Page 14 of 14 FirstFirst ... 121314
Results 131 to 139 of 139

Thread: [M] What Once Was Lost [Namingtoohard & Ashen]

  1. #131
    Mistborn
    Namingtoohard's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2014
    Location
    Australia
    Posts
    3,465
    Mentioned
    19 Post(s)
    Rep Power
    321

    Default

    Natalie never saw the strike from the pistol coming. Not truly. The professor changed tactics and swung it at her head so suddenly that she didn’t realise what was happening until it was too late. Instinct alone urged her to pull back, to try and twist out of the way, but it wasn’t enough. The cold steel of the gun’s handle struck Natalie’s temple with enough sheer force to make her head snap back again. It was enough to make her release her grip on Dr. V unwillingly, and stumble back a few small steps.

    Oddly enough, Natalie didn’t feel any pain at first. In fact, she didn’t realise that she’d been hit at all. She was too preoccupied with the way her hearing seemed to fade, and her vision started to swim. It exploded into a random assortment of shapes and colours, only loosely related to what she was actually seeing. The strike, delivered to such a sensitive area, had robbed her of the mental acuity necessary to make such an obvious connection. Natalie had no idea that her balance was failing, or that her limbs weren’t responding the way she thought. She had no idea that there was a disconnect between her mind and her body at all. She had no idea that the professor was yelling at her, or pointing the gun at her properly now.

    Natalie didn’t realise any of these things until several moments later, when her brain finished rebooting, and her awareness finally started to return. When the sound of the fire alarm began to start up again, and the strange shapes she was seeing began to form recognisable objects again. The pain was quick to follow, sharp and bright. Debilitating in its intensity. Against her own better judgement, Natalie raised a hand to her temple. The slightest brush of her fingers made the pain intensify so much it felt like her head was splitting open, and she wasn’t surprised at all when her hand came away bloody. Only afterwards did she remember Luuk, and the professor. Remember the imminent danger they were in. Even so, it took her much too long to muster up the willpower necessary to bury the pain. To shove it to the back of her mind, and focus on her surroundings again.

    The first thing her gaze settled on was the professor. Dr. V stood just a few paces away, not far from where they’d been struggling earlier. His expression was free of the malice and condescension that Natalie had come to expect. Gone was the naked hatred that had haunted her for years, replaced by empty confusion. It was a look Natalie was uncomfortably familiar with. The expression of someone who had just had their memories wiped, and hadn’t been given any replacements. The fact that Dr. V had dropped his gun and wasn’t making any effort to retrieve it seemed to confirm her growing suspicions. Hope blossomed inside her, unfurling like a flower. Luuk had done it, somehow.

    Luuk. As soon as his name passed through her mind, Natalie’s priorities shifted. Her growing relief was smothered by the urgent, almost frantic need to find him. It didn’t take her long. Natalie turned, and there he was, lying on the floor nearby. She rushed over as fast as her body would carry her. Fell to her knees alongside his prone form, paying no mind to the blood, and the stains it would leave. The expression on his face was oddly serene, but there was no mistaking the growing pool of red, or the ragged hole the bullet had left. Natalie didn’t need to look to know it was bad, but she did anyway, and the sight was enough to make her breath catch in her throat.

    No. No. She couldn’t lose Luuk. Not now. Not so close to the end. He had just managed to win them their freedom singlehandedly, and this was his reward? That wasn’t fair. It hadn’t been fair to Tess, and it wasn’t fair to him. She had to do something. Think of a solution. There was nobody else around except Dr. V, and he wasn’t going to be helping anyone, so it had to be her. What could she do? First Aid wouldn’t be enough, but she couldn’t use her magic to heal him. Better mages than she had tried, back when magic had still been commonplace, but the human body was simply too complex. It was infinitely easier to break it than to fix it.

    Natalie realised that she was starting to panic, and forced herself to take a deep breath. Luuk didn’t have much time, but she wouldn’t be able to help him at all if she lost control. Once she’d forced herself to adopt a semblance of calm, she began to think through her options. The university was bound to have a first aid kit nearby – they were required to keep one on the premises by law – but she had no idea where it was. She stuffed her hand into her pockets, began rifling through the abundance of markers in search of her phone, when her fingers found something else. Her last contingency plan. The final ace up her sleeve, taken from the little wooden box that she’d been protecting all this time.

    The answer came to Natalie suddenly. Realisation struck like lightning. There was a way she could use magic to save him. She couldn’t use it to heal him, but she could give herself the skills necessary to tend to his wounds. She had everything she needed within easy reach, and it would only take a few seconds of preparation. The personal cost would be extreme, but it didn’t compare to Luuk’s life. It was an afterthought, a bridge she’d cross when she got to it. If Luuk survived, then Natalie would be perfectly happy to deal with the consequences. If not…well, at least she could rest easy, knowing that she’d done all she could.

    Feeling oddly at peace now that she had made her decision, Natalie withdrew her final trump card from her pocket. At a glance, it didn’t look like anything special – a lump of clay roughly the same size and shape as a cork, fired to hold its shape. Up close, however, its true purpose was revealed. Carved into its surface were dozens of sigils, all woven together flawlessly. Most of them were too small to understand without a magnifying glass, but Natalie knew their meanings as well as she knew her own hands. Hardly a surprise, considering that she’d carved them herself. It was the most complex piece of magic she’d ever created. A veritable masterwork, designed with a single purpose in mind – to alter her own personal history. For all their planning, she’d never considered using it like this.

    Natalie wasted no time in pulling a pen from her pocket. With the stamp held gently in one hand, she pressed the tip into the clay with the other. A few marks, hastily scratched into its surface, were all she needed. Lines that would change the original purpose of her sigils slightly, and dictate the path that her new past would take. Natalie’s ever-steady hands served her well, and after just a brief moment of inspection, she found herself satisfied. Then she took a deep breath, and rolled up one of her sleeves. Before she could start to hesitate, second-guess her chosen course or her work, she jammed the stamp into her arm.

    Visually, the effect was similar to what Luuk had done to the professor a few moments ago. The marks began to unwind themselves into Natalie’s skin, but she didn’t notice. Her attention was focused inwards, and the experience proved to be a strange one. She could feel the new memories forming in her mind. They unfurled one after another, as if she were living an entire second life in an instant. As if she’d already lived this life, and simply forgotten about it before now. Most of the new memories were clearly incompatible with her old ones, but Natalie still felt like they belonged to her. The logical part of her mind knew that these new memories were fake, that she’d just implanted them into herself, but the rest of her insisted they were real.

