heavily, and Lina had to fight back a sob. This was the best that could be done for Attie!? "Fortunately her lungs weren't badly damaged and she can breathe on her own."
"But her wounds…" Zelgadis said as he wiped the tears from his face as he looked at Attie's burnt and charred body.
"We're just going to have to wait and see." Sylphiel said as she started to help Rubia and Min with wrapping them. "But I've seldom seen injuries like this. Whatever he hit her with is preventing her body from healing like it should."
"Is she going to be an invalid?" Lina asked as she looked at Attie's arm and leg. She simply could not see how Attie would be able to walk or cast spells again.
"I don't know." Sylphiel said chillingly.
Zelgadis wiped the tears from his face once more as Gourry placed Attie on the bed in a guest room Rubia had taken them to. Sylphiel, Rubia and Min had slathered her in ointment and wrapped her in bandages so that she was essentially unrecognizable. Lina raced to her side and held Attie's good hand and said something quietly to her, but Zelgadis wasn't sure if Attie could hear her. She still had not waken up. Sylphiel pulled up the blankets around her and exchanged a look with Rubia as Min went over and wrapped her arms around Lina, and Gourry in turn wrapped his arms around the two of them.
Zelgadis pulled up a chair on Attie's other side and sat close to her as Sylphiel and Rubia left the room. There were serious matters to discuss, but at the moment, no one was in the mood for it. Zelgadis couldn't even bring himself to care about what was happening with Nigel. Zelgadis looked at Attie's shoulder, where her arm was now gone, and felt the fear rise within him.
Slowly the hours passed. When morning came Rubia and Sylphiel returned to help Min change her bandages. When they removed them Zelgadis had to do his best to keep from gasping in disgust. "What do you think?" Lina asked Sylphiel.
Sylphiel shook her head, "I'm not liking how this is healing. Especially since I can't get her to generate new skin."
"I could try taking some skin samples and then I can produce more skin and use them to try to graft them on her." Rubia suggested, "Once I get my lab fixed, that is."
"Huh?" Gourry asked as Min put her hand over her mouth.
"Xellos tried to destroy a lot of what was in my lab. And of course he released Nigel." Rubia explained, "I can fix it up, though. And then I can try to generate new skin, even a new arm and a leg, graft it over the damaged parts."
Gourry shook his head, "That sounds crazy!"
Sylphiel pursed her lips, "It may work. But some of these burns go down to her bones. You'd have to generate muscle as well."
"We could make a copy and then transfer her memories to the copy." Rubia suggested.
"Attie would never agree to that." Min said.
"Let's see what she says when she wakes up." Lina added, her voice unusually lifeless.
It was late in the afternoon when Attie started stirring, and Zelgadis broke down into tears once more. He had been so scared she'd never wake up, that he'd never get to tell her. But finally her good eye fluttered open, and she looked around the strange room in confusion. "What happened?" she asked weakly.
"You were hit by a powerful spell." Lina explained as she stroked her cheek. "You're recovering now."
"How bad is it?" she asked.
Silence filled the room as everyone looked at each other uncomfortably. Attie sat up in alarm, and Lina finally said as she gently pressed her back to the bed, "We don't know yet."
"But what sort of injuries do I have?" she asked.
"Let's talk about it another time." Gourry said.
"I want to know now!" Attie persisted.
"You have a lot of burns on the left side of your body." Min explained. "They're resistant to healing spells. We're working with salves and potions and seeing what results. But it will take time to heal."
"What do you mean resistant to healing? And seeing what results with salves and potions?" Attie asked, panicking.
Min closed her eyes, "We don't even know, yet, honey. Don't worry about it right now, just think about getting better."
Attie tried to push herself up again, but suddenly realized that she had the use of only one arm, "What happened to my arm? Is it gone?"
Gourry looked at Lina hopelessly as she said, "We're going to try to do a prosthetic."
"I won't be able to cast spells with that!" Attie shot back.
