Chapter Twenty Silence filled Kael's mind. He could not comprehend what Dean had just told him. No, he chose not to accept it. My leg. He thought. My leg will be unusable? He glanced at his bandaged leg, slowly moving his hands towards it. Dean continued to talk, but Kael couldn't hear anything. He clawed at the bandages trying to pry his leg free; he even started punching it hoping to feel at least something. Nothing. "Tell me you are lying Dean." Kael said, tears streaming down his face. "Tell me I won't lose it." "Kael, I wish I was..." "No!" Kael said, clawing at his leg once more. "Take it off. Let me see." "Kael. Stop." Dean said, grabbing Kael's flailing arms. "Don't worry. Everything is fine." "How can it be fine. You just told me I will lose my leg. I'm going to be a cripple." "I said you might. If we take care of it and use good medicine it will be better." Dean continued. " I will go to the sect and apply for a sixth or seventh grade herb. I will not let you lose your leg." "You promise?" Kael asked, his voice trembling as he met Dean's eyes. "I promise. I will not fail your father. Not again." Kael stared into Dean's eyes for a long time. It filled him with strength and trust. Giving him the reassurance that he would not let him lose his leg. The room constricted him. He needed to get out. "Dean I want to go back to my room." "Kael...that is-" "I need to. These white walls terrify me. I want to be in my room. I want to hold my father's journal." He said. "Okay, kael. Give me a moment." He said, exiting the room. A short while later Dean returned with a wheelchair and helped him get on it. The process only made Kael fall deeper into despair. Will this be how I will pass the rest of my days? He thought, clasping his hand against the armrests. Unable to walk or run ever again? Dean talked to him as they headed to the exit, but Kael placed his hands on the wheels—stopping it. "Let's get the rabbit first." Dean nodded and turned the chair towards the Medicine Hall’s beast section. Kael watched as the white walls grew gray. The rooms became smaller and an eerie blue light filtered through the bottom of some doors. "How come there is no one?" Kael asked, trying to distract himself and not think of his numb leg. "The rooms here are monitored by formations." Dean said in a calming voice. "It's that way since it's more efficient. The only rooms that have anyone physically checking the beasts are those with severely wounded beasts." "Like the one we are heading to now." "Yes," Dean said, sighing. "But that’s a good thing Kael. It means there are doing everything they can to keep the beas- your rabbit alive." Dean was right. The disciples were everywhere, filling every corner of the large room. Their white robes fluttering as they shifted. Some had blood stains; others had green, blue, and black stains as they hurriedly crushed herbs. As if on cue, Kael was suddenly ambushed by the rush of scents—too strong to breath properly. A disciple went forward to them. "You aren't supposed to be here." He said, his voice muffled by a white circular cloth. "We are here to retrieve a beast." Dean said, handing the disciple a piece of paper as he was about to protest. "Robin allowed it." "All right." The disciple said, reading the paper. "Wait a moment. I’ll get you some breathing masks." Quickly, the disciple returned with a pair of masks. "Put these on. They will prevent you from fainting." Nodding, Kael took the mask. It was simple at first glance—a cloth like cover in the shape of a circle with no straps—but as he looked closer he spotted runes on the edges. This thing has a formation? Kael wondered, momentarily transfixed on it. "Just place it over your nose and mouth," the disciple said. "It will automatically stick to your face." Kael flushed, realizing that it must have looked like he didn't know how to use it. As soon as he placed the cloth on his face, it was like the world had changed. The disgusting, gag inducing smells were long gone. Replaced with the sweet scent of cleanliness. Even his eyes had been affected. Kael could feel and see everything tined by a shade of blue. Looking at the disciples, he noticed several glowing spots on their bodies. "The masks," the disciple said, smiling and placing a hand on Kael's head. "Have a function that protect your eyes from any splashes. It also enhances your vision allowing you to distinguish problems easier." "So that’s what the bright dots are?” “No. The dots show us just how tired one is. Once we reach ten spots, we are required to take leave to rest. The work we do is very sensitive so if one is too tired he could cause mistakes and the death of a beast. The real function of the masks is to look inside a body. “You can see inside the body of a beast?" Kael asked eagerly. "Yes, although it only works within a range." He said, pointing at a red circle drawn on the ground, surrounding a table. "Want to see?" Kael nodded and pushed his chair forward into the circle. His vision changed the blue tint grew stronger, soon all he could see was silhouettes. Looking down at his hands, Kael was shocked. He could see inside as if his skin was glass, the beating organs, the blood flowing through his vessels—if he squinted he could even see the bones. Amazing. Kael thought, shifting his vision to the center table. The rabbit. A glass bubble enclosed the rabbit. It had several runes etched