    Within these new memories, Natalie found a life in which she’d been born without magical powers. A life in which she’d gone to medical school instead of studying magic. She could recall the knowledge from her lessons, from her time spent working at the hospital, as easily as breathing. Knowledge that she could use to save Luuk. As soon as the disorientation began to fade, she turned her attention to him good and proper, and put it to work.

    The blood is pooling beneath him, which suggests an exit wound. The trauma is to his chest, so there’s a big risk of internal organ damage, too. Nothing I can do about that now. The wound might be seal-sucking, so I’ll have to be careful. The last thing he needs is a collapsed lung on top of everything else.

    Natalie’s mind rattled off the details and reminded her of important steps almost automatically. Her hands had lost the practiced stillness of a master craftsman, but now she moved with the calm precision of a medical expert, driven by a lifetime of muscle memory. Without missing a beat, she stripped off her jumper and used it to put pressure on the wound, and used the sleeves to bind it as best she could. It was sloppy, but the best she was going to manage without access to proper medical supplies.

    Another presence tickled Natalie’s awareness while she was working. She looked up to see that an elderly lady and a young male student had arrived. They both hovered nearby, looking on with horrified expressions. Had the fire alarm brought them here? Had they really only been fighting for a few minutes? Stop. That wasn’t important right now. Natalie quickly called out towards them, ordered the elderly lady to call an ambulance, and the student to bring her the first aid kit. She wasn’t sure if it was the commanding tone of her voice or just the human instinct to help urging them on, but both hurried to obey.

    Once they were off, Natalie turned her attention back to her student. He was pale, but that was only to be expected, with so much blood loss. Determined to get him in the recovery position and start tending to the wound on his back, she began repositioning one of his legs and both of his arms. At the same time, she began to speak. Natalie doubted he was responsive, but a little reassurance cost her nothing.

    “Can you still hear me, Luuk? You’re going to be just fine. You’re in good hands, and I’ve seen people walk away from worse.” Any other time, that claim would’ve made Natalie pause. She had never actually seen anything of the sort – it was her new memories, still playing havoc with her mind. Against her own better judgement, she embraced the sensation. The skills this mental disparity offered were the only thing keeping Luuk alive right now, and she still had more work to do. She’d worry about the ramifications later, along with everything else, once he was stable.

    When the student arrived with the first aid kit, Natalie asked him to set it down alongside her and unroll it. Without missing a beat, she ordered him to help roll Luuk onto his side, and then reached for her new supplies. While her co-opted assistant tried to put pressure on Luuk’s wounds, she set about using the bandages and dressings to patch up the exit wound on his back. When she was done with that, she set about replacing her bloodstained jumper with a proper dressing, too. Her hands were coated Luuk’s blood, wet and sticky enough to hamper her, but Natalie worked tirelessly, until she had done all that she could. Even then, there was no rest. She began a secondary assessment, methodically searching for any less-obvious injuries he might have that she could treat.

    When the police cars and ambulances finally got close enough for their sirens to cut through constant buzz of the fire alarms, Natalie felt nothing but relief.

  2. #132
    The Ashen One
    Ashen's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Location
    A land that smells of sunflowers
    Favourite Roleplay Genres
    medieval fantasy, adventure, psychological
    Posts
    5,575
    Mentioned
    17 Post(s)
    Rep Power
    97

    Default

    The first thing Luuk felt when he woke up was an ungodly cold. Bumps spread across his skin like a rumbling herd, and the thin sheet over his body wasn’t doing much to stop them. If he dared to open his eyes, he was sure he would be able to see his breath wisp around him. The next thing Luuk felt once he’d acknowledged the cold was the excruciating pain. His chest erupted in an agonizing sensation that blinded him, and he was sure he’d been ripped open and left to bleed out. He twisted in his bed, trying and failing to soothe the anger in his body. The third thing Luuk felt as he wrestled with his sanity was confusion. Why was he in a bed at all, and where was he, and why was he alive?

    Luuk shot up, and the frantic action sent new, sharp pains coursing through his blood. He nearly tore out his own IV with the sudden movement, and that caused him to look to the tubes coming out of his skin. They led to an empty sac by his bed, which was suspended by a machine beeping steadily. He was in a hospital. His painkillers had worn off, because he could hardly hear himself over the burning beats of his own heart. With consciousness only dull white noise to the booming of his pain, Luuk blindly reached for something, anything, a remote, a button, to call a nurse to his side.

    When they arrived at his room, they regarded him with cautious grey eyes. “You’re awake,” they breathed, their voice light with their relief. “Oh,” they said, looking beside Luuk to his emptied bag. “Let’s get you something for that pain.” The nurse was quick to replace his drip, and they spoke with him all the while. They were too soft-spoken—or he was in too much pain—for him to hear them, but he appreciated having someone with him while his body trembled. They promised him they would be back soon, and then they left, and Luuk was alone again to try and figure out what had happened.

    Within just a few minutes, the pain was easing up, and Luuk could think far more clearly. He remembered what had happened, how he and Natalie had met with her keeper, with his professor, and how he had held them both at gunpoint. How Luuk had been forced to wipe his memories, but not before Dr. V had shot him. The pain that came over him then, and the peace—it should have been fatal. It was fatal. So why was he here now? Luuk couldn’t have gotten to the hospital before he bled out, even if Dr. Hansen had called for an ambulance. He cursed himself for passing out when he had, for not remembering more. Luuk had spent his whole adolescence and adulthood failing to remember, and this was another grievance, another thing that stoked the anger within him. He needed to know what happened.

    He needed to talk with Natalie.

    When the nurse arrived with a doctor by their side, Luuk was ready with an onslaught of questions. The medical professionals refused to give him answers until after they’d conducted their tests and confirmed his condition was stable, and then they told him what they felt he should know. Natalie was fine; she was here at the hospital too, being looked over by another doctor and being asked questions, endless questions, about what had happened, about the criminal who’d threatened them, about how she’d saved his life with only the shoddy tools available to her and a lifetime of medical know-how—

    Luuk’s brows creased, and he stared quizzically at the nurse who’d been speaking. Natalie was a doctor? She had never mentioned anything of the sort. Was that the excuse she was telling people so that she didn’t yet have to disclose her magic? Had she healed him with her magic? Luuk didn’t know how such a thing was possible. His mind reeled with possibilities, but the blooming migraine that his racing thoughts formed sent him back to his pillow, flinching. There was no point in guessing. He’d need to talk directly with Natalie to find out what had happened.

    But before he could do that, he had questions of his own to answer. After the doctor and nurse left the room, Luuk was visited by a couple of police officers. They wanted to hear his account of what had happened back in Luzerne Hall, but Luuk explained that his memory was too spotty, and that he was presently too groggy, so they determined Luuk wasn’t going to be much help in their case. With promises to return later, the officers left the room.

