༺ Nursing the Sick ༻
The forest was silent as the magic of Oznia dissipated the illusion.
As Oznia staggered, I caught her collapsing body.
Now that the illusion had disappeared, Oznia had reverted to her usual eighteen-year-old appearance, not the one from her childhood.
Oznia looked up at me with blurry eyes, then dropped her head weakly and lost consciousness.
I immediately checked her pulse by placing my hand on her neck.
Finding that her pulse and breathing were stable, I was relieved that she was merely asleep. Slowly, I lifted her up with both arms.
By retracing the path I had taken earlier, I was able to leave the forest quickly. To be more precise, I escaped through the path I had created by pushing the forest aside.
It would have been quite difficult to return to the dormitory like this if I had only followed Oznia’s traces, so I was glad that I had prepared a path in advance.
At that moment, I suddenly felt someone’s presence above my head.
“Ah, no, what on earth…”
The figure that appeared in the sky was none other than Dean Heinkel.
Normally, within the academy, all space-related magic was unusable due to the barrier. However, as the academy’s top administrator, the Dean was an exception to this rule.
It seemed that Dean Heinkel had detected the disturbance caused by the forest bursting open and had immediately arrived on the scene.
With a bewildered expression, he gazed at the neat path created in the middle of the forest, then slowly descended to the ground when he noticed Oznia and me below.
“Instructor Eon…! What on earth is going on here? Did you do this?”
Contrary to the Dean’s pale face, I nonchalantly nodded.
At my indifferent tone, Dean Heinkel showed a rare flustered expression.
“Goodness, it’s hard to believe that a single person could do something like this… I suppose that’s why you’re one of the continent’s seven heroes… But this is not the time for admiration. Instructor Eon, why did you do this?”
“I was merely trying to protect my student.”
Upon hearing that, Dean Heinkel looked at Oznia, who was lying unconscious in my arms. His expression immediately turned very serious, and he examined her condition with a grave face.
“This is…! It seems her mental strength has been significantly depleted. And her mana has been drained quite a bit… Did she get caught up in the forest’s illusion? There shouldn’t be a problem as long as one doesn’t stray from the path…”
“It looked like she was entranced by something. The moment I took my eyes off her, she disappeared into the forest.”
Dean Heinkel furrowed his brow as if deep in thought.
“Such a thing has never happened before… Perhaps the forest’s spirits or some other external force had some influence on her.”
“Does this happen often?”
“No, absolutely not. The spirits of this forest do not welcome outsiders. When intruders enter, they create illusions and keep them wandering endlessly around the forest’s outskirts, but they have never led someone deeper into the forest.”
Dean Heinkel stroked his long beard and nodded.
“Let me take responsibility for this issue and investigate it further. Instructor Eon, could you please take Oznia to the infirmary for now?”
“It would also be best to stop patrolling the forest for the time being.”
Saying that, Dean Heinkel looked at the devastated surroundings with a gloomy expression.
“That’s assuming there’s a place left to patrol…”
In my defence, there was simply no other way.
Setting aside my foul mood at the time, not knowing what state Oznia was in, I had to hurry as much as possible. The damage to the forest was just a secondary issue.
In fact, there were still many things I wanted to ask Dean Heinkel.
Oznia had once mentioned that the forest spirits were guarding something.
What on earth could be in the middle of this forest, why are the spirits guarding it, and what purpose did they have in summoning Oznia? It would be a lie if I said I wasn’t curious.
However, taking care of the collapsed Oznia was my priority over asking Dean Heinkel about that right now.
Since Dean Heinkel’s teleportation could only be used by himself, I had no choice but to walk to the infirmary while carrying Oznia. But since I didn’t particularly like the sensation of space travel, walking was actually more comfortable for me.
As I walked along the path, I took careful steps to ensure Oznia’s head in my arms didn’t shake. Suddenly, her eyelids trembled, and she slowly opened her eyes.
Oznia looked up at me with a dazed expression.
“You’re awake. How are you feeling?”
At that, Oznia tried to move her body to check her condition, but it seemed as if she had no strength at all, as she just limply sagged.
She slowly blinked her eyelids and slowly shook her head.
“It seems so. We’re on our way to the infirmary, so hang in there for a little while.”
Oznia’s complexion turned pale in an instant.
As if realizing something, she shuddered and then vigorously shook her head.
“I, I don’t want to.”
She didn’t want to go to the infirmary?
That was concerning. Not knowing what had happened to Oznia’s body, it was crucial for her to receive a thorough examination from the priest on duty at the infirmary.
I was about to refuse, but Oznia desperately clung to the collar of my clothes with her weak arm.
“I don’t… want the infirmary…”
In her trembling, weak voice, there was still a lingering shock and deep fear. At a glance, it was not a normal reaction.
Then, a scene I had experienced earlier flashed through my mind.
A church that was unusually large for a rural village.
The villagers pouring curses and shouting to the goddess.