onto its surface. They move continuously in a set pattern. Kael tried to read them, but could only make out one of the simpler ones. Scan. The only reason Kael knew it was that he had seen his father and Dean use it multiple times. He smiled, but then frowned as he looked at the rabbit. The sight was horrible. And it was only enhanced by his new vision. Multiple broken bones, torn muscles and ruptured organs filled the small rabbit. Kael winced, imagining the pain it must feel. How can he still be alive? He wondered. And how come I don’t fell his pain anymore? The weird connection he had when he saw it being beaten by Brin was not there. Kael worried something was wrong with the rabbit. His guess turned more secure as he glanced to the side. Several disciples stood close—pen and clipboards in hand--taking notes outputted by the strange formation surrounding the room to a small glass display. Kael could see a stream of symbols each passing by so fast that he could hardly make out any of them. One disciple frowned giving Kael a sense of hopelessness. Quickly, the disciple walked and whispered to another. "Is my rabbit all right?" Kael asked. "It's stable for the moment," he said, sighing. "But he won't make it past a week or two. The wounds are too severe and we can't administer any higher-grade medicine. We did all we could. Sorry." The words shook Kael hard. He glanced at the rabbit—focusing on its rapidly beating heart. You can't die. He told himself. If you do...he tried not to think about it, but deep-down Kael knew it was his fault. If he hadn't antagonized Brin this would have never happened. "Can I take him with me?" Kael asked. The disciple awkwardly glanced at Dean, who gave him a small nod. Carefully, he stepped into the formation. His hands pierced the bubble like if it was mist and grabbed the rabbit. Slowly, he handed it to Kael. "Try not to move him much. Otherwise, his wounds might open.” "Thanks." Kael whispered as Dean took his chair and pushed him to the exit. ## Dean stared at Kael. His eyes looked lost and without hope as he rubbed the rabbit's head and occasionally glanced at his leg. It pained him to look at Kael. He had tried to talk and cheer him up, but couldn't muster any words. It's my fault he's like this. Dean told himself. I should have taken care of him. I should have paid more attention. He glanced at the lowering moon. Ian, I'm sorry. I let him get hurt. I promise that I will do my best to save his leg. Even if I have to give up my position and life. He unconsciously glared at the central tower—where the Council was located. He knew it would be hard to acquire any herb higher than common grade, specially with the current state of the sect. It was dying. The resources left were only enough to support a small batch of disciples for a decade or so. Or nurture a genius for five years; just enough for the Century Gathering. I still have to try. Dean told himself as he looked at Kael. He is Ian's son so he must have a bit of his genius. I saw him as he tried to tame the rabbit. His control and knowledge is perfect, even stronger than some elders. He'd just have to convince the Council that Kael was a genius. If he was groomed he would be the best candidate for the gathering. The hope for the sect. With that they would not let Kael lose his leg. If it comes to the worst, I’ll threatened to leave the sect. They won’t let a First Mender leave so easily. They will bend. He felt bad for even thinking that. He was and elder of the sect that had raised him and helped him become the man he was today. And he was using his own power to bend the laws. Laws which he deemed fair. He sighed and opened the door to Kael's room. Carefully, he picked him up and set him on the bed, tucking him in. Dean sat on the edge of the bed and made eye contact. "Kael," he said, "I will get the herbs. There's no need to worry about your leg. You will not lose it." "Thanks Dean. I believe you." He said, smiling. "If you don't mind can you hand me my father’s journal?" Dean nodded and searched through the messy room—cleaning as he went. “You don’t have to clean…” Kael whispered from the bed. “I’ll-“ “You will get rest.” Dean said firmly. “That’s all you will do.” Finally, he found the journal and picked it up. It was open. Casually he flipped the pages. A surge of emotions ran through him. It was the first time that he had looked inside. He had assumed it blank when Kael took it for himself, but it was filled with symbols far too advanced. “Kael this…” “Father’s research.” He said. “Why haven’t you shown this to us?” Dean said. “So the elders could take it for themselves?” Kael asked. “Kael, you know how hard we looked for his final work in his other works, but never found it. This could be it.” “It was my father’s research. I have the right to keep it for myself. To finish his legacy.” Kael screamed. “I was supposed to rise beyond him. Make him proud. But look at me. I’m useless. I couldn’t even tame a rabbit and now I’m a cripple.” Dean felt his heart sting. He glanced at the journal—its pages beckoning at him to figure out their secrets—and closed it. Kael was right. The sect would have not allowed him to research what his father left. Sighing, he walked forward and gave Kael the journal. “Kael, you keep it. You are not useless. And I most definitely won’t let you become a cripple. Even if I have to steal the herb. I will