    Luuk didn’t know how to get a hold of Natalie. He didn’t know where his phone was, or where anything was; he’d been stripped of his bloody clothes and put into this thin hospital gown that left him shivering. He found a blanket in the corner of the room and wrapped himself in it, then tried to untangle the IV from his arm. He was fine, he told himself, and he was eager to find Natalie. Waiting around in this room without answers would hurt far more than any amount of walking around in his state, so bundled in his blanket and shaking, he left his room in search of his teacher.

    He didn’t get far. A couple of nurses stopped him and ignored his pleas to let him go, returning him to his bed and reconnecting him to the machines. They would get Natalie for him, they promised, and so he waited, trying not to work himself up too much, and dying to know how she had saved his life.
    Thanks to Craze for the beautiful Bravely set!

    ~Recruitment Thread~
    Spoiler: Ashen's Personal Hall of Fame 

  3. #133
    Mistborn
    Namingtoohard's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2014
    Location
    Australia
    Posts
    3,465
    Mentioned
    19 Post(s)
    Rep Power
    321

    Default

    Muffled footsteps and the gentle murmur of quiet conversation was all the warning Luuk got before the nurse made her reappearance. They peered into the room through the narrow vertical window set into the door, their gaze quickly settling upon him. Once they'd confirmed that he hadn’t slipped back into unconsciousness whilst they'd been gone, the nurse reached for the handle. They pushed the door open wide, revealing more of the hallway beyond. There, standing just a few paces behind them, was Natalie.

    Luuk’s mentor was dressed in a thin hospital gown, identical to his own in every regard but the size. As if that wasn’t enough to make her status as a patient clear, there was a thin, plastic medical bracelet wrapped around her left wrist. A single glance at her face was enough to deduce the nature of her ailment, too. A good portion of the skin on her face had turned various shades of red and purple, starting around her cheekbone and climbing up towards her temple. The splotchy mess looked less like one giant bruise and more like a handful of smaller ones, so close together that the edges had started to blur. A handful of parting gifts, left behind by Dr. Vetere in his final lucid moments.

    When Natalie saw Luuk lying there, tucked into one of the hospital’s beds, something inside her seemed to break. “Thank goodness you’re okay.” Her voice cracked when she spoke, even as her eyes started to water. She rushed through the open doorway, brushing past the nurse as if they no longer existed in her hurry to read Luuk’s bedside. She stopped herself just moments before she got close enough to try embrace Luuk, when common sense finally prevailed. After all they’d been through, the last thing she wanted was for her enthusiasm to make him pop a stitch.

    As she looked Luuk over, a checklist sprang to the front of Natalie’s mind unbidden. A list of things that that she should be doing, like checking his IV, or his heart monitor. Questions that she was supposed to ask. Possible complications and preventative measures. More medical knowledge that Natalie hadn’t earned, courtesy of her new memories. She did the best to ignore it. Shoved the knowledge far down, into the deepest recesses of her mind, and forced herself to focus on what was really important.

    “I’m so sorry that I didn’t come and visit you sooner. I tried to, but the doctors insisted on putting me through everything from SCAT5 to a CT. I tried to tell them I was fine, but they-“ It wasn’t long before Natalie realised she was babbling about things Luuk probably didn’t care about, and cut herself off. In addition to the jargon that inadvertently crept into her speech, her new medical knowledge also pointed out that they’d only been acting in her best interests, but Natalie had chosen to ignore that little tidbit of information. Just like she was ignoring the nurse’s eyes, which she could feel drilling into her from the other side of the room. She stood there awkwardly for a moment, her hand fidgeting idly, before she finally turned her attention back to the nurse properly.

    “Can you please give us a moment?” The nurse seemed to hesitate, much to Natalie’s displeasure, but only for a moment. She held the their gaze until they nodded their assent.

    “I’ll be waiting just outside the door if you need me.” With those parting words, the nurse slipped from the room, pulling the door shut behind them. Natalie’s attention lingered there for just a moment longer, before a sigh slipped from her lips. Before she could stop herself, the former mage collapsed into the plain, plastic visitor’s chair that sat alongside Luuk’s bed. She’d take in the sight of him for a moment as she tried to gather herself, collect her thoughts, until she finally trusted herself enough to speak.

    “How are you feeling?”

    This time her voice was softer. Gentle. They weren’t quite the right words, the ones Natalie felt like she desperately needed to say, but they were closer than her first attempt had been. They felt like the proper ones for this situation, at least, and that was a good start. Besides, while the nurses had assured her that Luuk would be fine, and she could see him awake in his bed, another part of Natalie needed to hear it from his own lips. Hear him say anything that suggested he would be alright. Only then would she be able to breathe again, and consider what came next.

    A part of her knew that he was probably extremely confused right now. Practically bursting at the seams with questions, if past experiences were anything to judge by. Natalie was determined to give them to him, too, no matter how long it took. She owed him that much, at the very least. It seemed better to let him pick where he wanted to start, though, instead of just launching into an explanation. A part of her couldn’t help but feel amused by the notion. Even now, she was filling him in. That was an aspect of their relationship that never seemed to change. That small amusement helped keep her mood up slightly, whilst she waited for his answer.
    Last edited by Namingtoohard; 04-16-2022 at 08:09 AM.

  4. #134
    The Ashen One
    Ashen's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Location
    A land that smells of sunflowers
    Favourite Roleplay Genres
    medieval fantasy, adventure, psychological
    Posts
    5,575
    Mentioned
    17 Post(s)
    Rep Power
    97

    Default

    It felt like an entire eternity had passed before a nurse finally returned to Luuk’s room, and when they did, Luuk was sitting up immediately and looking behind them. Sure enough, they had brought Natalie with them, though she looked much different than the last time Luuk had seen her. Her face, once a canvas of warm hues, was a sickly shade, and where her skin wasn’t pallid it was alive with bursts or red and purple. He wanted to reach out and move her hair away from her bruises, but he thought better of it, not wanting to accidentally hurt her. Her pale hospital gown seemed to swallow her, making her appear too small, and when she spoke, her strained, pained voice broke his heart.

    Luuk shifted when she started coming towards him, as if to make room for her on the bed, but Natalie seemed to decide against it, and instead she took up residence in the chair across from him. He noticed the tears in her eyes, and he wondered, if their roles had been reversed, how much differently this would have played out. If Natalie would have been dead because of him. He swallowed the thought. The important thing was that they were both here. Alive. That Dr. V had been taken care of, and that they were safe. Still, that didn’t quell the burning questions he still had for her.