I nodded slightly after a brief silence.
“…Alright. I understand.”
Upon hearing that, Oznia closed her eyes and breathed calmly, as if relieved.
As I silently walked, I soon arrived at the Opal Black dormitory building. Rather than heading to the tram stop to go to the infirmary, I entered the dormitory through its main entrance.
Despite the late hour, all the Opal Black students were assembled in the lobby.
Among them, Titania was the first to exclaim in surprise.
“Oz! Instructor Eon!”
Titania, noticing the state of Oznia’s body, asked with concern.
“Instructor, what happened to Oz?”
“She was caught up in the forest’s illusion. She has significantly depleted her mana and mental strength. But…”
I looked around at the students, who were all gathered without exception.
“It’s way past curfew. What are you all doing here?”
At that, Marian replied in an incredulous tone.
“In the middle of the night, we heard such a loud noise, how could we sleep peacefully? We thought some giant magical beast was rampaging. Everyone was so startled, we ran out, but we couldn’t see Oz or the instructor anywhere… What on earth happened out there?”
A giant magical beast? Wasn’t that an exaggeration?
As I swallowed nervously, Marian waved her hands and said,
“Ah, no, never mind. Let’s take care of Oz first. She doesn’t look good.”
I nodded slightly.
Oznia’s stability was more important than explaining the situation to the students at the moment.
“Titania, follow me, and the rest of you go back to your rooms. Nothing more will happen tonight.”
At that, the students let out a sigh of relief and returned to their respective rooms.
Before leaving the lobby, my eyes met Elizabeth’s. She looked at me and smiled with a meaningful expression for a moment.
Instead of dwelling on the meaning of that smile, I focused on the task at hand and took Oznia to her room with Titania.
I used Oznia’s student ID to unlock the door to her room and gently laid her down on the bed.
At a glance, she seemed to be simply exhausted, but having experienced such an event, I couldn’t determine her actual condition without a closer look.
If I were to believe Headmaster Heinkel’s words, Oznia likely got caught up in the spirit’s magic, and luckily, there was an elf in this class who knew a lot about spirits – Titania.
“Titania, it seems that Oznia got caught up in the spirit’s magic. Can you check if there’s anything wrong with her body?”
“The spirit’s magic…?”
Titania’s eyes widened in surprise, but then she continued with a serious expression.
“…I see. I’m not an expert, but I’ll do my best.”
Titania rolled up her sleeves and carefully placed both hands on Oznia’s body.
Warm light flowed from Titania’s hands and seeped into Oznia’s body.
I folded my arms and leaned against the wall, silently watching the two.
After some time had passed, Titania let out a sigh of relief.
“It seems there are no external injuries. Judging by the traces of magic left in her body, it is clear, as you said, that she was caught up in the spirit’s magic. Fortunately, it’s just a trace. I used magic to breathe life into her, so she should recover soon.”
“So, she’ll be alright?”
“Yes. For now.”
That sounded like everything was fine for now, but there was a lingering potential danger.
Titania exhaled softly and gently brushed Oznia’s forehead as she slept. Then, with a worried look, she examined Oznia’s complexion and spoke.
“I didn’t see the forest spirit myself, so I can’t be sure, but it seems that the spirits really liked Oz. That’s why they wanted to be friends with her.”
Seeing my uneasy expression, Titania gave an awkward smile.
“Spirits are unpredictable. Their idea of friendship often differs from human common sense. They might try to take humans to their territory without considering the physical differences between humans and spirits… It’s another story, but that’s why you should carefully consider the conditions when making a contract with spirits.”
If fire spirits invited a human they liked to their territory, it might be comfortable for them, but for humans, it would be nothing more than a pit of fire.
Spirit mages must have their own share of troubles.
“I’ve known that Oz had high affinity since the spirits I’ve known showed a lot of interest in her. But I didn’t know it would go this far…”
“Is having high affinity a bad thing?”
“It can be both good and bad. The outcome depends on the type of being that takes an interest. In Oz’s case…”
Titania fell into thought for a moment and continued cautiously.
“…I’m not sure. There’s something different about Oz. I don’t know if it’s the difference between elves and humans or if Oz is just particularly special… It seems that the beings interested in Oz are not just spirits.”
I furrowed my brows as I crossed my arms.
To be honest, even after listening to Titania’s explanation, I still didn’t know much about magic, spirits, or affinity.
What was important now was finding out how this would affect Oznia.
“So, what should we do?”
“Um, I’m not sure… But don’t you think Oz might already know about this issue?”
Titania put her index finger on her chin and wore a thoughtful expression.
“It’s only been a week, but so far, there haven’t been any problems for Oz. The spirits haven’t been this actively interested either. Even if the full moon made the spirits more sensitive, this is a strange situation.”
Come to think of it, Oznia’s condition was unusually odd today.
She seemed much more absent-minded than usual and somewhat unstable.
It occurred to me that this might be related to that.
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