get it for you.” He continued, “tomorrow I will head to the Council and sort things out. For now, try to get some rest.” Kael fell silent for a long time. “Dean,” he whispered, “could a person leave a formation inside another?” “Why the sudden question?” Kael looked up with firm eyes. “Is it possible?” “Well, theoretically it could be possible. In fact, we found several references to such things among your father’s research. Why?” “So I didn’t imagine it.” Kael said, smiling. “Dean, my father saved me tonight. He left a formation in me. It was set to activate in a death situation. He gave me the strength to beat Brin.” Shock filled Dean. He rushed forward happily. “Are you sure?” Kael nodded. “Kael, this changes things.” Dean said, smiling. “We now have proof that his research is true. If there are remnants inside you…just that alone would allow us to get the herbs we need. “Really?” Kael asked, his eyes turning bright. “Yes. The contribution to the sect would be enormous that they can’t refuse it. I need to head back and study your father’s notes. Hopefully, I’ll be able to figure out how to make the remnants visible by tomorrow. No, I’ll make it possible.” Dean turned to Kael and hugged him. “Rest. I need to go now and do some tests.” Dean headed to the door then glanced back at Kael. He was holding his father’s journal tightly. Ian. Dean thought. I hope I can figure out how the hell you did it. For the sake of your son. Then left. ## Sal sat in his study. He was glad that Nori was the one who examined Brin. When she had asked him to step into her office she had explained that Brin had indeed been taken by the Bloodverne. It devastated him. Surprisingly, she had hugged him and told him she would keep it secret. That’s the reason he fought Dean in the hall. It might have gotten him in trouble, but it gave him time to cure his son. Before the Council found out and executed him. I will have to repay her. He thought. Sal knew the reason why Nori would lie for him. She loved him. He’d known about it for years now; he just chose to ignore it. Sal glanced down at the black key in his hand. Its clean smooth surface felt disfigured. Its weight immense. Sal had repeatedly thrown it away, buried it or almost melted it, for it pained him to have it; yet, a moment spent away from it felt so wrong he would rush back to find it, unbury it and take it out of the fire with his bare hands. He looked at the vault in front of him, hesitating. He did not want to see what was inside. Trembling, he managed to insert the and unlock the vault. The door creaked open a musty smell seeped out. Twelve years. He thought. Twelve years... Tears welled up in his eyes as he took out crystal ball. A beautiful woman—hair red, eyes green and a kind smile—was pictured inside. It was his late wife, Elsa, before it took her. That damned disease. He looked at the orange bottle in the corner of the small vault. The supposed cure he spent a fortune and years to acquire—still in its pristine state. Unused. The memories started drifting in. Elsa had grown worse, her mind lost. She had been restrained for a week leading up to that day. He, however, was happy. Not because he enjoyed seeing her suffer but because he had acquired the cure not a week before. Sal read to her most days as it had seemed to help calm her. That day he had gone up to read to her and found her smiling. She was sane. In the ecstatic moment, he undid her restraints and took her for a walk around the house. They had spent the day conversing happily. She’d even picked the name for their son. As the conversation had gone well, he had chosen not to restrain her again when he left. It had been the worst decision he had ever made. His biggest regret. Ironically, he had left to get the cure. When he had returned, he found her dead in a pool of blood—holding onto Brin lovingly. She’d clawed her own stomach and ripped the baby out—two months before it was time. He had rushed to the medicine hall with only Brin in his hands for she’d long been dead. Fortunately, they’d manage to save him. Screams brought him out of his dream. Brin! He thought. Grabbing the cure, he rushed to Brin’s room. He was restrained, like his mother had been. Eyes red, tinting black at the edges, and that smile made Sal's legs go weak. Sal kneeled, despair taking him. It was the same smile his mother had when he found her dead. "Why!" he yelled, crying. "Why do the heavens punish me like this? Was it not enough for it to take my wife? Why does it still want to keep haunting me? My son?" He stood. Determined. “I will refuse you. You are not going to succeed. I have the cure. It will kill the curse.” He said, almost incoherently. Walking to Brin's side, he passed his hand through his hair. "Don't worry son. Your father is here." He whispered. "I will protect you from this curse. I will go against the heavens to save you. Don't worry. Everything will be alright." He opened the bottle the disgusting herbal smell filtered out, making him gag. Quickly taking the syringe on the bedside he filled it then rammed the needle into Brin’s heart. The contents seep into him and he convulsed violently. The screams got louder and all Sal could do was wait and hope the cure worked. He hummed a song, the one his wife used to sing to him when she was sane. It was the only thing that kept him from going insane during the longest wait of his life.