    He reached for her hand, but the sudden action tugged at his IVs, and he winced at the pinch against his skin. Shaking it off, Luuk turned to Natalie and listened to her. She wasn’t making much sense; she was talking as if she were a doctor. Like someone who had always been a doctor. It felt weird, coming from her, but Luuk thought back to what the nurse had told him. Natalie had saved him because of a background in medicine. He just couldn’t understand why it had never come up before. Back in their first motel room, after their altercation with one of Dr. V’s goons, Natalie had patched up the wound in his back without too much issue. Even then, he could tell that wasn’t her first time treating a wound, but she didn’t move with the practiced grace of a medical professional. Maybe that was unfair; after all, she’d just had her apartment blown up and was running for her life. Anyone would be frazzled because of that. Luuk tried to think of any other time Natalie’s background might have come up, but no matter how hard he focused on their past conversations, he couldn’t think of a single time when she’d mentioned her work.

    His mind was still reeling, and he was groggy from the medicine he was on, so he didn’t know how to form his questions. He also didn’t know how to ask about their magic with the nurse still in the room, so he was thankful when Natalie politely asked them to go away. Finally alone, Luuk let out a sigh. His mind was trying to piece together this puzzle alone while battling a migraine, and it wasn’t working. Her question, however, pulled him out of his own head. “I’m fine,” he replied automatically, but he hesitated. There was no need to lie anymore. “It hurts like a bitch,” he amended, a small smile coming over his lips. “The painkillers are helping, but my head’s still pounding, and my chest…” His fingers fluttered to his heart, to where his bandages bulged the most under his gown. Luuk shook his head and turned his attention back to Natalie.

    “How are you?” he asked. He wondered if he looked just as bad as she did. They’d been in a life-threatening battle, after all, and the reality of that was creeping in slowly. He didn’t want to think about it. His gaze trailed to her arms, to the plastic bracelet around her wrist. To her bare arms. Luuk cocked his head, then looked at his own arms. A lot of his markings had been rubbed away, likely during whatever procedures the doctors had run once he’d arrived at the hospital, but he could still make out the faint outlines of his etchings, his symbols, the marks he had made to perform his magic. The same marks that should have been on Natalie’s arms, too. Yet, as if by magic, they had been unwritten, and Luuk sat there staring for several long moments. Had she scrubbed the marks away to hide them from the doctors? Luuk hadn’t been a mage for very long, but he’d been practicing magic long enough to know that those lines wouldn’t have come out that easily. Natalie had used permanent marker, hadn’t she…?

    Luuk sat up straighter, his questions multiplying within him. He felt ready to burst from the pressure of them, so before Natalie could even answer his last question, he blurted, “What happened?” He motioned towards his arms, his chest, all around them, as his confusion burned in his gaze. “I remember using magic to wipe Dr. V’s memories, but after that… He shot me, Natalie. I should be dead. How… how did you save me?” His eyes were trained on hers as his thoughts poured out. “Why did the nurse tell me you were a doctor? And now you’re talking like one, but that’s never come up before, and it seems a weird thing to keep from me—doesn’t it?—and I thought we’d trusted each other, because I gave up my life to be here with you, and…” Luuk’s voice trailed, and he turned away, focusing on the patterned tiles on the floor.

    It wasn’t fair of him to overwhelm her like this, and his cheeks warmed with his embarrassment. He’d always been a curious, overeager thing, but now wasn’t the time, and he knew. He tried to shift gears, thinking instead about what would happen now. If Dr. V really was taken care of, were his goons still out there? Were they still in danger? Would they still have to live in hiding? No, Luuk refused to go back to such a life, but what did that leave for the two of them? He wondered if magic could be brought to more people. Surely there were more like him, mages who had forgotten their birthright, mages they could visit and learn from and teach. How would the world react to them?

    Luuk hesitated, then decided on one more question to ask: “What’s going to happen now?”
    Thanks to Craze for the beautiful Bravely set!

    ~Recruitment Thread~
    Spoiler: Ashen's Personal Hall of Fame 

  5. #135
    Mistborn
    Namingtoohard's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2014
    Location
    Australia
    Posts
    3,465
    Mentioned
    19 Post(s)
    Rep Power
    321

    Default

    The way that Luuk backpedaled over his answer was enough to earn a half-hearted chuckle from Natalie, despite…well, everything. Their current circumstances, and their respective conditions. Painkillers were wonderful things. Natalie knew that both from recent first-hand experience, and her newfound medical knowledge. They didn’t work miracles, though, and Luuk trying to claim that he felt so well after such a serious incident definitely stretched the limits of her imagination. Besides, there was no shame in admitting you felt a little worse for wear after surviving such a severe injury. When he returned the question, Natalie didn’t have to think about her answer for long.

    “Well, I don’t think I’ll be attending any parties any time soon.” As she spoke, Natalie raised a hand to the bruises on her face, as if to drive home the point. She brushed her fingers against the tender skin there and winced at the spike of pain that her body offered in response, predictable as it was. “It stings like hell, but I don’t thing I can complain too much. Out of the three of us, I definitely got off lightest. I don’t want to think about how much worse it might’ve been if you hadn’t saved the day.”

    Once Luuk began to bombard her with questions, Natalie waited for him to finish patiently, a small smile flickering across her features. She had known this moment was coming, that it had only been a matter of time until he’d be unable to contain himself any longer. The situation held an air of familiarity, even if the rest of their circumstances had changed, and Natalie welcomed it. She responded in her usual manner, content to let him finish, and then answer all of his queries at once. When he asked how she had managed to save him, though, a hint of sadness crept into her expression. Not because of the question itself, but because answering it would require her to admit something she’d been desperately trying to forget. She’d do it anyway, of course. She was done lying to Luuk for her own benefit.

    When the last of the questions had flowed out, and Luuk had relapsed back into silence, Natalie found herself pondering the best way to explain. She wanted Luuk to understand what she had done to herself, but some of the specifics were technical. Complicated, beyond what she’d taught him so far. Once it became apparent that there was no real way to soften the blow, Natalie decided that the direct approach was best. They could worry about the details later.

    “I wasn’t a doctor when we walked into the university, Luuk, but I am now. After Dr. V shot you, I used magic to rewrite my own history. Gave myself the medical expertise I needed to save you, at the cost of my magic.”

    There. She’d said it. Finally admitted to the loss that she’d been trying so hard to bury. The knowledge that she’d never work her craft again was more painful than her physical wounds could ever hope to be. The magic’s absence was a gaping void in her chest, one that Natalie suspected she’d never manage to fill. The irony was that it was some of the best work she’d ever done, too. She’d taken an incredibly complex sigil, altered while under duress, without the proper tools, and it had worked flawlessly. Back in the olden days, such a feat would’ve branded her one of the all-time greats. Now, she couldn’t even muster up the willpower to brag about it.