"We don't know that. I know someone who could cast spells with a prosthetic. We're going to do everything we can to get you back into top shape!" Lina said firmly. "We've contacted Nes, we'll see about getting you to Saillune, we are going to fight this together!"
Attie collapsed back onto the bed as though the news was too overwhelming. After a few moments she whispered, "Get out."
Her family shared a glance, "Let's give her some time." Min said cautiously.
"We'll check on you in a few minutes." Gourry said softly.
"Can I say one thing to you alone before I go, Attie?" Zelgadis asked quietly.
"Quickly." Attie gritted.
From across the room, Lina caught his eye, and he could detect the whiff of hurt her and I'll kill you in her gaze. Still, she left with Gourry and Min, and Zelgadis moved so he was on Attie's good side and she could see him. It was difficult to get a read on what she was feeling with her face so heavily bandaged, though when he grabbed her hand she held it. "Hey." He said softly.
"What is it you want?" She replied, her voice taunt and dangerous.
"To apologize." He said.
"For what?" she asked.
"For being such an ass about settling down and having kids." He explained.
Attie stared at him in silence for a moment, "I wasn't expecting you to say that."
She gave a hollow laugh, "No one would blame you for not wanting anything to do with me now."
"No, Attie. Damn, do you think so little of me?"
"Well I'm certainly never going to be able to give you kids like this. Much less be able to do the thing that makes kids. And forget ever feeling pretty again!"
Zelgadis squeezed his eyes shut, "I don't care about that anymore. Look, when that spell hit you my world shattered. For a moment I thought that there was no way you were going to survive it, and I felt devastated. Because in addition to losing you, it hit me that I lost time I could have had with you over this. These past six years we could have been together, but we weren't because I was too stubborn about settling down."
"Hey," she said, "I never blamed you for it. You'd spent so long looking for your cure and putting those things off, it made sense that you wouldn't want to wait anymore."
"Right now, I think I'm going to regret not being with you more than never having children." Zelgadis said, "I realize now, I want to be with you, no matter what. I just wish it hadn't taken something like this to wake me up."
Attie was silent for a moment, and when she spoke her voice was shaky, "That's sweet of you, but I don't want to burden you with me."
"You wouldn't be a burden." He said.
She turned away from him, and her body started to tremble as sobs ran through them. "Hey," he said as he gently put a hand on her back, but was scared to do more, scared that the pressure would hurt her. "I'm here. And I'm going to stay here. I love you."
Lina was exhausted as Rubia lead her and Gourry to another guest room. Attie had cried herself to sleep and was out of immediate danger. Zel was insisting on staying with her so that Gourry, Min and herself could get some rest. And they needed the rest. Having the energy to go for days without sleep was something Lina did not have anymore. As she got older, she could tolerate it less and less. Still, at least she could sleep knowing for now at least, Attie was okay. And, should the worst happen and Attie's body refuse to heal, then Lina would make a copy and force her consciousness into it, consequences be damned. She was not losing another child.
Once again, she fingered her necklace and looked at Rubia. She had so many questions to ask her, but right now she was too tired to make her mouth work to ask them. Finally they came to a room, and Rubia opened the door. Lina and Gourry nodded their thanks and were about to go in when Rubia stopped them, "I know the timing is horrible, but I was wondering, what do you plan to do about Nigel?"
Lina looked at her for a moment as Gourry put an arm around her shoulder. Finally Lina said, "Nigel is your problem."
Lina closed the door, and she and Gourry walked over to the bed, too tired to even change their clothes as they collapsed on it. Gourry looked at her and asked, "Can we really sit this one out?"
Lina felt as though her brain were simply too tired to work, "I don't want to lose anyone else. Of course, but not doing anything, we risk losing everyone else. But then in that case, I wouldn't be aware of what I was missing, would I?"
Lina expected him to say something to snap her out of it or ignite her fighting spirit. Instead he quietly wrapped his arms around her as he started to weep.