    Luuk would have more questions, Natalie knew. He’d want to know how, or why, or figure out some other angle to take. Even knowing that, she pushed onwards, and started to answer his other queries. A way of distancing herself from the topic, if only momentarily.

    “As for what happens now…well, that’s up to the cops, I suppose. They told me that they have Dr. V in custody, but he’s claiming that he doesn’t remember his own name, much less the incident itself. They’ve concluded that he must’ve banged his head when you tackled him, causing some sort of memory loss. Naturally, I didn’t feel the need to correct them.” Natalie leaned back in her seat a little as she spoke, fingers laced together in her lap. This part was easier to talk about, at the very least. “I don’t know if they intend to prosecute, or if they’ll end up putting him in some sort of specialised care. Frankly, I’m not sure it matters. Either way, he won’t have to worry about him ever again.”

    Then, despite everything, Natalie smiled. It looked a little shaky, but there was no doubting its authenticity. “Our plan worked, Luuk. Not in the way we intended, maybe, but we got our wish. We can both go home again. Go back to our lives. The nightmare is finally over. We’re free.” The tears finally started to spill over then, leaving two wet trails down both of Natalie’s cheeks. She tried to wipe them away with the back of her hand, but there was no stopping them now. Truth be told, she wasn’t entirely sure if they were tears of mourning, or of celebration. It didn’t matter. After everything they’d been through in the past few hours, the past few weeks, she could forgive herself for getting a little bit emotional. Just this once.

  6. #136
    The Ashen One
    Ashen's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Location
    A land that smells of sunflowers
    Favourite Roleplay Genres
    medieval fantasy, adventure, psychological
    Posts
    5,575
    Mentioned
    17 Post(s)
    Rep Power
    97

    Default

    No sooner had Natalie finished her explanation for why things were so weird lately did Luuk’s brain instantly reject her words. Magic can’t do that, he wanted to say, but he stopped himself to wonder why he thought that. Why couldn’t it? And besides, what other explanation was there for why he was even still alive? It Natalie had somehow used her own magic to make herself a trained doctor with a lifetime of medical knowledge, than what the nurse had told him earlier would make sense. The idea that their magic could even do such a thing brought up countless possibilities, all exciting in their own right. But… Luuk looked back at his hands and the pale marks stretching up his arms. If Natalie had rewritten her own magic… He turned to her, his brows creasing. If Natalie didn’t have her magic anymore, then what did that leave for her? For him? For the future of all mages?

    Luuk turned away, a million new things racing through his mind. He thought back to the first time he’d visited Natalie in her apartment, her vast collection of antiques, of projects that she had worked on with her magic. From that alone, Luuk knew her magic was important to her, but there was so much more to it than that. It was in the way she had looked at him the first time, so long ago, when she’d shown him that mug that she’d fixed and recolored right before his eyes. It was in the subsequent times when her magic had worked exactly how she’d wanted it to, and the self-satisfied grin she always wore after a session of practice. It was in the pride she felt for her student whenever he got his magic right—or, mostly right—and the hope she’d held for a future filled with more little successes. It was clear from watching her; magic had been central to Natalie’s life, even after she had lost everything because of it. And she had given it all up—just to save him.

    He didn’t know how to feel. Undoubtedly, the spell Natalie had used to do this must have been one of the most complicated ones in existence, with lots of room for error, yet they were both here, alive. Luuk wanted to congratulate her on that and ask her another batch of ceaseless questions about how it had worked, how she’d made it, if she could teach him. If he’d ever be ready. If she even remembered how to do it, now. The grief that came with that last realization settled in his chest, heavier than he felt able to carry. It soon gave way to anger, to rage at Natalie for having taken away something so important to her, to their kind. All of Luuk’s dreams about returning magic to the world unthreatened, idle as they may have been, were slashed as he realized he no longer had his teacher. Natalie could have replaced him, could have found other mages to teach and to guide, and she could have brought their craft back to the world. Now, alone, what could Luuk do?

    Talk of Dr. V barely met his ears, so lost Luuk was in his own emotions. Suddenly, the future didn’t seem to matter much at all to him. Natalie wanted to celebrate it, their freedom to return to their lives, but what did Luuk have to return to? He had earned his degree, and his dorm had been given to someone else. His life had revolved around his campus, around his professors and his classes and his countless hours in front of his computer, and now, he had nowhere to go. He had secrets he didn’t know what to do with. Natalie wanted to return to her old life, but he didn’t understand how she couldn’t see that everything in front of them was brand new. Luuk wanted to hate her, and to hate this new burden she had given to him.

    But when he looked up again to meet her eye, his face softened, and he stopped clenching his jaw. Natalie was crying. Her life for far too long had been framed by a man so willing to hurt her, and it was over. Luuk was no one to take this joy from her, and if she could find happiness in her sacrifice…then he would too.

    Luuk sat up, ignoring how his body protested. “I don’t know what to say,” he admitted, and for another couple minutes, he sat there unable to form the right words. Natalie had saved his life, and regardless of what would happen to magic now, it was only possible because of her sacrifice. “Thank you,” he said quietly, realizing it was the first thing he should have said. “I wouldn’t be here without you.” But he wasn’t just referring to her giving up her magic. If Natalie had never reached out to him, never told him about his parents, about their shared ability…where would he be now? Aimlessly searching for people he would never find? Just as directionless as he’d felt every day since he’d lost all his memories?

    These past weeks had been hellish for him, and Luuk was sure the therapy he would need to process them would never begin to heal the wounds now open. But because of this time with Natalie, he knew who he was. He was a mage, and his parents’ son, and his teacher’s student, and he wouldn’t have been any of that without her help.

    “Maybe,” he went on quietly, still contemplating his words. “Someday, when I’m not so bad at this magic thing, and after I’ve had lots of practice—practice that isn’t life or death, hopefully; that’d be nice—maybe then I could even…teach you.” It was an amusing thought after everything, and Luuk didn’t even know if it would work, but now that he was here, the last mage on earth, he refused to let things remain that way. His ability—Natalie’s ability, the ability of his parents and all who had died with them—would not die with him. They had earned their victory, and Luuk intended for that to mean something. “I’ll write down everything you told me,” he went on, his voice growing more confident as his ideas solidified in his mind. “I’ll write a whole book, of things you passed down to me and things I figured out on my own. Here—I need to start now, before I forget the things you’ve taught.” He looked around for something to write on, and when he found a pad and pen sitting on a bedside table, he hastily grabbed for them. Luuk quickly started jotting things down as he tried to remember back to the first time Natalie had shown him her magic.

    He looked up suddenly when he realized he was, as always, getting ahead of himself. He stopped writing mid-word and hesitated. “I’m not sure what the future holds now either,” he said quietly, gaze still on the beginning of his new notes. “I’m excited to stop hiding. And with your help, Natalie, as much as you can offer… I would like to do something for the rest of us. For all mages, past and present and future. I don’t know what that means yet, and maybe you can help me figure it out, but after all this? I can’t imagine myself doing anything but.”
    Thanks to Craze for the beautiful Bravely set!

    ~Recruitment Thread~
    Spoiler: Ashen's Personal Hall of Fame 

  7. #137
    Mistborn
    Namingtoohard's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2014
    Location
    Australia
    Posts
    3,465
    Mentioned
    19 Post(s)
    Rep Power
    321

    Default

    Several minutes slipped away before Natalie finally managed to regain a small fragment of her usual composure, and stem the flow of tears. She cast a wandering eye around the room, and it wasn’t long before her gaze settled on a box of tissues, conveniently placed atop a small side table. She’d suspected there would be one nearby – they were practically a staple in hospitals, where grieving family and friends were commonplace. Natalie leaned forward in her chair and stretched a hand out towards it, desperately trying to reach without getting out of her chair. She plucked a few from it and quickly set about wiping her face and nose, before crumpling them into balls and setting them aside. Her eyes were still red and puffy, but it was definitely a step in the right direction.

    Luuk’s first admission, and the thanks he offered, were both accepted with a grateful bob of Natalie’s head. Her first instinct was to brush off such gratitude, but she trust herself to speak just yet, and trying to downplay her involvement felt dishonest. There was no denying the fact that Luuk would’ve died without her intervention, or understating the sacrifice she had made, and they both knew it. Trying to shy away from either of those facts would be nothing short of foolish.

    The suggestion that he would teach her, at some point in the distant future, was enough to earn a wry chuckle from Natalie. She didn’t really like the idea of ceding her position as Luuk’s mentor, but it was a little too late for that particular objection. The idea of their roles being reversed, comparatively, was definitely amusing. Natalie couldn’t help but wonder how his teaching style might differ from her own. She wasn’t entirely sure if the changes she’d made would ever let her learn magic again, but there was no reason to spoil the fantasy with that little detail right now. Either way, Natalie certainly hoped that Luuk became skilled enough to accept students of his own one day. Even if she wasn’t among them, she could find comfort in knowing that their craft would still be passed on to the next generation.

    Another laugh slipped from her lips when Luuk began scrambling for pen and paper, in an effort to start scribbling down her teachings. Even now, hospitalized by his injuries, he was just as overeager as ever. Natalie reached a hand out towards him, intending to try and calm him, before he popped a stitch or ripped out his drip, but thankfully he stopped before her intervention proved necessary.

    “I appreciate the sentiment, Luuk, but there’s no need to rush. We’ve been on the run for weeks now. If you still remember everything I’ve taught you, then I doubt you’re going to forget it before tomorrow. Besides, you still have all your old notes to fall back on.” Natalie voiced her objections in what she hoped was a calming voice, despite the fact that she’d been crying just a few moments ago. Once she heard Luuk’s next offer, though, Natalie smiled. There was no amusement behind it this time, wry or otherwise. Just genuine happiness, born from witnessing such kindness, and the promise of a better future. As she considered the possibilities, the beginnings of an idea took root in Natalie’s mind. She wasn’t entirely sure her plan would work yet, or how they’d accomplish it, but if Luuk wanted a way to help…well, Natalie thought she knew the perfect starting point.

    “I think I might have an idea already. I’m not entirely sure it will work, and you’ll probably need a great deal more practice before you’re ready to try it, but…well, it’s something we can work towards.” As soon as she finished speaking, another idea occurred to Natalie. Her gaze drifted away from Luuk, then. She laced her fingers together, chewed the inside of her cheek, before finally deciding that there was no keeping it to herself anymore. “I’d…I want to tell you what really happened to your mother on the night she died, too. The full story, this time, as soon as we’re both ready for it. Tess deserves that much. You both do.”

    Natalie’s musings were interrupted by a burst of sound and a flurry of movement, directly outside the door to Luuk’s room. Her gaze flickered towards it, just in time to see several incomprehensive shapes moving back and forth on the other side of the window. The words were muffled, but Natalie thought she caught a few. The rough shape of them, at the very least. Enough to give her a sneaking suspicion as to what was going on out there, and what was about to happen next. She turned her attention back to Luuk, the corners of her mouth turning upwards a fraction.

    “I suspect all of that will have to wait, though. From the sounds of it, I’m guessing that the hospital let your foster family know you’ve woken up. I’d say you’re about to get another visitor.”

    The last thing Natalie wanted right now was more misplaced gratitude, or to intrude on such a private moment. Given that there was only one door, though, there was no real way for her to slip away unnoticed now. She’d just have to make her excuses as soon as possible, and give them the privacy they deserved.

    ~~~

    The house that sat before Natalie was entirely unremarkable. Short and squat, one couldn’t call it a marvel of modern engineering by any stretch of the imagination. The paint was weather-worn, and had started to peel in multiple places. The wooden balcony had been sturdy once, Natalie imagined, but now the wooden boards were starting to rot. The gravel path leading to the front door was infringed upon by several plants, as if the overgrown garden were trying to reclaim the lost space. The waist-high metal gate that marked the entrance creaked as Natalie leaned against it, earning an irritated scowl. As a whole, the place looked exactly the same as it had every other time Natalie had come to visit.

    ”It only took me a few months to tear my entire life apart, and put it back together again. A few weeks for Luuk to be well enough to come and meet me. But after ten straight years, this place looks the exact same. It doesn’t feel fair, somehow.”

    Natalie had dressed warmly today, but her thick clothes did little to hide how much better she was looking. The bruises covering her face had vanished, and she’d begun to put on weight again. Gone were the sunken cheeks, and the bags under her eyes, now that the stress of their time on the run had begun to fade. She was still trying to find a proper job for herself, was still living in temporary housing, but it was a start. The road to recovery was a long one, and Natalie was ultimately pleased with her progress so far.

    Natalie let out a soft sigh, before she pulled her gaze away from the overrun building. She turned her back to it, and reached into one of her pockets. The screen of her phone showed that she hadn’t gotten another text from Luuk yet, and that there were just a few minutes left until the meeting time they’d agreed upon. Hopefully no news was good news, and the lack of updates or apologies meant that he’d be here within the next few minutes.

  8. #138
    The Ashen One
    Ashen's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Location
    A land that smells of sunflowers
    Favourite Roleplay Genres
    medieval fantasy, adventure, psychological
    Posts
    5,575
    Mentioned
    17 Post(s)
    Rep Power
    97

    Default

    In all the excitement of everything that had happened to them, Luuk had almost forgotten about the secrets Natalie still had. At the mention of his mother and what had happened when she’d died, Luuk arched a brow and leaned towards Natalie curiously. For so long, Luuk had done everything he could think to to find out what had happened to his parents and why he couldn’t remember them, and finally, his answers were within his grasp, readily offered. A small part of him wondered if he was ready for this, but his doubts quickly fell away. He’d spent too long hoping and dreaming of this day, and he would never be more ready. He couldn’t wait to hear Natalie out.

    But he would have to. His gaze was pulled to the hallway at the same time Natalie’s was, and he shifted awkwardly, suddenly more uncomfortable than he’d been since he’d arrived at the hospital. He wanted to hear what Natalie had to say, but he owed a lot of people answers of his own. Two of those people, led by his nurse, found their way to the door of his room, and they lingered in the threshold, disbelief and relief mixing in their eyes. It hadn’t been that long since Luuk had seen them, or it hadn’t felt like it, but his foster parents looked different from how he remembered. They both wore so many new wrinkles, and Luuk wondered if he had been the one to etch them across their faces. They watched each other for what felt like minutes, until Luuk awkwardly broke the silence with a, “Hi.”

    Tears bubbled at his foster mother’s eyes. She looked ready to collapse, so her husband held onto her, steadying her. They walked towards Luuk’s bedside, barely noticing Natalie sitting beside him. “Luuk,” his mother breathed, the tears finally beginning to fall. “Where have you been?”

    “You’ve made Karen into a worried mess, boy,” his foster father scolded with a stern look. After a moment, though, his frustrated façade cracked, and he reached out to touch Luuk’s shoulder. In a much softer voice, he asked, “How are you feeling?”

    Luuk looked between his foster family and his former teacher. They deserved to know what had happened to him, starting from the day Natalie had reached out to him. And, if he really was going to make magic public knowledge again, his foster family was the perfect place to start. “Karen, Anthony,” he said, “I have some things to tell you.”

    ~~~

    Luuk woke with a start, and in his effort to quickly get out of bed, he smacked his forehead against his nightstand. He swore under his breath as he felt the welt already forming. After shaking the pain, he looked around for his phone, which he found on the edge of his bed. The numbers at the top of his screen confirmed that he’d overslept, again. He was doing a lot of that lately. Karen assured him that his body needed the rest, and that he should get it while he could, but Luuk wondered if he was just being lazy. Normally, oversleeping didn’t bother him too much, but he’d had plans today. He was supposed to meet with Natalie.

    Luuk quickly threw on the clothes closest to him, then went to the bathroom to hastily brush his teeth and wash his face. Though the bags under his eyes were starting to feel like a permanent feature, he otherwise was looking a lot better. His chest still hurt, often, and he got headaches much more often than he ever had before, but the color had returned to his face, and he’d started putting on some of the weight he’d lost. He was getting by.

    Downstairs, he spotted Karen getting ready for work. “Oh, Luuk,” she said when she’d noticed him. “I was going to wake you, but you seemed so peaceful.” She looked him over with a frown. “You’re going to meet with that Natalie girl today, aren’t you? It’s chilly out. Why don’t you put on a sweater?”

    He nodded his acknowledgement. “I’ll be okay,” he said while he grabbed a granola bar from the pantry. He wished her a good day and then finished his breakfast all too quickly.

    Moving back into his foster family’s home had been weird. Luuk had imagined, after university, he would have his own place, and his own job. He would have been lying if he’d said he wasn’t disappointed by this turn of events. But Karen and Anthony both had assured him he had a place here, as long as he needed it, and he tried not to beat himself up too much over it.

    They were fostering a new kid now, a preteen girl with an eye for art and a curiosity that rivaled Luuk’s own. He didn’t know her very well yet, but he was trying to change that, and he wondered if she might make a good student. One day, he would show her his magic, once he was practiced enough, and he would invite her to study it with him. He didn’t know how magic worked, or if anyone could pick it up, but he wanted to teach as many people as he could regardless. He was as excited at the idea as he was terrified that he would mess things up.

    He hoped, with Natalie’s help, he could prevent that. She had arranged this meeting so that she could finally tell him what had happened to his mother, and what had happened to all mages. She’d sent him an address, and when Luuk had searched it online, it had just looked like an ordinary house. He trusted Natalie, though, and he was dying to know what she would say. His mind kept supplying guesses about what had happened, and the excitement at finding out kept him practically bouncing on his feet. As soon as he was finished with his breakfast, he started out the door.

    Karen had been right, of course. He had not dressed warmly enough for this day, and the breeze left him shaking. It was the middle of summer, but the weather was acting more like autumn, and at this rate, there was no way he wouldn’t get sick. Luuk shook his head, refusing to go back and change. He’d left Natalie waiting long enough, and he was too excited to turn back.

    The bus was also behind schedule, and as Luuk braced himself against the ceaseless breezes as he waited at his stop, he checked his phone. He sent Natalie a texted apology and a promise to be there as soon as he could be. He also noticed a message from Frankie. The two had been texting a lot lately. Luuk still wasn’t sure they would ever be friends, but the concern the first-year—the second-year now, Luuk supposed—had shown for him was endearing. Another potential student of his, Frankie was easy to convince and eager to find out about Luuk’s absence. For now, his text detailed all of Frankie’s complaints about the manager at his new job. Luuk chuckled softly and put his phone away.

    After his bus ride, Luuk navigated the streets via GPS, and in about fifteen minutes later than expected, he arrived at the address Natalie had sent him. Just as his online searches had shown him, there was a house here, run-down and quaint. He couldn’t guess why Natalie had chosen this spot to meet. He saw her waiting outside and jogged the rest of the way to her. “Sorry I’m late,” he said, his way of saying hello. “I must have turned my alarm off in my sleep, and the bus took forever today, and—” Luuk stopped himself. He hadn’t seen Natalie since that day in the hospital, and he wasn’t even asking after her.

    Her bruises had disappeared, and her face was looking much healthier. She almost looked like she had when they’d first met, or… No, she was smiling now even more than then. Luuk knew things hadn’t been easy for her. Everything she had known before had been given up for him, and she didn’t even have a place to call her own anymore. But Luuk was trying to stay hopeful, and he wanted to help her how he could. “You look good,” he commented awkwardly. “How are things going with you?” He turned towards the house again, and as always, unable to stay on a single topic for more than a second, he asked, “Why’d you ask me to meet you here?”
    Thanks to Craze for the beautiful Bravely set!

    ~Recruitment Thread~
    Spoiler: Ashen's Personal Hall of Fame 

  9. #139
    Mistborn
    Namingtoohard's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2014
    Location
    Australia
    Posts
    3,465
    Mentioned
    19 Post(s)
    Rep Power
    321

    Default

    As if on cue, Natalie’s phone vibrated once, just a few moments after she’d put it away again. When she pulled it back out, she found the screen illuminated by a single text from Luuk. The preview alone was enough to confirm the very thing that she’d just been wondering. Natalie found herself entirely unbothered by the news that he was running late, despite the autumn wind, and the slicing cold it brought. After everything the two of them had been through together, a little bit of waiting barely registered as an inconvenience. Given his recent injuries, she’d prefer Luuk take his time anyway, and there was plenty she could think over in the meantime.

    When Luuk finally made his appearance, with an entire litany of explanations at the ready, Natalie couldn’t help but smile. Partially because of how typical her student’s greeting was, and partially because of how much better he was looking. The bags under his eyes and the careful way he moved suggested that he hadn’t recovered quite as quickly as she had, but that was only natural. His injuries had been much more severe than hers, after all. Just seeing him up and moving, well enough to travel on his own, was enough to do her a world of good.

    “You don’t look so bad yourself, all things considered. It’s good to see you, Luuk.” With both of her hands stuffed deep into her pockets, this time for warmth, Natalie turned her attention back to the house at the same time he did. When he asked both of his questions, she hesitated briefly, uncertain. Natalie had big news that she’d wanted to share with him, but she’d planned on waiting until later, lest it eclipse the purpose of their visit. She’d always tried to answer his questions in order, though, so why change that now? Acting on impulse, she just decided to just spit it out.

    “I think I’ve finally found a place to rent long-term. We haven’t signed the paperwork yet, but I’m optimistic. It’s not my old apartment, but…well, you know.” Natalie punctuated her answer with a casual shrug. As fantastic as that news was, that wasn’t the thing she’d been excited to share. “Job hunting has been a little more difficult. Turns out getting a job in the medical field is hard when you don’t have any official credentials to back up your skills. I’ve…actually been thinking of going back to school. Trying to find an accelerated course that will let me get my food in the door as a nurse, or a paramedic. The student fees will be a pain in the ass while I don’t have a job, but if I need a diploma to get said job…well, I guess I’ve gotta start somewhere, right?”

    It would be a dramatic change from her life before, but that was inevitable, after she’d bargained away her magic. Natalie had been pondering the idea for a while now, and the longer she sat on it, the more confident she became that it was the right move. She’d lacked a true sense of purpose for years, and was certain that she’d find one here. It was a way that she could help atone for her sins, spend her days rebuilding lives instead of erasing them. The idea of devoting so many years of her life to studying was a little daunting, given how much older she was than most regular students, but Natalie was trying her hardest to squash that fear.

    She’d just have to hope that none of her new professors tried to kill her.

    While Luuk digested this new information, Natalie let her gaze sweep the house again, whilst she pondered the best way to answer his second question. It felt like there were a few different topics that they needed to discuss, but all of them seemed to feed back into each other. To explain any of them properly, he needed to know about the others first, which left her with something of a dilemma. Which starting point would make things easiest on Luuk? While she tried to figure that out, Natalie decided to start by offering him the simplest answer she could. Maybe, if she were lucky, she’d figure things out along the way.

    “We’re here because this place is important to your mother’s story. Indirectly, anyway. It’s less about the building itself, and more about the people who live here.” Now that she’d started, the words began to flow out easier than she’d expected. They tugged Natalie along, pulling on her like an ocean current. Her hand seemed to move of its own accord, reaching for her pocket. From it, she withdrew the seal that she’d used to alter her own personal history a few weeks back, during their final confrontation with Dr. V.

    Roughly the size and shape of a cork, the small piece of fired clay still bore all the same markings it had back then. Dozens of interlocking sigils, most so small that you’d need a magnifying glass to read them properly, and a few hasty alterations made with a permanent marker. It was inert now…or rather, Natalie was. The stamp was designed for her personal history, so it would only work for her. With her magic gone, it held no more value than the knowledge Luuk might gain from studying it, and could be handled freely. Natalie offered it to him with a casual gesture, so that he might take a closer look.

    “Before I can tell you everything that happened on the night your mother died, I need to explain how I changed my own memories that day, at the university.” Once Luuk had taken the seal from her, Natalie would give him a few moments to inspect it. She leaned against the gate idly while she waited, letting him appreciate the craftsmanship, draw whatever conclusions he could, before she pressed onward. “That little piece there is called a soul stamp. During the golden days, successfully creating a working one is how you proved yourself an official master. They’re designed to alter the creator’s personal history with a level of precision you could never replicate on a stranger, so they only work for the maker. Everyone's lives are different, so you couldn't just copy another person's designs. They’re meant to be a test of both technical skill and self-awareness.”

    At this point, Natalie would finally turn her attention away from the house. She’d throw a sideways glance at her former student, expression shrewd. “More to the point, soul stamps were the only time it was acceptable to use magic on a person. Trying to alter anyone other than yourself, mentally or physically, was extremely taboo.” Natalie’s words were punctuated by the sound of a single car zooming past, adding an extra layer to the wind, but she continued unperturbed. “There was a time when people tried to perfect the art of healing with magic, but the human body proved too complex. More often than not, they ended up doing more harm than good, so eventually the practice was banned entirely. As for the mental aspect…well, like I said, it’s much easier to break another person’s mind than change it. After what happened with Dr. V, I imagine that I don’t need to explain why that was outlawed.”

    At this point, Natalie finally let herself take a deep breath. There was still a great deal more for her to explain, of course – she hadn’t even started telling Luuk what had happened to his mother, after all. Not really. Knowing her former student, though, he’d have questions. A veritable barrage of them, if past experiences were anything to judge by. Better to let him voice them now, and get them off his chest, before they got into the more emotionally stressful topics. Before they were buried, and his curiosity forgotten, eclipsed by the horrors she’d seen – and inflicted – on that day.

    What would Luuk think of them, when he learned of the things they had done? Would he still want to know her? Would he still regard his departed mother with the same unconditional fondness he did now? Would he still want to practice magic at all? The possibilities scared Natalie, but there was no turning back now. Telling their story would be like ripping open all her old scars, but she’d already committed to this path. A part of her needed to share this story, just as much as Luuk needed to hear it. Hoped that airing out these old wounds would let them heal properly this time. So despite her personal reservations, Natalie knew that she was just a few moments from finding out.

Page 14 of 14 FirstFirst ... 121314

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •